NAMI Family-to-Family

Upcoming Classes:

For more information or to sign up for the class, see our events calendar and contact Program Coordinator, Laura Fischer at or 415-474-7310 ext. 667.

Family-to-Family is a free, 12-week course for families, partners and friends of individuals with serious mental illness taught by more than 3,500 trained NAMI family members and caregivers of individuals living with mental illness. The course dwells on the emotional responses families have to the trauma of mental illness; many family members describe their experience in the program as life-changing. The course topics in the 12-week course are:  Learning about feelings and facts: The normative stages of emotional reactions to the trauma of mental illness; NAMI’s belief systems and principles; individual goals for the family member with mental illness.

Schizophrenia, Major Depression, Mania, Schizoaffective Disorder: Diagnostic criteria; characteristic features of psychotic illnesses; clinical treatment; dealing with critical periods in mental illness; keeping a Crisis File.

Mood Disorders and Anxiety Disorders: Types and subtypes of Depression and Bipolar Disorder (formerly called manic depression); causes of mood disorders; diagnostic criteria for Panic Disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder; clinical treatment; sharing stories of the attendees.

Functions of key brain areas: Research on brain abnormalities in the major mental illnesses; chemical messengers in the brain; genetic research; infectious and developmental factors involved in mental illness; the biology of recovery.

Problem-Solving Skills Workshop: How to define a problem; how to solve a problem; setting limits.

Medication Review: How medications work; basic psychopharmacology of the mood disorders, anxiety disorders and schizophrenia; medication side-effects; key treatment issues; stages of adherence to medications; early warning signs of relapse.

Inside Mental Illness: Understanding the subjective experience of coping with a brain disorder; problems in maintaining self-esteem and positive identity; gaining empathy.

Communication Skills Workshop: How illness interferes with the capacity to communicate; how to respond when the topic is loaded; talking to the person behind the symptoms of mental illness.

Self-Care: Learning about family burden: Sharing in relative groups; handling negative feelings of anger, entrapment, guilt and grief; how to balance our lives.

The Vision of Potential Recovery: Learning about key principles of rehabilitation and model programs of community support; local and other services available; a first-person account of recovery.

Advocacy: Challenging the power of stigma; learning how to change the system, and how families unite together against this disability.

Review, sharing and evaluation

For more information or to sign up for the class, please contact Program Coordinator, Laura Fischer at or 415-474-7310 ext. 667.




“The story of Family-to-Family, NAMI’s education al program for families of people living with mental illness, is a story that has spread through the grassroots grapevine…No other national peer-taught course has ever reached this stage of being recognized as an evidence-based practice. If we are now able to say that our twelve-week course lowers participants’ ratings of anxiety, distress and depression, it is because our volunteer work force has been so dedicated to maintaining the fidelity of a program that enables families to come out of the dark and deal much more directly with the realities that they have – a change in consciousness that would sound mystical if you didn’t know how much on-the-ground work it takes.”  NAMI Wisconsin F2F Program Newsletter



New Study Finds NAMI Family Education “Significantly” Improves Coping With Mental Illness
NIMH study evaluated the effectiveness of classes in the culturally diverse Greater Washington, D.C. and Baltimore area.
From PR Newswire by Staff Writer, June 15, 2011
NAMI’s Family-to-Family Education program “significantly” improves coping and problem-solving abilities of family members of individuals living with mental illness, according to a landmark study published in the current issue of Psychiatric Services, a journal of the American Psychiatric Association.  Family-to-Family is a free 12-week self-help course offered by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in which trained instructors who have family members living with mental illness teach coping and supportive skills to other persons with family members diagnosed with major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or other conditions.  Led by Lisa B. Dixon, M.D., M.P.H., of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, the study found that the NAMI classes increase both knowledge about mental illness and “empowerment within the family, the service system and the community.”
NAMI’s Family-to-Family program offers “concrete practical benefits” and demonstrates the value of free, community-based self-help programs as a “complement” to professional mental health services, the study noted. The classes combine an instructional curriculum with a support group environment.  “NAMI has long had confidence in Family-to-Family as a signature education program,” said NAMI Executive Director Michael J. Fitzpatrick. “The study reinforces the position of family advocates. It is a signal to the medical profession.” “Doctors and other mental health care workers are often unable to provide enough support to family members, even though families often play a critical role in the treatment and recovery of loved ones.”  The study coincides with the 20th anniversary of NAMI’s Family-to-Family program. An estimated 250,000 family members have taken the classes to date.  Over 3,500 trained volunteers teach classes in the United States and Puerto Rico. In some communities, classes are offered to families of veterans through local Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities.
Funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the study evaluated the effectiveness of classes in five counties in the culturally diverse Greater Washington, D.C. and Baltimore area, involving 318 participants recruited between 2006 and 2009.  The study will be presented at NAMI’s annual convention in Chicago, July 2-9, 2011.
Source: PR Newswire

REGISTRATION and INFO for the next F2F classes:

Please contact our administrative office to register via email at or for more information, contact our Help Line at 415-905-6264.