Addiction Treatment

Individual Vs. Family Therapy: Recognizing the Benefits of Each

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Last updated: 04/1/2019
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review

Reading Time: 2 minutes

While no one will deny that addiction makes you feel alone, it’s not a solitary disease. No, drug and alcohol addiction does more than just impact the user. It impacts his or her family: parents, children, brothers, and sisters. And not one of these people can fully overcome the impact addiction has had on their lives on their own. It just doesn’t work that way.

Individual Vs. Family Therapy

Although they may seem contradictory at first, individual and family therapy have a lot in common and don’t have to be two different paths to recovery.

Both forms of therapy are designed to be short term, typically six months to a year. Both are behavioral based, typically a version of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), where the individuals learn to recognize the mistakes in his or her thinking that impacts behavior, then make modifications to change that behavior.

And this self-help aspect, the trying and learning on your own, is also key to both. So instead of thinking about it as individual vs. family therapy, think of it as individual therapy AND family therapy, combining both to help everyone heal.

Why Individual Therapy?

For the addict, individual therapy is a given. For many of those who’ve been addicted to drugs or alcohol, some level of individual therapy, whether during drug and alcohol rehab or outpatient treatment.

No matter where individual therapy has been done, the goals are always the same. The first goal is for the addict or alcoholic to achieve sobriety and maintain it. Once that’s accomplished, individual therapy moves on to helping the individual recover from the damage addiction has created.

Throughout this process, the addict works one on one with his or her therapist through a process of guided discovery to determine irrational thinking, take responsibility for his or her actions, and realize the extent of the problems created by addiction. New coping mechanisms and stress relieving skills are learned and utilized until the addict is functioning on his or her own.

Why Family Therapy?

When it comes to family therapy, the goals are a little different. While everyone wants sobriety and wellness for the addict, that’s not the ultimate goal. Instead, family therapy is focused on meeting the needs of the family, whatever those may be.

It’s about learning to make productive changes that work to improve the communication and relationships within the family dynamic. A large portion may include learning how to support the addict without enabling and ending codependence.

Make It a Collaboration

Instead of choosing between individual vs. family therapy, make it a collaboration between the two. This allows growth together, where everyone learns to support one another in the best and healthiest ways possible.

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Calls to any general helpline (non-facility specific 1-8XX numbers) for your visit will be answered by American Addiction Centers (AAC).

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For more information on AAC’s commitment to ethical marketing and treatment practices, or to learn more about how to select a treatment provider, visit our About AAC page. If you wish to explore additional treatment options or connect with a specific rehab center, you can browse top-rated listings or visit SAMHSA.