For Family & Friends

Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi engari he toa takitini  |  My strength is not that of an individual but that of a collective.

We recognise that contact with whānau, friends and other support people can be an important part of a person’s recovery. A loved one coming to Ashburn will join a therapeutic community to recover and build resilience. As a whānau, understanding the journey they will be taking will help to guide your support.  

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Preparing for Ashburn

Whāia te mātauranga hei oranga mō koutou.
Seek learning for the sake of your wellbeing.

Ashburn Clinic offers a professional and supportive environment for diagnosis, treatment and recovery from mental illness and addictions. At the centre of treatment is the therapeutic community model. The main therapeutic programme utilises a structured day, with an emphasis on group meetings and community participation. By concentrating on the meaning of each person’s feelings, actions and relationships, changes in understanding and behaviour can be made. Ashburn recognises that contact with whānau, family and friends, and with other support people forms an important part of a person’s recovery. The therapeutic community programme has patients at the helm of their recovery, so it will be the patient who communicates with whānau to keep them informed of their progress and invites whānau and other support people to their family meetings. For information on suitability and pre-admission procedures, please click here.  

On admission to Ashburn, the patient is taking an important step towards their recovery. In some situations, whānau may have been carrying much of the burden of care, whilst in other cases the admission may come as a surprise to friends and family. Whānau might not have had any other experience of someone accessing mental health care. The following resources may be of use in understanding the mental health care system and how to support a loved one in need.

Ministry of Health – mental health and addictions
Need to talk?  1737
ALAC – for help and advice on alcohol
Southern DHB Alcohol & Drug Services – Community Alcohol & Drug Services (Dunedin)
CADS – national website
The Low Down – a website to help young New Zealanders recognise and understand depression and anxiety
Mental Health Foundation
NZ Drug Foundation – educating, advising and standing up for healthy approaches to alcohol and drugs
High Alert – for drug information and alerts 
Skylight Trust – supporting children, young people, and their whānau to navigate through tough times.

Admission to Ashburn is initiated by a referral from a health professional such as a GP or a psychiatrist. Most commonly, people are referred for problems with addiction, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, life crises, PTSD, personal and relationship issues, and sexual trauma. The referral is reviewed by a professional team for the suitability of Ashburn in treating this person. There may also be a wait before a bed is available and, if funding is required through a governmental agency, for funding to be approved. It may be that in reaching out for the initial referral, a person has used a family member or friend, whānau to support them through the process. If so, it is likely that the person will appreciate continued support during the pre-admission process. Whānau should recognise that by seeking admission to Ashburn, a person is taking a big step towards their recovery.

Ashburn recognises the importance of whānau support for patients. If a patient has appreciated someone’s support through the pre-admission period, they might ask for continued support through admission. It is also likely that the patient may wish to manage the admission themselves. The staff at Ashburn provide a warm and inviting welcome into the Clinic, with calm and caring procedures for settling a new patient in. The staff are experienced in assessing the level of independence the patient needs and wants. Whānau should be guided by Ashburn staff as to how best to support the patient on admission.

Ashburn encourages patients to contact their whānau directly to keep them informed of their progress and well-being. Initially, the process of settling in to residential care at the Clinic and becoming used to the demands of the therapeutic community programme may mean that some time may elapse before the patient is ready to communicate with whānau. When they are ready, staff will encourage the patient to initiate a family meeting. Whānau should be reassured that their loved one is settling in to a caring environment that is attending to all their needs and setting the stage for recovery. If there is any change in circumstance, such as the need for a transfer to another ward or there is any event of concern, the emergency contact will be immediately notified and the event documented.

A key part of the therapeutic community programme is the trust that the patient has in the Ashburn community. The patient must be able to trust that they are in control of their personal story, their care and their recovery.

Privacy: due to privacy legislation Ashburn cannot confirm a patient’s status, refer phone calls or release information without the patient’s prior permission.

Concerns or complaints: any issues not resolved through the usual communication channels can be brought to the attention of the Medical Director.

Keeping in Touch

He hono tangata e kore e motu; ka pa he taura waka e motu.
Unlike a canoe, a human bond cannot be severed. Our whakapapa and our relationships with others join us together to make us who we are.

We encourage patients to contact their whānau directly to keep them informed of their progress and well-being. The best way for whānau to contact a patient is directly, rather than through our reception. There may be times during treatment where patients do not feel comfortable communicating this information and other times when they relish the chance to reach out, to catch up with whānau. The relationships they have with whānau may be complex and might be linked to some of the difficulties they are dealing with. For these reasons, whānau should not be put off by an unanswered message. The patient may be comforted by whānau reaching out to them, but may need time to be ready and able to respond. The therapeutic community programme has patients actively involved for much of the day, as well as evenings and weekends. If whānau wish to contact a patient directly, the best times to reach them are after hours. Most patients bring their own devices with them, but Ashburn does have computers available for patients to use to keep in touch.

The therapeutic community at Ashburn places the patient at the centre of their treatment. Each patient’s trust in this community and in the programme is vital to their sense of security and so to their recovery. For this reason, along with the protocols of privacy, patients are kept informed of any enquiries made of them. Any responses to such enquiries are only given with the patient’s expressed permission. The programme does ensure that whānau are kept informed of treatment and progress when appropriate.

  • At key stages during their time at Ashburn, people nominated by the patient may be invited to take part in a family meeting.
  • Whānau are encouraged to reach out and to communicate with patients
  • For any other queries, please contact the Ashburn reception by phoning 03 476 2092 or by email.
  • For any significant concerns, or complaints, please contact the Medical Director.

The patient is at the centre of their treatment within Ashburn’s therapeutic community programme. This also recognises the importance of whānau to patient wellbeing and recovery. A patient’s relationship with their whānau may be complex, possibly containing a mixture of strong emotions such as love, anger, comfort and rejection. As a patient works towards their recovery, they may have questions that need to be answered, things that need to be said, olive branches to extend and/or to receive. In turn, whānau may feel the need to reassure the patient of their love, support and/or understanding. At appropriate stages during their time at Ashburn, a patient may initiate a family meeting. The family meeting will be a time for the patient, along with staff, to involve nominated whānau in their treatment.

At key stages of their treatment, a patient, usually in discussion with their clinical team, may invite whānau and/or other support people to join them in a family meeting. This meeting is facilitated by Ashburn psychiatric and nursing staff but is led by the patient themselves. Although a family meeting can be challenging, it can prove a powerful step towards a patient’s recovery. It can also be immensely reassuring for whānau to see the progress their loved one is making. Although the family meeting can take place over a Zoom or Teams call, Ashburn makes every effort to ensure the family meeting can occur in person. For more information and/or assistance in visiting Ashburn to attend a family meeting, please call reception on 03 476 2092.

As part of therapy, patients may initiate a visit from key family and friends, whānau, to visit them at Ashburn. Sometimes, a family meeting will be arranged around the visit. Ashburn has meeting spaces available for this purpose. Whānau are welcome to stay and share an evening meal when they are visiting with patients. 

Whilst a loved one is resident at Ashburn, there is a chance for whānau to consider the home environment. It may be that changes should be made in preparation for the loved one’s return on recovery.

  • Maintaining a sense of place: this may be a patient’s own room, or just some storage space and the promise of always being welcome to stay. Knowing that they always have a home to go to and/or whānau who care, will provide a wider sense of security that can aid the patient in their recovery.
  • Ensuring a safe environment: whānau should consider how safe the home environment will be for the patient to return to. Will they feel supported in their efforts to maintain good mental health? Can potential triggers or sources of distress be mitigated? Will they have a reasonable level of whānau support, financial security (or at least security of food and shelter) and access to work and/or leisure activities? All these considerations will support them in maintaining recovery.
  • Making reparation: it may be that on admission to Ashburn, the patient was unable to maintain all aspects of independent living. There may be loose ends that need to be tidied up; e.g. cleaning up and/or repairing a living space, notifying an employer of their absence, paying outstanding bills. The patient, with help from their clinical team, is the best person to guide whānau through what actions they would appreciate be undertaken.

Caring for a loved one with Mental Health issues can be very demanding, distressing and overwhelming. In the lead up to a person being admitted to Ashburn, whānau may be physically and emotionally exhausted. Some may be experiencing their own mental health issues. While a patient is in the care of Ashburn, whānau can use this time to look after their own needs. It may be as simple as reconnecting with friends, resuming neglected leisure activities or just having some quiet time to themselves. It might be that whānau need some support to understand what has happened and to cope with what has happened. There are many support groups available to whānau with such needs. Some examples are:
Yellow Brick Road (formerly Supporting Families)
ABLE Minds (Otago/Southland)
Skylight Trust

You could also seek advice from your GP or other trusted health care professional.

“From an outsider’s view, the Clinic seems to be an exceptional place to begin the long journey of recovery from whatever addiction is involved and especially the follow-up aftercare. Excellent job!”

– Family Member

Learn more about helping your loved one

In Recovery

E iti noa ana nā te aroha.
A small thing given with love.

When it becomes appropriate for treatment, a patient may be granted leave. The type and conditions of leave is assessed on a case-by case basis; discussed within the appropriate therapy groups and arranged in consultation with the clinical team. In some cases, patients may not be able to complete, or even take, the full leave arranged. Although it is difficult not to have raised expectations, whānau should understand that in arranging and taking leave, the patient is making significant progress in their recovery. If whānau have any questions or concerns about hosting a patient on leave, they should contact the clinical staff via reception on 03 476 2092.

Due to the current Covid-19 pandemic there will be precautionary measures in place that will be set out when leave is arranged.

When a patient is ready for discharge from Ashburn, they will hopefully have shown resilience in their recovery. On discharge, duty of care will be passed from Ashburn to an appropriate medical provider. In many cases this will be the patient’s GP. During their time at Ashburn, the patient will hopefully have developed the skills and knowledge necessary to overcome previous challenges and to maintain good mental health. Potential triggers to the person relapsing will have been identified. If appropriate, these will have been discussed in the family meeting, with the aim of whānau supporting recovery by mitigating triggers. Also discussed should be any healthy habits or activities that the person recognises as aiding their recovery.

Whānau can make a significant difference to the success of maintaining recovery. On discharge from Ashburn, a person will hopefully have developed skills and knowledge necessary to maintain their recovery. Whānau may also have learned a great deal about what their loved one experienced and so are more likely to be able to assist in mitigating potential triggers and avoiding relapse.

“[Ashburn] Gave my daughter back to me and returned her as a wife and mother to her family. Thank you.”
– A patient’s parent

There are many networks available to aid whānau in their support of a loved one in recovery. Some examples are:
Yellow Brick Road (formerly Supporting Families)
ABLE Minds (Otago/Southland)
Skylight Trust
Emerge Aotearoa

You could also seek advice from your GP or other trusted health care professional.

“You have done a difficult job well, and [we] are very grateful for the treatment and care you have given.”
– Family Member

“You really are saving people’s lives. Thank you!”
– Family Member

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