Family therapy for addiction helps involve loved ones in your substance abuse treatment, which can begin creating foundations for a future support system while also working to heal potential hurts caused by addiction. According to the National Institutes of Health, family often has a central role in treatments, including those for both physical and mental health. Find out more about treating the whole family when one person is struggling with addiction below.
If you or a loved one is battling substance abuse, there are many forms of addiction treatment you could utilize. Options include support groups (like Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous), individual therapy, inpatient rehab, partial hospitalization program rehab, and intensive outpatient program rehab. A well-rounded, comprehensive approach is the best option for permanently staying sober. One common form of addiction treatment included in these comprehensive plans is family therapy for addiction. This is because substance abuse can affect every close family member of the person abusing substances. Additionally, family therapy helps ensure a higher success rate during addiction treatment.
What Is Family Therapy?
It’s exactly what it sounds like. As opposed to individual therapy — which involves only you and a counselor — or group therapy — which involves you, a counselor and other people working through the recovery process — family therapy involves you, a counselor and one or more members of your family.
How Substance Abuse Impacts Families
Substance abuse can impact the entire family system by creating family conflict. Many family members will also find themselves unsure of how to handle substance abuse. As a result, they may end up unintentionally enabling the addict. It’s easy to give in to the addict’s demands and enable their drug or alcohol problem, which only makes things worse and it may hinder the recovery if they continue their enabling behaviors. The ability to get what they want to stay intoxicated is one reason addicts do best in an inpatient treatment center, at least in the beginning.
Enabling an addicted loved one doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It often comes from a place of love, and many people don’t even realize they’re doing it. Enablement can mean providing an addict with money that goes towards their addiction or accepting an addict’s word that they aren’t getting high when you know they are. A qualified treatment provider can help address these concerns with each individual. Most importantly, an addiction therapist can help provide examples of enabling versus supporting, which are two very different things.
Enabling is when someone helps the drug or alcohol addiction continue, whether purposefully or unknowingly. Regardless of the intention, enablement is dangerous as it fuels the cycle of addiction, which can ultimately be fatal. Supporting an addict can be a lot harder than enabling them. It often requires saying “no” to certain requests and using “tough love” techniques when necessary. However, support can also mean sitting with the addict during withdrawal, providing assistance for getting back on their feet and other obviously helpful things.
In most instances, alcoholism or drug abuse can lead to fighting among family members. Depending on who the addict is in their immediate family, this can upset family dynamics and cause significant stress. Stress can be made worse by family members who don’t know how to help their loved one battle substance abuse. Unfortunately, it can often lead to an even more stressful and unstable environment in this scenario, which isn’t good for anyone.
How Does Family Therapy for Addiction Work?
Like individual and group therapy, family therapy for substance abuse disorders can involve a variety of tools. One of the most common is cognitive behavioral therapy. This is an approach to talk therapy that’s been proven to work well in a variety of situations, including treating mental health disorders and addictions. The basic concepts of CBT include:
- Addictions and other disorders are based, in part, on psychological issues.
- These psychological issues are due to both negative or inappropriate thought patterns as well as learned behavior (or responses to those thoughts) that is unhelpful or negative.
- Because behaviors are learned, they can be unlearned and thought patterns can be changed to help someone develop new, more positive thoughts and behaviors.
In family therapy sessions, these concepts — and other tools appropriate for the situation — are used to help the entire family understand the thoughts and behaviors that might be driving an addiction. Family therapy focuses on the interconnectedness of family members and how their dynamics may contribute to addiction. The family as a group works to understand the addiction cycle and the need for recovery. But they also talk through triggers, behaviors, emotional hurts and other issues that impact everyone and how each person can work to make positive changes in those areas to support healing for all and recovery for the person struggling with addiction.
Is family therapy magic that resolves all family struggles? It is not. But it is an important tool for recovery treatment that can equip families who want to do the work of supporting each other during such a time to move forward more positively.
Benefits of Family Therapy in Substance Abuse Treatment
Getting the entire family together to talk about your addiction, including how it has impacted loved ones and what family issues might have triggered substance abuse, might not sound like a great time to you. But putting in the work involved in this type of addiction therapy can have some important benefits.
Substance abuse is a family disease. While family members can unknowingly hurt those with substance use disorders by enabling them, they can also play a crucial role in helping their loved one recover with family therapy. Family therapists assist in the recovery process by educating family members on how they can help and identifying what they may be doing to make the problem worse.
Family therapy allows the family unit to be present and active during recovery. This process often starts with individual therapy to help the therapist gain insight into family functioning and damaged relationships before gathering as a group. Family involvement isn’t always complete as family members choose whether or not to participate, and unwilling family members can’t be forced into family counseling.
In dysfunctional families, each family member usually takes on a role subconsciously, which can affect how addiction treatment is experienced. For example, the family “scapegoat” may feel like they’re to blame for their loved one’s substance use disorder. Family therapy can help identify the family roles that may have contributed to substance abuse and mental health issues. Structured family therapy sessions for substance abuse treatment focus on improving communication, resolving conflicts and promoting healing for the whole unit.
Every person — and every family — is unique, and the advantages of this type of treatment vary in each case. But some common ones can include:
- Loved ones are educated about the addiction and recovery processes and may better understand their roles as part of the support structure. A strong support system can have a huge impact on your overall ability to remain sober in the future.
- Addiction has often been called a family disease. That’s because no matter how secret and separate you thought you kept your issue, it probably bled over into family life. Addiction can impact how you treat others, whether you hold up your obligations and the quality of your relationships. If you’re seeking help with substance abuse, your family has probably suffered too, and therapy can bring these issues into the light so they can be addressed.
- Substance abuse is a family concern in more ways than one. Often, family environments and relationships are some of the triggers that lead to substance abuse. This type of therapy helps you — and your loved ones — identify those issues and work on developing healthier coping mechanisms to respond to them in the future.
Teaches the Whole Family About Addiction
Family dysfunction isn’t always to blame for a loved one’s addiction. Sometimes a person may have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other mental health problems and self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. However, other family members (including extended family members) can unknowingly worsen the problem because they don’t understand how addiction works. Besides family-wide work, the addict will likely undergo residential treatment and behavioral health treatment, among others.
A substance abuse problem often has several causes, making it a complex problem that isn’t any one person’s fault. The home environment and family dynamic are only contributing factors. However, tapping into the existing family support system can significantly help promote long-term recovery.
Treatment providers will ask questions about family communication, support and problems during sessions. Addiction treatment work will focus on the family’s strengths and weaknesses to best foster repair and positive changes.
Encourages Continuing Care After Rehab
Addiction is a lifelong disease that can’t be cured. Therefore, treatment and recovery must be a lifelong pursuit for someone to stay sober. While individual therapy focuses on the addict’s specific issues and can provide a lot of support, the best treatment centers recognize that family involvement is critical. Addicts need ongoing support and assistance from their families.
Family therapy for drug addiction will give each person the tools necessary to recognize signs of relapse or struggling with sobriety to help them get back on track. Family therapy for alcohol addiction also provides each person in the family unit with the tools they need to support their loved one without enabling them.
Changing Tides Is Here To Help
Family therapy works best when it’s properly integrated into a recovery treatment plan. And it’s important to realize that family therapy, particularly within an inpatient or outpatient recovery program, may not be the right choice for every person.
At Changing Tides, the leading addiction treatment center in North Carolina, we believe strongly in integrating this type of therapy into substance abuse treatment programs when appropriate. That’s why we have on-site family programs that support visitors and the active involvement of loved ones throughout treatment.
At the same time, we also know that it’s important for someone struggling with addiction to take some time and make space for their own healing. In some cases, for example, we might recommend starting treatment and waiting a week or two to ensure you’re settled in and making some progress on your own before inviting family into the fold.
Family therapy at knowledgeable rehab centers is key to overcoming substance abuse. If you or a loved one is ready to take the first step on the road to recovery, Changing Tides is here to help. We provide comprehensive substance abuse treatment, including family therapy, in the Outer Banks (OBX), North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia Beach. We can also offer more information on insurance providers if payment is a concern. Call us today at (252) 715-3905. If you prefer, you can also fill out our online contact form and one of our caring staff members will get back to you as soon as possible.