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Why the CAP Model?

Amidst the turmoil created by a loved one’s mental illness, clearly identifying the needs of those closest to the person can prove difficult. Many families can attest to this. To support families, children, siblings, spouses and friends in this process, Réseau Avant de Craquer and its affiliates have established the CAP Model to aid in identifying these diverse needs. The CAP Model identifies family members close to the loved one in distress as Clients, Assistants, and/or Partners.

Developed nearly 12 years ago, the aim of this model is to help family members define their role in order to preserve their quality of life. For those working in the field, it provides a better understanding of the different roles that family and friends can play in the lives of those living with a mental health issue, as well as what their needs may be.


The CAP Model aims to help family members identify their needs according to three common roles :

Role 1. Client | Know how to take care of yourself so you can assist your loved one in their recovery.

When a mental health issue enters our lives, it causes a state of shock that often results in stages of anger, denial, despondency and more. In this period of distress, relationships may become strained. Each person involved (parent, children, siblings, spouse, friends, etc.) will respond differently.

Many will want to be there to help the person with a mental health issue, but they may not have the necessary tools to provide effective support. All of their attention becomes focused on their loved one. This is perfectly normal, as they are experiencing a difficult time and are looking for ways to gain stability and control over this whirlwind situation that has garnered the attention of their entire support network.

This may take some time, as the recovery process is not always straightforward. To keep family members from becoming exhausted, steps need to be taken quickly and effectively. Support resources must be made available to them so that they can develop coping strategies. Special attention must be paid to family members’ needs. Ignoring these needs would be contradictory to the recovery process and could lead to serious physical and mental health issues.

Everyone must learn to take care of themselves in order to help support their loved one without feeling responsible for the recovery process. Young people need extra help during this process.

Things to remember

This is the most overlooked yet most important role, because the more comfortable we become with our loved one’s mental health issue, the better equipped we will be in dealing with difficulties presented by the situation.


Role 2. Assistant | Offer support to your loved one while treating one another with dignity.

Because individuals experiencing mental health challenges may have fluctuating levels of illness and/or be able to recover, families, children, siblings, spouses and friends prefer to foster independence rather than assuming a full-on caretaker role. In this context, close relatives may want to think of themselves as primary ASSISTANTS.

The needs of an assistant can be described simply :

  • They want to be taken into consideration by the treatment team
  • They want their boundaries to be respected
  • They want to be able to share information about their loved one
  • They want to participate in the decision-making process
  • They need to have realistic expectations (e.g., Recovery rarely goes as quickly as we want it to. We may feel we know what is best, but it needs to come from our loved one.)
  • They need hope and to know that we believe in their abilities
  • They need to find the right balance in thinking with their head and their heart… That is the real challenge!

Unfortunately, these needs are often ignored, which can result in close family members becoming isolated from their loved one’s care. The heavy workload of the nursing staff, confidentiality considerations, and/or the refusal of the affected person to involve their family and friends are often cited as the reasons for these shortcomings. However, close relatives are often called upon to support the person once they have been discharged from the hospital and/or with their daily tasks.

To address these issues, it is important to understand the benefits of being involved as a team member in our loved one’s recovery process. In order to achieve this :

  • Everyone must benefit
  • Everyone must find their place in the family circle – Children should remain children, teenagers should experience each new stage in their lives, young adults should be able to follow their own path, spouses should strive to maintain an equal relationship, friends should feel comfortable in their role and as if their boundaries are being respected.
  • Ultimately, the mental illness should become one aspect of the situation rather than the focus of the relationship.

Things to remember

To be part of the solution, you need to team up with your loved one and have a frank discussion about your involvement in their recovery.


Role 3. Partner | Use your experience to become a voice for families and participate in the planning and organization of mental health services.

Close relatives who have benefited from support and who have gained distance from their personal situation can become active PARTNERS in the organization of services. Teenagers, young adults, high school students, CEGEP students, university students, and those early on in their career or nearing retirement can take on this role effectively by helping to make decisions regarding the organization and evaluation of services at local, regional or provincial levels.

In order to be most effective, partners must be supported by training and funding. We must also ensure that boards of directors have access to sufficient financial resources for the operation of services throughout all regions of Quebec.

Things to remember

Teenagers, young adults, high school students, CEGEP students, university students, and those early on in their career or nearing retirement can take on this role effectively by helping make decisions regarding the organization and evaluation of services at local, regional or provincial levels.

Thanks to our partners :

Jean Coutu
VIA Rail Canada
L’Appui proches aidants
Réseaux communautaire de Santé et de Services sociaux
Centre d’apprentissage Santé et Rétablissement
Lafrance Communication
Desjardins Caisse du Plateau Montcalm
Raise Solutions
David Communication
Centre Axel
Centre intégré universitaire de santé et de services sociaux de l’Est-de-l’Île-de-Montréal
Fondation Québec Philanthrope

Allies for the website : Marc-André Cright | Serge Daigneault