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People with severe mental illness often need assistance with concrete areas of their lives, including accessing financial and other benefits, finding suitable housing, and finding meaningful daily activity. A case manager works with clients to help them reach certain concrete goals. Case management can be very helpful for people whose illnesses prevent them from making needed changes on their own. The case manager and client decide together what goals they should work on. For example, a client and case manager may decide to work on finding more to do during the day. The case manager will first help the client decide what activities would be most appropriate. Then they will work together to find these activities. For example, the case manager may help the client get into a “clubhouse program” (see section on “clubhouse”). Rather than doing everything for the client, the case manager helps the client learn the skills needed to reach his goals, such as making phone calls or keeping a calendar. Unlike psychiatrists and therapists, case managers and clients often meet outside of the office. They may meet at the client’s home or elsewhere in the community.

Case managers can have involvement with people’s families. Families can help by communicating with the case manager about concerns or changes in their relative’s health. Families can also help their relatives reach certain goals, and can be involved in the planning process. The extent to which families are involved depends on the client’s level of comfort, as well as on how involved the family wants to be. Sometimes it can be very helpful for families, case managers, and clients to meet together from time to time. This is especially true if the client and family live together.

All mental health centers have case managers. If your relative has signed a release form, you can find out whether or not he has a case manager. If he does, you can find out what they are working on and see how you might be involved. If he does not have a case manager and you think he should, you can discuss it with his doctor or therapist.