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Education Programs

Generally held weekly and typically run for 4 to 8 weeks. These courses usually run several times each year and require pre-registration. All are now being held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

LEAP (Listen – Empathize – Agree – Partner)

The LEAP approach was developed by Dr. Xavier Amador, author of I Am Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help!: How to Help Someone with Mental Illness Accept Treatment. FAMI-Alberta has a family member who was trained by Amador to deliver LEAP locally. LEAP can help you quickly gain the trust of someone who needs your help. The goal over 4 weekly sessions is to get your loved one to accept treatment and adhere to medication; this is accomplished by strengthening your relationship. Find more information and link to register in our Supporting a Loved One section.

LEAP Training

LEAP Training Testimonials

good to hear others’ stories and know you’re not alone

Good teacher, excellent depth of knowledge

It covered everything we need to do to follow the relational path. Detailed, examples, some role plays, and everyone was encouraged to share experiences. Excellent all around

Felt as if we were well supported not only by the presenter but also by the participants.

 Helped us better understand the situation our loved ones are in and better able to experience and internalize their struggles.

Excellent presenter-provided information with interesting examples. His training and experience give him a lot of credibility. Totally believable.

Presenter was very knowledgeable and gave very considered responses to everybody.

LEAP gives me more options and tools to deal with my son who doesn’t think he has a problem

I actually feel a little more empowered.

Learned about skills to better communicate with my loved one

Gained a richer and more empathetic understanding into the struggles of our loved one.

Renewed hope with some new strategies. Found the shared experiences to be very enlightening.

Good teacher, excellent depth of knowledge

It was nice to hear from other parents and how they handle situations

Appreciated the strong focus on the partnering approach.

External Education Programs

Finding Your Balance (Alberta Recovery Colleges - Canadian Mental Health Association)

When a loved one is struggling with a mental health concern, it can be challenging to keep our own sense of balance. This multi-week, online course (8 X 1 hour) and will help caregivers build resilience, connection, and hope. This online course is offered on Zoom and run by two trained facilitators, one of whom has a lived experience of supporting a loved one’s recovery journey. Register online or call 211 in the Edmonton area.

CMHA Recovery College Calgary
CMHA Recovery College Lethbridge
CMHA Recovery College Edmonton
CMHA Recovery College Central Alberta (Red Deer, AB)
CMHA Recovery College Wood Buffalo (Fort McMurray, AB)
CMHA Recovery College Grande Prairie
CMHA Recovery College Medicine Hat
CMHA Recovery College Camrose
Family Recovery Journey is a program of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada to educate families and friends and provide tools for managing the impact of psychosis on their lives. This program updates and replaces the Strengthening Families Together program. This five-session program provides strategies for managing the impact of psychosis and schizophrenia on the family. For information about upcoming programs check the SSA website.
Generally held once per month starting at 6:00 pm; check the SSA website, call 403-327-4305 or email kjames-hussey@schizophrenia.ab.ca for information on the current schedule. 

Online Resources


Source:  BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information The Family Toolkit was designed to assist families in caring for a family member with a mental illness by providing information and practical resources. Download the entire Family Toolkit PDF icon or individual modules:

Dealing with Cognitive Dysfunction Dealing with Cognitive Dysfunction PDF by New York State Office of Mental Health

Source: New York State Office of Mental Health A handbook for families and friends of individuals with psychiatric disorders that’s full of useful advice.


From the US National Institute of Mental Health A 20-page booklet that discusses the positive, negative and cognitive symptoms of this serious illness.

Schizophrenia Carer Playbook  pdf icon

From EUFAMI An interactive PDF meant to provide guidance and advice to carers of those living with schizophrenia, helping them to navigate the struggles they may face.

Other Resources

Recommended Books

These books are the ones most recommended by families:

I Am Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help!: How to Help Someone with Mental Illness Accept Treatment
by Dr. Xavier Amador

It’s difficult to talk to a loved one who doesn’t recognize their mental illness. Many mental illnesses are accompanied by Anosognosia – the inability to recognize their illness. This book explains the LEAP approach (Listen, Empathize, Agree, Partner) to get them to a point where they’re able to accept help. You can download portions of the book dealing with LEAP here.

Surviving Schizophrenia, 6th Edition: A Family Manual
by E. Fuller Torrey

This is an invaluable book for understanding Schizophrenia, its symptoms, effects and prognosis. It also explains what is known and not known about this illness, and presents the most recent theories about its cause.

Bitter Medicine: A Graphic Memoir of Mental Illness
by Clem Martini (author) and Olivier Martini (artist)

In 1976, Ben Martini was diagnosed with schizophrenia. A decade later, his brother Olivier was told he had the same disease. For the past thirty years the Martini family has struggled to comprehend and cope with a devastating illness, frustrated by a health care system lacking in resources and empathy, the imperfect science of medication, and the strain of mental illness on familial relationships. In Bitter Medicine, Olivier’s poignant graphic narrative runs alongside and communicates with a written account of the past three decades by his younger brother, award-winning author and playwright Clem Martini. The Martini family lives in the Calgary area.

After Her Brain Broke: Helping My Daughter Recover Her Sanity
by Susan Inman

This memoir by Canadian Susan Inman describes her family’s nine year journey to help her younger daughter recover from a catastrophic schizoaffective disorder. This is a good read that fits the Canadian context.

Recommended Videos

I’m Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help! (18 minutes)

Dr. Xavier Amador had a life-altering experience when his older brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia. As a result, he developed a new way to approach patients previously thought to be in denial.This TEDx Talk from October 2017 summarizes current understanding of Anosognosia (a symptom of some mental illnesses, NOT denial) and how to deal with it successfully. A must-see for family members and medical staff.

Elyn Saks: A tale of mental illness – from the inside (15 minutes)

A legal scholar, in 2007 Saks came forward with her story of schizophrenia, controlled by drugs and therapy but ever-present. In this powerful talk, she asks us to see people with mental illness clearly, honestly and compassionately.

Thomas Insel: Toward a new understanding of mental illness (13 minutes)

Today, thanks to better early detection, there are 63% fewer deaths from heart disease than there were just a few decades ago. Could we do the same for depression and schizophrenia? The first step in this new avenue of research, says Thomas Insel, director of the (U.S.) National Institute of Mental Health, is a crucial reframing: for us to stop thinking about “mental disorders” and start understanding them as “brain disorders.”

Living with Schizophrenia (25 minutes)

From Dr. Xavier Amador’s LEAP Institute, this uplifting video shows interviews with patients living with schizophrenia, and mental health professionals who treat them. It shows how people diagnosed with schizophrenia can live normal lives.

Living Well with Schizophrenia

A YouTube channel with a series of short videos by Lauren, an Albertan living with schizophrenia/schizoaffective disorder. These videos are intended to be a resource for people with the diagnosis, their loved ones, and for people who just want to learn more about the illness.

My Story with Schizophrenia (5 minutes)

A personal story from a young person with Schizophrenia – moving and realistic.

I Am Not A Monster: Schizophrenia (15 minutes)

While pursuing a major in Astronomy & Astrophysics at Pennsylvania State University, Cecilia McGough experienced a psychotic episode and was eventually diagnosed with Schizophrenia. In this powerful and hope-filled TEDx talk, she discusses her experience and how it led her to establish the organization Students with Schizophrenia.

Compassion for Voices: a tale of courage and hope (5 minutes)

A film about the compassionate approach to relating with voices, with potential for use as a therapeutic, educational, and de-stigmatising tool.


The following words and phrases are described in simplified terms to assist families in understanding mental illness and navigating the system. For the exact medical or legal definition, refer to the source material (e.g., Mental Health Act, DSM, etc.).

Anosognosia: when someone is unaware of their own mental health condition or can’t perceive their condition accurately. Anosognosia is a common symptom of certain mental illnesses, perhaps the most difficult to understand for those who have never experienced it. It’s different from denial (refusal to admit a problem); it’s an actual inability to recognize it. This video offers an explanation of Anosognosia.

Caregiver: Anyone who assists a family member or friend with challenges resulting from illness, disability or aging. This is distinct from a care provider, who is paid to provide assistance.

Formal Patient Certification: Also known as involuntary or certified. Someone with a mental disorder and who fits the criteria under the Mental Health Act to be detained in a facility. Requires two admission certificates by doctors. This flow chart summarizes the certification process. Note: this is different from being deemed incompetent.

Incompetence: Someone who is deemed incompetent to make decisions regarding their treatment (such as medication). A physician must complete a Certificate of Incompetence to Make Treatment Decisions (Form 11) and the patient has the right to appeal to a review panel. This flow chart summarizes the process.

Serious Mental Illness (SMI): a term that has replaced chronic mental illness, recognizing that (with treatment) the illness may not always be disabling. Definitions vary, but in general a serious mental illness among people ages 18 and older is defined as having, at any time during the past year, a diagnosable mental, behavior, or emotional disorder that causes serious functional impairment that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities (such as maintaining interpersonal relationships, activities of daily living, self-care, employment, and recreation). SMIs include schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, psychotic disorders, major depressive disorders, bipolar disorders, and borderline personality disorder. See https://www.samhsa.gov/disorders or download this document for more information.


The following links are provided as a service; FAMI-Alberta doesn’t necessarily endorse any of the organizations or the content of their websites.

Alberta Organizations

Canadian Organizations

Foreign / International Organizations

Alberta Government

Canadian Government

Information about Mental Illness, Research and Advocacy

Patient & Family-Centred Care

Housing Programs