Family Therapy

Calendar icon Last Updated: 06/27/2024

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Family can often play an important role in a person’s recovery from substance abuse and addiction. During the early stages of addiction treatment, family education may be used to teach loved ones how to support and encourage healthy changes that benefit the patient’s overall recovery. Following the acute phase of addiction treatment, family therapy can be used to improve the dynamics between the person struggling with addiction and their loved ones.

Involving family and loved ones in addiction treatment can sometimes help patients and their families realize that addiction may be part of a bigger family problem, and can shift the focus away from the patient and toward the home environment. Family therapy is designed to help families see and understand the important role they play in recovery. This form of treatment intends to facilitate positive changes that can benefit the patient and their loved ones.

What is Family Therapy?

Family therapy is a group of treatments that target the family as a whole rather than only the person recovering from addiction. Family therapies are generally based on the idea that families share a connection, and that helping one person in the family to heal and modify their behaviors can make a positive impact on everyone else in the family. Family therapy focuses on using the family’s strengths and resources to help the patient and their loved ones lead healthier lives without drugs and alcohol, and aims to reduce the harmful effects of substance abuse on the entire family.

Domestic abuse, parenting skills, and family conflict are other problems that may be addressed during family therapy. Family therapy usually begins with education so families can learn how to help their loved one successfully overcome addiction. During family therapy sessions, families may discuss their roles, learn the difference between helpful and harmful behaviors such as enabling and learn of new ways to improve communication and rebuild trust. Many times, allowing family members to speak openly with one another and ask questions in a controlled, therapeutic setting can lead to powerful healing in itself.

What are the Benefits of Family Therapy?

  • Improves communication, and increases understanding of addiction within the family
  • Develops compassion towards the family member suffering from addiction
  • Reduces the risk of relapse by addressing family interactions that commonly lead to conflict or enabling
  • Helps patients and their loved ones improve their mental and emotional health and well-being
  • Addresses codependent behavior that may be inhibiting the patient’s recovery.
  • Helps prevent substance abuse from affecting other family members and future generations.
  • Allows patients to regain trust from family members after lying and being dishonest, which are common traits exhibited by many struggling with addiction.
  • Helps patients and their families feel more comfortable about sharing feelings.
  • Teaches the importance of self-care, so patients and their family members feel less inclined to abuse drugs and alcohol.

How Does Family Therapy Work?

Family-involved therapy and family therapy are the two main types of family-centric therapies used in addiction treatment. Family-involved therapy educates families about certain relationship patterns that commonly lead to substance abuse. This approach teaches family members about the medical, behavioral, and psychological consequences of drug and alcohol use so they become more familiar with the struggles their loved ones may be facing in recovery. This is the most common type of family therapy used in addiction treatment.

Family therapy, on the other hand, is usually used in the long-term and may be offered as part of aftercare and extended care programs. Family therapy focuses more on improving family dynamics after patients have recovered from the physical effects of substance abuse, and after learning other skills surrounding how to stay abstinent and prolong recovery.

Here are four family therapy models commonly used in addiction treatment:

  • Family disease model: Views addiction and substance use disorders as diseases that affect the entire family.
  • Family systems model: Based on the idea that families will modify their behaviors and change dynamics to accommodate and facilitate their loved one’s addiction, and to maintain family balance.
  • Cognitive-behavioral approaches: Based on the idea that negative behaviors surrounding drug and alcohol abuse are reinforced through family dynamics and interactions, and focus on changing and improving these behaviors.
  • Multidimensional family therapy: Uses different techniques that focus on emotions, cognition, behaviors, and environmental factors in the family and home environment that may be driving addiction.

As a whole, family therapy helps people understand what their loved ones need during recovery, as well as their own needs as individuals and as an entire family unit.

Who Should Get Family Therapy?

Family therapy can benefit nearly anyone who wants to repair and strengthen relationships that may have been broken and severed on behalf of substance abuse and addiction. Children and teens who suffer from addiction can benefit greatly from family therapy, as can those who are codependent on their addicted loved ones, or who enable their loved ones to continue using substances.

Family therapy may be ideal for your addicted loved one and family if:

  • Your loved one is unable to stop using drugs or alcohol
  • Your loved one’s addiction has negatively affected the mental, physical, and emotional health of you and other family members.
  • Your loved one’s addiction is directly impacting your family’s well-being
  • Your loved one’s addiction is causing financial instability within the family
  • You or other family members are enabling or justifying your loved one’s drug and alcohol use.
  • Other people in your family have started to abuse drugs and alcohol as a result of exposure.
  • You or other family members are codependent on your addicted loved one.
  • You want to improve family dynamics affected by addiction and substance abuse.
  • Other treatment approaches have failed to help your loved one overcome addiction.

If someone in your family is struggling with addiction, consult with an addiction treatment center to find out whether family therapy is beneficial. Many times, an addiction specialist can help you choose the ideal treatments for your loved one and family based on factors surrounding how addiction is affecting the rest of the family.

Where Can I Find Family Therapy?

Family therapy is offered at many drug and alcohol rehab centers to complement other behavioral therapies for addiction and is available in both inpatient and outpatient treatment settings. Family therapy is also often included in aftercare programs that focus on helping patients stay abstinent and prolong recovery.