The Role of Family Therapy in Substance Abuse Treatment

The Role of Family Therapy in Substance Abuse Treatment

September 7, 2020

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, addiction is a family disease that affects the entire family as a unit, and each individual in the family, too. 

Anyone living with someone suffering from an addiction can attest to the fact that it places strain on relationships and can bring on a great deal of stress, disrupting routines and sometimes even bringing scary, unsettling experiences into the home. 

Family members develop coping strategies as they struggle to maintain some sense of peace and equilibrium back into their lives. But not all of these coping mechanisms are healthy, and it’s common for the family to develop unhealthy or destructive behaviors as a result. Oftentimes, everyone’s lives revolve around the addiction, and family therapy is an incredibly important tool for families who live with addiction. 

Children in the Family

Children, in particular, are affected by addiction. They may develop unhealthy coping mechanisms that help them find some semblance of stability in an otherwise chaotic and unpredictable household. Many children blame themselves for a parent’s substance abuse and may struggle with perfectionism to avoid upsetting the balance in the household or worrying about the other parent.

Having a family member with addiction can disrupt a child’s normal development and leaves them at higher risk for mental, physical, and emotional health problems both as children and later in life. They often struggle socially, in school, and are more likely than their peers to have a learning disability. They’re also four times more likely than their peers to become addicted to drugs and alcohol themselves. But with the help of Family Therapy, it doesn’t have to be this way. 

What is Family Therapy?

When one member of the family is affected by addiction, everyone is affected. Family dynamics shift when drugs and alcohol are involved. Some family members may carry more responsibility than they should, while other family members may act out or shut down. Some may also struggle with depression and anxiety as a result. Family therapy allows family members to speak about their experiences with addiction and/or living with an addicted person.

When an individual seeks treatment, they participate in individual and group therapy sessions that focus on helping them overcome their substance use. While they must receive therapy, it’s equally as important for family members to receive therapy both with and without their addicted family member.  

Family therapy aims to help family members understand how addiction affects them and gives them tools for improving their relationships. Addictions can be exacerbated by dysfunction in the home, and therapy allows families to understand risk factors and do what they can to prevent them and live a healthy, peaceful life. 

When Should Family Therapy Start?

Family therapy is typically introduced after the individual in treatment has made progress in recovery, though it can begin earlier in the process, too. Family therapy is typically most helpful once the addict in the family is committed to the recovery process and ready to make changes. 

Family therapy is proven to work — when treatment for addiction includes family therapy, it can reduce the risk of dropping out of treatment, relapsing, and helps promote long-term recovery. Therapy helps make positive changes in the family dynamic and helps reduce the burden and stress that other family members feel, too. Research also shows that family therapy can improve how couples treat each other, how children behave, how the whole family gets along, and even how the family connects with extended family, neighbors, and friends. 

Benefits of Family Therapy

Family therapy is effective but isn’t always easy. There will be struggles and difficult emotions to work through, but it is an effective way to help not only the individual in treatment but the family as a whole. Family therapy increases the chances of long-term success and recovery and helps the entire family. Below are some benefits of family therapy: 

  • Your loved one will feel supported and motivated during treatment.
  • It helps family members feel less alone and isolated in their struggles.
  • Family members can voice concerns and feelings and ask questions about addiction.
  • Family members can develop skills and strategies to help a loved one stay in recovery. 
  • It improves communication skills among family members.
  • Mental health issues can be addressed for all family members, not just the addicted loved one.
 

How Does Family Therapy Work?

Family therapy helps family members process their feelings in a safe space and focus on the dynamics that contribute to addictive behavior. It can also help family members interact in a positive, healthy way and help form strong and safe communication techniques for every member of the family. 

Family therapy sessions can vary depending on the type of therapy, the number of family members involved, and the age of each person. Most family therapy will involve one or more of the following: 

  • Private family sessions, typically involving a therapist and one or more family members
  • Group sessions with the addicted person and their loved ones
  • Intensive family education sessions such as a family weekend getaway with trained therapists
  • Individual counseling for children and/or spouses of addicted persons and those recovering (family weekends or activities)
  • 12-Step meetings for family members of those suffering from an addiction, such as Al-Anon for spouses and Alateen for young adults/teens with addict family members 
 

In families that have been devastated by addiction, the stability and security of the home often break down completely. Family life can be chaotic and difficult. No matter which type of therapy your family has, the focus should be on creating positive outcomes through interactions and learning to communicate with and support everyone within the family unit.

Family therapy also helps each family member learn new coping strategies and conflict resolution skills, to give them the tools needed to deal with any stressful situations at home and in family life. 

At Summer House Detox Center, we understand that addiction is a disease that affects the entire family unit. We understand the importance of treating the entire family, and not just the addicted loved one. We provide a safe and stable setting for anyone going through detox and assist the addicted person and their family in finding additional treatment after the detox process is complete.

If you or someone you know is in need of addiction treatment in West Palm Beach, give Summer House Detox Center a call at 800-719-1090 to schedule a FREE consultation. You can also visit us at 13550 Memorial Highway Miami, FL 33161. We are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

 

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