AIM House Parent Support Group a “Lifeline” for Family Members
(Boulder, CO) – When the nationwide lockdown began, AIM House closed its doors for two short weeks – and for the first time in its 21-year history. Co-founded in 1999 by Danny Conroy and Mae Martin, AIM House is an individualized, live-in mentoring program for adults ages 18 and older who are having difficulty with the transition to adulthood. Participants receive a personalized program that includes individual and group therapy, mentorship, life skills coaching, vocational internships, academic coaching, health and wellness instruction, peer support, and family therapy and workshops. In all of AIM House’s years of operation in Boulder, shutting its doors to residents was completely unprecedented.
Upon reopening with state-wide precautious and a plan of action in place, participants began returning to “The Castle”- AIM House’s striking residential building that was built in 1928 and previously a sorority house. As the program for young adults resumed, the leadership team knew the Parent and Family workshop could no longer take place in person.
Danny Conroy decided to start an online Parent Support Group, meeting three afternoons a week. It would allow parents to experience ongoing connection and support multiple days a week rather than just a few weekends a year. As there is no obligation for parents to attend, Danny had no idea how many people would join – and no idea just how valuable it would become to parents of participants.
Since starting the Parent Support Group, parents have called it a lifeline, a place of comfort, and a place to realize they are not alone. In the midst of the pandemic, the AIM House team realized they were now filling a need for caregivers that the program didn’t realize was missing.
“One of the biggest lessons I learned from our experience with Covid is the power of community,” noted Matt Sullivan, the Residential Program Director. “I knew how important it was for our Participants to feel like they were a part of something greater than themselves. We know that connection and community have the power to heal and that most learning happens in community and relationship. The blind spot that I now see was how critical it is for Parents and Caregivers to have that support as well. That was part of why we launched our Parent Support Group, which is held via Zoom, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 1pm MST. This group is designed to connect parents with other parents so they can have a parallel experience to their adult children. So often society places a stigma on mental health, and I’ve heard from multiple parents how impactful it was to know that there was a group of parents out there going through the same thing.”
This sentiment has been echoed by AIM House parents. “The Parent Support Group has been a lifeline of support and connection with other Aim House parents, Aim House professionals, and alumni,” one parent shared. “It has given me a deeper and more personal understanding of the AIM House philosophy and programming. Having the opportunity to get to know Danny, Matt, and fellow parents who are struggling with similar issues has been an unexpected gift of relationship that has fostered a feeling of understanding, compassion and companionship. It is the best thing that has come out of the pandemic for me!”
For any parent new to the world of wilderness therapy, treatment centers, and aftercare, the process can be overwhelming. The Parent Support Group hopes to bring community and normalcy to the logistical and emotional challenges for parents as they share their experience.
“When I first learned of my son’s struggles, I felt helpless and alone. And, in a certain way, I was and still am helpless; however, my perspective on helplessness has changed due to my participation in AIM’s Parent Support Group. I am no longer alone. This group has helped me accept the fact that I am not able to “fix” or help my son. He has to help himself. The challenge of disentangling my happiness and stability from his happiness and stability is still real, but it is somehow less bleak and daunting when I know I’ll be logging on to see a Zoom-ful of familiar faces that relate to my struggles,” another parent shared.
An AIM House mom shared that, “At a time in a young man’s life when other kids may be able to progress through many of life’s milestones with joy and without major distress, it was hard for me to relate honestly to other parents in my real life community. The online Parent Support Group at AIM House has been a special place of comfort and understanding for me. I learned there is no judgment in this group. Hearing about other families/kids’ histories and challenges, which significantly overlap ours, has helped me feel less alone and very much supported. What AIM House has done for my son, and what the parent support group has done for me… have helped me relate to my son as someone who is much more than just his struggles.”
In the midst of increased social distancing and isolation, an online support group for parents couldn’t be more timely. While the process of closing its doors for two weeks was daunting back in March, an increased sense of community and support is undoubtedly the silver lining. “The pandemic has helped clarify what’s most important for a lot of us,” said Kelly Corn, Executive Director. “And as we support our participants, we are always seeking to find ways to include the community and families in the healing process. The Parent Support Group has allowed us to do just that.”
Find out more about AIM House at their website: www.aimhouse.com.
Founded in 1999, AIM House is a transitional living program located in Boulder, Colorado. Young adults come from wilderness therapy programs, residential treatment programs, therapeutic boarding schools and drug and alcohol treatment centers. Mentors and therapists work with each participant to create an individualized program that meets the needs of the participant and their family. Participants have access to a large variety of educational institutions, including the University of Colorado Boulder. AIM House also offers executive functioning support, vocational coaching, and personalized artistic and entrepreneurial mentorship.