Journeying down a mountain river is a lot like living with behavioral health challenges. There are moments of peaceful and smooth waters and others filled with turbulent, dangerous rapids. When the Johnson family began working with Canopy Children’s Solutions (Canopy), Brandy Johnson’s life was in the midst of rapids.

She felt like her entire family was drowning.

For years, lies, secrets and fear hid Brandy from the truth about what was happening with her two children. Brandy’s son, Ryan, and daughter, Becca, then ages 8 and 5 respectively, had experienced horrific abuse. Each of the children was threatened by their abuser to never tell anyone or he would harm their family. Every action had an excuse, every bruise was tied to a clumsy story, and the lies continued. As time went on, the bruises healed and the threats subsided, but Ryan and Becca’s emotional wounds lingered in silence. Before her eyes, Brandy’s children became angry and withdrawn. Without fully understanding the drastic changes in her children’s behavior, Brandy admitted them for behavioral health treatment.

Ryan and Becca had been in psychiatric care for months and the only solutions offered were long lists of psychotropic drugs and extended hospital stays. They felt trapped. Finally, Ryan and Becca broke their silence and told Brandy about the abuse. Her world was shattered, but the door was opened for the Johnsons to get the help they desperately needed.

Following three years of treatment through multiple acute care and outpatient facilities, the Johnsons were introduced to Canopy when Ryan and Becca were admitted to the Mississippi Youth Programs Around the Clock (MYPAC). MYPAC is an intensive in-home and community-based program that serves as an alternative to residential care in addition to offering families a non-traditional strength based treatment through a process known as Wraparound. Both therapeutic and wraparound services address the behavioral, emotional, and underlying needs of the youth and counsel the entire family to better support the children.

Starting the Journey

At the beginning of their transformational journey, the Johnsons including Kyle, the children’s father, went on a team-building excursion to canoe down the Buffalo River in Tennessee. Kyle, who had been in and out of the children’s lives and had a rocky relationship with Brandy, committed to helping strengthen the family and becoming an active part of the children’s lives. During that trip, the family mutually pledged to give MYPAC their all.

“While on that trip, we realized that we won’t always like one another, but there are times when we are going to have to pull together to make things work,” said Brandy. “If we all put in the effort, we could get through anything.”

The Johnsons’ MYPAC team consisted of a child psychiatrist, two child and family therapists and two wraparound facilitators. Together, the team worked with Brandy, Kyle, Ryan and Becca on a therapeutic plan to cultivate communication within the family and establish skills to create and maintain a healthy home environment. They also addressed the family’s traumatic history head-on to combat resentment, fear, anger and behavioral issues.

“Our MYPAC team never judged us,” said Brandy. “They never pushed anything on us and were always open to how we could take their suggestions and make it work for our family. They listened and cared about what we had to say.”

The VOICE of our Children and Families Comes First

Part of practicing Canopy’s values is putting the interests and beliefs of children and families first. In this case, the family wanted the option to try treating their underlying problems without the use of medication. Brandy had previous experience with mood enhancers and wanted a different solution for her children. MYPAC was the first to offer the family a non-medicating approach throughout years of previous treatment. The Johnsons met with the child psychiatrist twice a month and participated in individual therapy sessions 1-2 times each week and family therapy twice a month. The family also had 24-hour access to counseling outside of their scheduled sessions. Wraparound visits were conducted 1-2 times each week as well. A monthly child and family team meeting brought together their entire MYPAC team, community supporters and the Johnsons to help them set and assess their family and personal goals and treatment plan. Together, they were making progress and the Johnsons were back in control with a great support team rallying around them.

Family Transformation

Today, Ryan and Becca are finding the tranquil waters at the end of a long journey. Open communication is a normal part of their everyday lives and the anger, resentment and tantrums have diminished. Brandy and Kyle have learned how to co-parent and have gained a mutual respect for one another and their separate lives. The family enjoys time together creating memories. The skills they have each learned through the MYPAC program has transformed the Johnsons into a happy, healthy and functional family. In less than a year, the Johnsons were able to successfully graduate from the MYPAC program.

“MYPAC was therapy for the entire family, not just the kids,” said Brandy. “MYPAC did more for us in 12 months than we had received in three years through other services. Our therapy team never looked down on us. They counseled us with encouragement and taught us how to empower our lives in a positive manner. They always believed in us, and that is what has made our journey a success.”