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The Sibling Support Demonstration Project: A Pilot Study Assessing Feasibility, Preliminary Effectiveness, and Participant Satisfaction

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Background: The hospitalization of a child on an inpatient psychiatric unit is traumatic for the entire family, but few services address the needs of their siblings and caregivers.

Objective: This pilot study aimed to demonstrate the feasibility and potential benefits of implementing psycho-educational and support groups for caregivers and siblings of children and adolescents admitted to psychiatric units. The primary aim of this intervention was to increase sibling resiliency and reduce trauma experienced by families.

Method: A total of 145 siblings and 196 caregivers participated in the intervention. Siblings participated in a structured support group that enabled them to share their stories and learn coping skills. Caregivers were provided with a psycho-education curriculum in a group facilitated by a parent mentor. At the end of each session, participants completed surveys which included questions on demographics, satisfaction, knowledge learned, and anticipated changes in behavior as the result of participating in the intervention.

Results: Feasibility was demonstrated through successful recruitment, high rates of survey completion, and overall participant satisfaction. Caregivers reported gaining useful parenting strategies to better support the siblings, an increased understanding of the impact of mental illness on siblings, a reduction in feelings of isolation, and improved access to resources. Siblings reported feeling relieved and better understood, learning new coping skills, and finding validation and support through sharing their experiences in a group setting.

Conclusion: This study supports the feasibility and importance of providing sibling and caregiver support and psycho-education to enhance resiliency and reduce trauma among family members of psychiatrically hospitalized children and adolescents.
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Keywords: Sibling relationships; child and adolescent mental health disorders; family dynamics; parent mentor; resiliency; trauma reduction

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2018

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  • Adolescent Psychiatry publishes reports of original research, critical reviews of topics relevant to practitioners, clinical observations with analysis and discussion, analysis of philosophical, ethical or social aspects of the fields of psychiatry and mental health, case reports with discussions, letters, and position papers. Adolescent Psychiatry, a peer-reviewed journal, and the official journal of the American Society for Adolescent Psychiatry, aims to provide mental health professionals who work with adolescents with current information relevant to the diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric disorders in adolescence.
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