At 66, the message I want to share with you is this: I am still an optimist. I know many of you reading this are optimists as well. In my work, I strive to find hope where there may only be a flicker and believe in others even when their self-belief has faltered.

I know many of you personally and I know that you, too, strive each day to see possibility within the many conflicts and challenges we face.

Since my professional life shifted from leading healing communities to therapeutic consulting 16 months ago, Stephanie and I have been honored to serve over 80 families whose life trajectories have been challenged by persistent mental health and/or substance abuse conditions.

I believe in relationship-centered care. What does that mean exactly?

What it is not: illness-centered care, diagnosis-centered care, or care that focuses mostly on limitations instead of possibility.

We are not objects, being simply rebounded on the billiard table of life. We are known in relationship to and with one another. What we believe about one another matters.

If I see you as a potentially healthier person, I can assist you on your journey to achieve health. If I cannot believe in you, then, I need to step back. My belief may feel like a safety net or be an encouraging spring board but it is never meant to control or dis-empower. We seek to fan the flicker, kindling innate abilities and forward momentum.

There are certainly naysayers who breed disbelief. I have been told many times that my understanding may be too trusting and may plant unrealistic hope. My response to that:

When we are assisting someone with finding a helpful recovery program, we want the program to be able to believe in our client. If we are met with skepticism and must push our way through multiple gates, we look for other options.

We seek programs that are predisposed to say, “I can believe in you, help me to see your curiosity and flicker of hope for recovery.” Of course plans, objectives, and accountability are also needed in the recovery process but these are likely to be more successful when the person in recovery is surrounded by hope rather than by naysayers ready to find fault.

If I err, it may be on the side of being too trusting and unrealistic. However, that is the side on which we will remain. Only seldom has our trust been broken. Only seldom has our hope been unrealistic… besides, what is the alternative? No hope? Relationships based on distrust are never healing. How dare we express loss of hope in someone else.Surely, they, too, will lose hope as well; without hope, life itself can too easily be lost.

If a family member’s frustration level is high and the capacity for sustaining help is exhausted, we still counsel not to give up. One can, however, step back and say, “I believe in you, but I no longer know what to do to help you.” I have witnessed this honest kind of communication many times and it tends to catalyze growth.

This is an understandable feeling that family members sometimes have when they are turning to us. This is a hard journey for them to be on alone. Indeed families sometimes feel isolated, bouncing between quick-fix promises of the piecemeal mental health ’system’. They are vulnerable and seeking hope.

We are honored to listen to these family stories and are doubly honored when we are invited to be partners on the journey. We seek to calm the chaos and help them to navigate toward better understandings and options for care and treatment. Our “Testimonials” page speaks of some of the positive outcomes.

Stephanie and I wish you a peaceful end to your year, with hope that it is spent with people you love and who love you in return. We look forward to 2019 with optimism for the path ahead.