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Education & Training for Sibling Support

The Sibling Support Program: A Family-Centered Mental Health Initiative attracts motivated mental health trainees (residents, interns, and post-docs) at partnering agencies that are interested in sibling support. We accept trainees that are available to co-facilitate sibling support groups for a minimum of 3-6 months. Participants receive training on sibling issues and have access to clinical supervision in group work. This is an exciting opportunity to get hands-on experience and help influence the way family-centered mental health care is delivered in a clinical setting. The program is currently underway at Cambridge Health Alliance as an IRB-approved research study, and at other sites as Quality Improvement (QI) initiatives. 

Since 2011, 50 trainees have rotated through the Sibling Support Program as sibling group facilitators for a period of time between 6-24 months. Trainees include psychiatry residents, psychiatry fellows, psychology interns, social work interns and volunteer clinicians. Several trainees have co-authored academic papers and presented at conferences. Trainees report that the program is an important part of their clinical experience and strengthens their commitment to practice family-centered mental health care. Interested individuals should contact Emily Rubin directly at emily.rubin@umassmed.edu.

Brief Overview of Project:
The Sibling Support Program is based on the knowledge that healthy family functioning, along with family involvement in aftercare, has been positively correlated with improved outcomes for children in psychiatric settings. The goals of the project are to increase sibling resiliency, decrease trauma, and strengthen families of children with psychiatric impairments.

The objectives of the Sibling Support Program are as follows:
1. To implement and evaluate a sibling support group designed to increase the resiliency of typically developing siblings and decrease the trauma associated with the psychiatric hospitalization of a brother or sister.

2. To implement and evaluate a parent education group to educate caregivers about the importance of supporting siblings, teach strategies to support siblings, and build coping skills and confidence during and after a child’s psychiatric hospitalization.

3. To build capacity among mental health clinicians that practice family-centered mental health care.

Sibling Support Group Description:
The sibling support groups are open to typically developing siblings (aged 5-18) of patients at partnering agencies. The sibling groups are based on the SibShops model; SibShops are workshops designed to provide peer support and education within a recreational context involving games and activities. We have adapted the SibShops curriculum to meet the specific and complex needs of siblings of brothers and sisters with mental health issues. By participating in the groups, siblings have a chance to share their stories; develop connections with peers who share the experience of a brother/sister’s psychiatric hospitalization; learn about and gain insight into the brother/sister’s disability; develop coping strategies to manage their challenging family lives; and increase their comfort level with the hospitalization experience.

Evaluation:
Our evaluation methods for the caregiver and sibling groups include surveys to assess skill level, knowledge and usefulness of intervention, as well as gathering data that will inform the development of post-hospitalization services.

Brief Background Information:
In the United States today, 20 percent of children and adolescents have at least one diagnosable psychiatric condition, and over six million children are being treated with psychiatric medications. Many of these children have had numerous psychiatric hospitalizations as the result of escalating dysfunctional behaviors. Their siblings are often subjected to physical and verbal aggression, and are at risk for developing maladaptive behaviors themselves, yet there is a widely recognized lack of services for siblings. The Sibling Support Program fills a critical service gap for these children and their families in crisis.

Click here for our publication on the impact of sibling support group facilitation on trainees.