What participants are saying about Sashbear's Family Connections program

NEA-BPD's Family ConnectionsTM (FC) is an evidence-based program that has consistently shown to help participants decrease levels of grief, decrease burden, decrease depression and increase mastery/empowerment.  

Sashbear-run FC groups measure retention rates, include pre-program, mid-program and post-program evaluations and, with the recent growth, abides to a fidelity evaluation to ensure the program is delivered with a consistent level of effectiveness to all participants. Institutions like CAMH, SickKids, Sunnybrook Hospital, Mount Sinai Hospital and many others refer family members to our program. Sashbear's FC program powers the family support component of the YouthCan IMPACT state of the art research project.

While data/measures and recognition of our program by well established institutions is important, it is participant's consistent testimonials that validate how transformational these FC groups can be for participants and their families. These testimonials are what fuels and inspires the growing army of former FC participants to become volunteers; to "pay it forward" by becoming observers, then co-facilitators of new groups.  In 2016 alone more than 6,500 volunteer hours have been devoted to Sashbear's Family Connections program - all to deliver a program that is free of cost and delivers hope to those families and friends that often feel stigmatized and isolated in their struggle to support a loved one with emotion dysregulation. This program is helping meet the objective to make these valuable skills widely available as these skills were to Sasha Menu Courey, as written in her journal, " water to me…it’s a vital resource to live. It should be free! In a perfect world it would be free" - we take these words seriously...


Here are some Testimonials about this program

"I continue to rave about this around every individual I run into; because the family connections class I feel has allowed our family to gain “functionality“. For 2 years when this diagnosis hit our family, and many $$ spent on therapy this 12 week course has allowed myself and my wife to communicate with my daughter in a “totally different” way.

The family connections course helped us set up the “boundaries with her , she was very involved in the safety plan , and she did AWESOME”. She thanked us for the DEAR MAN plan with her . She is beginning to realize that there is HOPE ; she realizes she can talk to us and things “are“ different. I do realize this will be a LIFELONG journey but I am at peace with Radical acceptance and being NON judgemental. Another distinction that allowed us to free ourselves of “reins” is that we treat our daughter like our best friend and NOT the child which is as HUGE transformation to try to make.

My daughter still has upsets however I can definitely deal with them in a whole different way than what I used to deal with them. My benign interpretation reaction is also a huge contribution which I learned is also so important.

For me the only way I could transform is from the Family Connections program - it was the only program I felt allowed me to look at things differently and see HOPE!"

- FC Sashbear group participant and current FC observer


"Having Family Connections as part of our service brings tremendous value to the ACCESS Open Minds Chatham-Kent mental health hub and CMHA Lambton-Kent branch! As Family Navigator at the hub, most of the families with whom I come in contact have emotionally dysregulated youth. I am able to give them a pamphlet, let them know when our next Family Connections group will be, and in the meantime am able to share with them key skills such as validation and relationship mindfulness. Even this brief support makes a difference! I can't say enough about the Family Connections course and how using the skills stabilizes the entire family, even after only a few sessions. Fewer families are suffering in Chatham-Kent; we are most grateful."

- Laurie Roeszler - ACCESS Open Minds Chatham-Kent mental health hub Family Navigator


"We have thoroughly enjoyed the Family Connections Program. The facilitators are so dedicated! After the first few sessions we started to notice improvements in the dynamics at home. We have a better understanding of our adolescent with BPD and how we can communicate with her in a way that is effective. There is a renewed sense of calm in our home and this program has helped us to accept our currently reality so we can be active participants in creating a new one. This new found perspective on communicating in a way that honours the value of everyone assists you in building meaningful relationships with all who cross your path. It has added to the experience that the facilitators understand firsthand the struggles of the group participants as they have lived the experience. So honourable that as they deal with their own struggles they work tirelessly to equip others with the tools to succeed. We no longer feel alone in our troubles and I will be forever grateful to this group and the role it has played in our healing.” "

- FC Sashbear group participant


"My wife and I took the Family Connections program this summer because we were desperate to find solutions for our troubled son who was completely out of control – fighting with us, giving up on school, taking drugs and away somewhere unknown for nights on end. Just prior to taking the program we were on the verge of throwing him out of the house as we thought there wasn’t anything more we could do.

After taking the Family Connections program we feel much less stressed and our son “our loved one” seems more connected to us. We haven’t had a fight in two months and he is showing some interest in school. We are in the early days but find our relationship is improving because of what we learned from the Family Connections program.”

- FC Sashbear group participant


"Taking part in Family Connections empowered me to make a difference; a difference in my own life and a difference in the life of my loved one. Seeing my child suffering each day, knowing that she is harming herself and worrying about her safety all the time is exhausting and heartwrenching. Family Connections helped me to connect with other families dealing with similar issues and showed me the importance of preserving and nurturing the relationship that exists between my daughter and I. Fostering the relationship with her reminded me about what a strong, creative and extremely brave person she is a she struggles with her emotions each day.

The Family Connections Program taught me to focus on being non-judgemental and to validate myself and those around me. Lynn and Mike were amazing at facilitating a supportive and caring group environment that focussed on making positive change within the family unit through evidence-based DBT and mindfulness strategies.

I highly recommend the Family Connections Program. Research shows that it is a successful program for those with a family member who is experiencing emotion dysregulation. I believe that the DBT strategies taught can help all of us become more “decent” and caring people, as we interact with those around us. These skills are invaluable and they reinforce the importance of developing successful, positive coping skills, both for ourselves and for our children. I believe these coping skills need to be shared, not only with families, but also with students in school as part of the curriculum. By being proactive we can help.”

- FC Sashbear group participant


"The twelve weeks of our Family Connection group faded away like a dream but this is a dream THAT WE ARE DEFINITELY GOING TO REMEMBER. THANK YOU Lynn/Mike/Rosanna. Your dedication to teach us new hands on techniques “how to positively deal “with the problems we face was just fantastic! Personally, I have to admit that before I registered to your group I had some knowledge about BPD, Marsha Linehan, DBT and “how to deal” books but your group was just a blast for me. It made me revise some of my techniques, gave me deeper understanding, taught me many practical skills. Now I use the DEAR MAN template on every day basis dealing with my daughter's difficult behavior. It works! (Although you need to be broken record sometimes but it works) Also, very practical validation skills (the templates of what to say and when) contributed to the fact that mine and Monica’s relation got second chance. You guys made me cry (from compassion) you guys made me laugh many times during the 12 weeks Family Connection Program."

- FC Sashbear group participant


“As we draw to a close, I want to thank you for your efforts in regards to the Family Connections Program. My Husband and I did an introductory course in DBT earlier this year which gave us a base understanding for your class. I am finding your course extremely helpful as it is much more in depth. The opportunity to connect with other parents in similar circumstances in guided learning is invaluable. Not only are we learning communication tools and coping strategies, but to feel that we are no longer alone in our struggles is a great relief.

The loss of your daughter Sasha is tragic. I cannot imagine the pain you must continue to feel on a daily basis. Your strength, conviction, and perseverance in light of your loss is remarkable. Watching the recent video of Sasha must have been tremendously difficult for you. It was hard for me to watch knowing the distressing effects it must have had on you. I believe that fear of suicide and the loss of a loved one's life is something everyone in our group must be struggling with - certainly it is for us. In this regard, the Family Connections Program is vital to our relationships with our loved ones and their opportunity to become mental health survivors.

By teaching us the tools we need to connect with our daughter gives me hope that, together, we CAN survive this - I strongly feel that it is one of the very few things that we, as parents, can do which may save her life. Since we began the Family Connections program, we have experienced positive gains in our relationships and a more relaxed and loving environment in our in our home as we move toward radical acceptance. Two years ago, we had no understanding of her inward struggle. As our daughter went in and out of hospital on many occasions our home was a battle ground, there was shouting, many tears, many fears, building frustrations on both sides, and we had no way of communicating or connecting with one another. We still have much to learn, life is not perfect, but we have renewed hope for her future.

The DBT skills we continue to learn and practice help with our other family relationships and it's remarkable to see how effective they can be. This week, while validating the emotions of my 10 year old son, I was very surprised when he responded "Mom, how can you know EXACTLY how I am feeling? It's kind of spooky" which he followed up with a thanks and a hug. My hope is that with practice, one day my daughter will express similar sentiments. Many, many, heartfelt thanks"

- FC Sashbear group participant


“I am so thankful that my husband were able to be part of the Family Connections group lead by Lynn and Mike. Lynn and Mike provided a setting that felt very safe for everyone to share their challenging and painful experiences that alone was a gift.

The skills introduced in the course have brought me a place where I am better able to: accept our situation, understand our daughter’s behaviour, work as a team with my husband on parenting issues, make progress towards better communication with our daughter

The biggest gift for me is the feeling that there is hope for the future”

- FC Sashbear group participant


  • We are all doing the best we can and we can all do better...
  • Let's remove stigma from mental illness and Borderline Personality Disorder...
  • We are all in this together, you are not alone...
  • Validation before problem solving...
  • Emotion Regulation Disorder is the new name for Borderline Personality Disorder...
  • Let's teach DBT skills in schools...
  • Let's intervene, let's intervene early...
  • Show me compassion and empathy first, don't just tell me how to change
  • Let go of judgments and believe in me so that I can believe in myself
  • Accept me so that I can better accept myself
  • We are all doing the best we can and we can all do better next time
  • Take care of yourself then you can attend to others
  • Be mindful - Observe, describe, participate effectively
  • Observe your own emotions rise and that of others, pause then engage effectively
  • Strive to be wise, not just rational or emotional
  • Change what you can, accept what you cannot
  • Validation is not agreement
  • Validate, Validate Validate
  • Be supportive, let go of judgements
  • We can't control having strong emotions but we can change how we respond to them
  • Hope is everything and is always there even when I cannot see it
  • BPD is more common than Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder combined 6%
  • The suicide rate of BPD victims is 400 times that of general population
  • BPD is the third leading killer of young women between the ages of 15-24
  • 1 of 5 seek help, 4 of 5 benefit from treatment
  • 4,000 young people die by suicide per year in Canada
  • I am not the disorder. I am a person
  • Stop the Stigma - by Speaking Up
  • Living with BPD is like not having an emotional skin
  • Genetic vulnerabilities and invalidating environment could lead to BPD
  • Breathe
  • Mindfulness is not what you think
  • Mindfulness is being present moment to moment
  • Mindfulness is just observing, paying attention to non-judgement
  • Patience, trust, non-striving and acceptance
  • Mindfulness does not come by takes practice
  • Let your breath be your anchor to observe thoughts as they arise
  • Observe thoughts as they come and go like waves on the ocean
  • Pay attention to what you are actually paying attention to
  • What we frequently think we become
  • Turning my auto-pilot off
  • Only that day dawns to which we are awake - Thoreau Walden
  • It is a radical act of love to just just down and be quiet for a time by YOURSELF
  • You are HERE!
  • Make each moment count!
  • I am a valuable part of all that EXISTS
  • I am Love. ALL is Love
  • The practice of mindfulness is not to follow your heart but to train your heart
  • It's OK, let it be
  • Smile at thoughts, they are empty. The only power thoughts have is the power you give them
  • The benefit will come to your life with consistent mindfulness practice everyday
  • Whatever you do to make it mindful!
  • Kindness is pure wisdom
  • Mindfulness is free or craving, want or hate
  • Be gentle to yourself as well as others
  • When you feel connected to someone that connection gives you purpose
  • Practice kindness whenever possible. It's always possible - Dalai Lama