The family member who plays a pivotal role in helping a loved one get into treatment finds it very frustrating to come up against the barrier imposed by these strong federal confidentiality protections.
Take the story of Darla in Texas, whose 35-year-old daughter living in Virginia was abusing pain pills while she tried to raise her two small daughters. Darla paid for the daughter’s airfare to Texas, while another relative stepped in to take care of the children. Darla lived in a restricted community that required her to pay an extra fee for her daughter to live there as a guest, and Darla also supplied her daughter with food and necessities as her daughter was assessed and admitted into treatment.
But after that, Darla was unable to find out any information about her daughter’s progress. The daughter, who held longstanding resentments against her mother, refused to communicate with her, and the counselor likewise declined to discuss anything about the daughter’s case. The counselor said that her authorization to release information included nothing beyond the fact that her daughter was attending. Darla was surprised, a couple weeks later, to get a phone call from her daughter to come and pick her up from a local hospital. The daughter had been negatively discharged from treatment, and she refused to tell Darla why. When Darla called the counselor, she again ran up against a wall of silence. “Ask your daughter,” the counselor said.
This policy of confidentiality is very reassuring to the person who needs help for opiate addiction treatment or other services. However, family members who worry about the addict and want to do their part in the recovery process are left bewildered.
Rest assured that most state guidelines include improved family functioning as a dimension of the treatment plan. Your loved one’s counselor will be working for the addict’s permission to include the family in the treatment process, because positive family relationships can contribute to successful recovery. While you wait, you can seek family counseling on your own, or at least attend Nar-Anon or Al-Anon groups for additional support.