What Is Family Therapy In Addiction Treatment?

Put simply, family therapy in addiction treatment involves the addict’s family members as part of a set of therapeutic approaches. To help the addict learn to live with their choice of drug or alcohol abuse, interventions might start off this process. Family therapy for addiction is designed to help reduce or eliminate the harm caused to the family by the individual’s addiction and associated destructive behavior. At the same time, other issues such as abuse, depression, parenting skills, unemployment, and family conflicts may also be addressed as a group with the guidance of a therapist.

During this form of family therapy for addiction, much of the family therapy comes in the form of education. This makes it possible for every member of the family to ask questions, allowing a dialog to begin, which in and of itself can prove to be healing.

Among the more common therapeutic interventions there are:

  • Discussing family roles.
  • Finding ways to improve communication and rebuild trust.
  • Find out what helps and what is harmful to each person in the family.
  • Identifying ways to interact that respect everyone’s needs.

little boy on mom's back in park

The Family System Model

Many family therapists have begun to make use of the “family system model.” This system takes the view that substance abuse is not an individual problem, but rather one in which the entire family is involved. This type of family therapy takes the view that each family is an enclosed system, in which every member of the family has a distinct effect on how the family functions as a whole.

Thus, when one member of the family unit is no longer capable of functioning (due to substance abuse, in this case), the whole family unit suffers. Even those who are not involved in substance abuse themselves are likely to find that their own behavior becomes dysfunctional. This is due to the effort it takes to support not only the addict but the overall flawed system. Issues like codependency, enabling, self-abuse or even emotional abuse can creep up if not fully addressed.

Family Therapy in Addiction Treatment and Breaking the Cycle of Addiction

No matter how you look at it, the behavior of the addicted person can and does affect the entire family unit. Because of this, different members of the family take on a variety of roles such as enabler or overachiever as their way of coping with the person’s addictive behavior. By engaging in family therapy for addiction, it becomes possible to repair the damage done to familial relationships, but also for everyone to learn healthy coping skills.

sidewalk art of stick figure family

The Goals of Family Therapy in Addiction Treatment

There are several important benefits to involving everyone in the family in this form of substance abuse treatment. Among these are:

  • Teach family members the true nature of drug or alcohol addiction and how it can affect family behavior.
  • During this time, family members have the opportunity for a little self-assessment thanks to a little insight from the therapist.
  • Teach the family to become more aware of overall family dynamics.
  • Keep in mind that dysfunctional family patterns are only likely to cause continued substance abuse.
  • In order to obtain the most positive outcome, the entire family must be involved in the program of therapy– and recovery.  
  • In the case where communication between family members has broken down and there is little emotional involvement, improved communication plays a vital role.
  • All members of the family must commit to improvement and recovery in order for there to be a successful outcome.
  • Trust is vital – in most cases, addictive behaviors can come with dishonesty. It can prove hard for the other family members to trust one who has broken their trust. It will take a significant amount of communication within the addict’s family members along with positive interaction and displays of honesty to restore trust.

A major part of this type of family counseling is allowing every member of the family to share their feelings. Many will be angry but feel unable to share this for fear of causing the addict to relapse. They may also become too excited at the possibility that there might be some form of reconciliation. It will take the family time to learn how best to recognize these feelings, balance them, and then be able to express their feelings without these fears.

skater guy with a young daughter family photo

Boundaries

Boundaries must be set, and this includes boundaries from everyone on all sides. It is not always easy to set boundaries, but it plays a vital role in dealing with addiction and a healthy recovery. It may even become necessary for the rest of the family to distance themselves from the person with an alcohol or drug addiction if they cause an enormous amount of sabotage or damage.

Self-care is a vital part of any addiction treatment as most forms of substance abuse treatment tend to only focus on the addict. During family therapy for addiction treatment, the rest of the family learns about their role in helping the family member with the addiction. This is especially true in the case of adolescent substance abuse.  

How Effective is Family Therapy In Addiction Treatment?

The effectiveness of family therapy for addiction treatment is still being researched, yet numerous studies suggest that this type of family counseling can play a useful role in addiction treatment. One study published by the Center for Substance Abuse determined that the use of family therapy for addiction treatment can be useful in helping with a range of adolescent substance abuse problems and other issues such as behavior disorders.

The bottom line is everyone can benefit from a good consistent therapy practice, especially when overcoming the damages of addiction. If you want to get help for your family in a painful situation as substance abuse, get help as soon as you can. Even if nobody in your family wants to participate, the least you could do is find it helpful for yourself.

silhouette of family on beach at sunset

If you or a loved one in your family needs help to overcome addiction, reach out to us here at Opus Health today:

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