Family Therapy for Addiction

Family therapy is a treatment style that targets the group rather than an individual struggling with drug addiction or alcoholism. The belief is that improving one component of the system also affects the other components, in turn providing high benefits often at lower costs. 

Because studies show how family therapy can magnify the positive outcomes of treatment, they’re becoming an increasingly popular option for families who want to overcome addiction. You can check out drug rehab centers that offer family therapy and request for a breakdown of what the treatment includes if you are considering this as a treatment option.

Have in mind that there is no set definition for “family” in this sense, so it’s fine to include other members who are not technically family, such as friends, coworkers, and significant others. 

There are several well-established benefits of family therapy that make it an ideal choice for those who want to help their loved ones overcome addiction. Listed below are some of them.

1. Increases Awareness about Addiction

It can be difficult to show patience and understanding towards a loved one with addiction if you don’t know how addiction affects the brain. It’s when family members are involved in the healing process that they become more aware of the condition and how their behaviors can affect the treatment of the addicted person. It’s part of the therapist’s role to expand the knowledge of the entire family on how addiction works and make them feel more involved.

2. Relationship-Focused Approach

Individual therapy can still yield positive outcomes for the person dealing with substance abuse, yet studies show that strengthening the relationship structure can greatly improve these outcomes, especially if the person has already started treatment.

The therapist must work to solve any dysfunctional relationships and bring things to a state of equilibrium. Some are common problems within a family that a family therapist strives to solve:

  • Family members distrusting one another
  • A member isolating himself or herself from the rest of the family
  • Family members forming alliances against other family members
  • Family members insisting they should be in control of the entire situation

All these situations prevent the family unit from providing support for its members, including for the loved one suffering from addiction.

3. Stops Enabling

Any behavior that reduces or removes the consequences of addiction, either by a friend or family member, is a form of enabling. This can either be done out of fear, love, or guilt. Unfortunately, it’s all too common for family members to pick up the pieces left by the person with addiction. Family therapy can correct enabling behavior, effectively replacing it with methods that can assist in the treatment of the addicted individual.

4. Improves Family Communication

Because of the mental, emotional, and financial toll often caused by addiction, it’s not unusual for families to experience a strain in their communication. To mend this gap, many therapists will use role-playing to help members express themselves in a constructive way and identify other tensions that may exist, then resolve them.

Communication plays a vital role in families going through substance abuse treatment. To meet the challenges, the family unit must work together to facilitate faster and more effective personal healing.

5. Prevents Other Addiction-Related Issues

As a therapist explores the causes and effects of alcohol use disorder or drug addiction, this can be a revelation for some family members who don’t fully understand how the condition can sneak up on you.

Through family therapy, they can use what they learn to eliminate potential triggers and instead create an environment and relationship dynamic that prevents addiction from developing within other family members for future generations.

6. Protects and Improves the Mental State of Members

Addiction is almost always associated with other life problems that either cause — or are caused by — mental health issues. And this can affect the family unit in a number of ways. A therapist will want to address these issues and provide a better coping strategy for everyone in the family, including the loved one with an addiction. 

Often, the cocktail of solutions will include better communication skills, well-defined family roles, more trust in other family members, and counseling, as necessary. The therapist will identify which of these applies to your family unit and work towards implementing them.

What if a family member is unwilling to participate?

Ultimately, the decision to participate in family therapy has to be made by each member, and there will be instances where one or some are unwilling to. There may be several reasons why this can happen, such as fear, indifference, or skepticism. However, the importance of family involvement in recovery should be made clear. 

Motivational interviewing can help with this resistance and shift the mindset of the individuals from ambivalence to a desire for positive change. In the end, the goal remains the same, which is to engage each member of the family unit to address the problem of addiction as a system rather than individually.

By Caitlyn

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