Over the years, traditional family dynamics have changed dramatically. Our behaviors and our views on life are impacted by our families.
Today a family may include:
- A traditional family
- A single-parent family
- An unmarried couple with children
- LGBTQ family
- Divorced family
- An adopted family
- A married couple
- An unmarried couple
- A family caring for an older family
- Friends who are closer than family
It doesn’t matter what your family looks like if there is someone suffering from addiction, the whole family is suffering. Family therapy is beneficial for each person in the family. Addiction has impacted each person differently, and they deserve a chance to heal.
Substance abuse does not play favorites. Addiction knocks on every door. For the ones who open up, addiction enters and destroys everyone in the house.
Studies show that a substance abuse treatment plan that includes family therapy increases a person’s chance of continued sobriety.
Family Therapy and Addiction
Family therapy has many benefits when combined with addiction treatment. Family therapy works to repair relationships between each member of the family. Addiction adds undue stress, disrupts schedules, and can be scary for the family, especially if there are children in the house.
Family therapy is held in a safe space. Every member deserves to be heard, and their feelings validated. The goals of family therapy are making positive changes to the home environment and building healthy communication skills. Therapists will help educate the family to help them understand why addiction has caused such chaos.
A person’s addiction not only destroys their relationship with the family but can also destroy relationships between other members of the family. If your Mom is always giving you money when you ask even though she knows you are going to buy drugs with it, she is an “enabler.” If your Dad gets mad every time your Mom gives you money, it causes a fight between them.
If your Mom does not stop giving you money, and it keeps causing fights, then it can lead to divorce. At this point, addiction has destroyed a marriage.
Enablers may act in the following ways:
- May use drugs or alcohol to keep the peace
- Hide their true feelings from the user
- Believe the user’s excuses as to why they need to use
- Protects the user by making excuses and handling their responsibilities
- Feels guilty when they cannot protect the user
- Work extra hard to make things look “normal”
Codependency happens when a person has to adapt to the dysfunction in the family. A husband and father comes home “high” and out of control. The wife and mother put her needs (and the needs of the children) second to the need to care for the addicted husband and father. She has become codependent and would rather live with the addiction versus her husband get sober. Her life revolves around her husband and his addiction.
Codependent behaviors may include:
- Worrying consistently about their loved one’s addiction
- Lying and making excuses for the addiction and behaviors
- Unhealthy reactions to the topic of addiction or a problem
- Neglecting self-care
- The mood is based on the mood of the addict
- Develops unhealthy behaviors
Family Therapy Benefits
The positive benefits of family therapy in addiction treatment have been proven in many studies.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse highlights the many benefits of family involvement in recovery, including:
- A better understanding of the nature of addiction and how it affects behavior: This is accomplished through education. Just as someone has been assessed, the family has an opportunity for self-assessment and insight from a therapist.
- Becoming aware of family dynamics: Dysfunctional family patterns will add to continued substance abuse. Everyone in the system should be treated to achieve the best possible outcome.
- Improving communication: In a system where there may have been little to no communication or limited emotional involvement, improved communication is important and will require an investment by those interested in the most successful recovery outcomes.
- Regaining trust: Lying and substance use disorder sometimes go hand in hand. Family members may not want to open their hearts (or their wallets) to help a loved one who has betrayed their trust. Improved communication, honest interaction, and observing positive changes can help the relationships to mend.
- Sharing emotions: During active addiction, bridges can be burned. Family members may be angry but unable to express it, they may fear relapse, or they may be excited at the possibility of reconciliation. It takes time to learn how to recognize, balance, and express these feelings.
- Setting boundaries: This applies to everyone involved. Clarifying boundaries is not easy. But it is an important step to gaining healthy recovery for the whole family. This may also include distancing from any family member who may be an active addict.
- Learning self-care: In addiction treatment, the focus is on the individual with the addiction. During family therapy, a parent or spouse may learn that they need help, too. They may be suggested to try Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, or other mutual help groups in addition to finding an individual therapist.
Repairing the family improves the mental health of each person and provides a safe and healthy environment in the home. Seeing the difference in the family through sober eyes makes the fight against addiction a little easier.
Family Therapy Styles
Family therapy sessions are tailored to the age of family members. If a family has young children, they will not be involved in all therapy sessions. Each member should feel safe and should be able to voice their emotions and thoughts without fear of punishment. It is the job of the therapist to keep the conversation healthy and productive.
Family therapy may include:
- Behavioral contracting – Some therapists like to use a written contract to keep everyone accountable and to assure a healthy home.
- Behavioral marital therapy – The therapist works with a couple to build coping skills and healthy communication skills. The couple will also learn ways to recognize relapse signs, triggers, and the benefits of a substance-free home.
- Multidimensional family therapy – Commonly used with children, this type of therapy focuses on behavioral issues and substance abuse. Both parents and children learn coping skills and building healthy relationships while battling addiction within the home.
- Solution-focused therapy – This type of therapy focuses on the problem and not why there is a problem. The family will build the skills needed to keep a substance-free home.
- Multifamily groups – These groups involve multiple families. The families learn there are other families struggling with the same issues. The families support and encourage each other.
When an individual is in treatment for addiction, having their family involved increases their chance of continued sobriety.
It can be scary for some family members, especially children, to start family therapy. Family therapy can be held in an inpatient treatment center, outpatient treatment center, or in a doctor’s office. Sessions can last up to an hour on average and normally occur once a week.
Some of the things you can expect are:
- Family Involvement. Getting the family involved in addiction treatment is beneficial to everyone. The substance abuser has been in treatment for a while at this point so to get to see their family is a nice treat. Each member gets a turn in telling how they have been affected by the addiction, how it has made them feel, and how they need the home environment to be. It is important for the substance abuser to hear how their actions have affected the ones they love.
- Life skills. The therapist will teach the family a new way of life. Addiction has changed every aspect of the family, and a new healthy lifestyle has to be reestablished. Sometimes new roles have to be established. The family will also learn communication and behavior skills to grow a healthy household.
- Behavior changes. Contingency management is a therapy approach to changing behavior related to drug use. A therapist may use this type of treatment to resolve underlying issues and heal broken relationships.
- Goal setting. In the first few meetings, the therapist will ask each member of the family to write down their role in the family. Then to write down goals related to their role. These goals help re-establish a healthy family and create an environment that supports a sober living.
After successfully completing addiction treatment, it is important for a recovering addict to stay in therapy. This goes for the families of recovering addicts as well. It is important to make sure that each family member continues to feel safe and well cared for in their home. Holding family members accountable by continuing therapy will ensure that the family is still on a healthy path.
Ken Seeley Bringing Families Back Together
At Ken Seeley, we are dedicated to healing the whole person, and that means healing the family. Our founder, Ken Seeley, is a Certified Intervention Professional, Board Registered Interventionist Level II, Registered Addiction Specialist, and Certified Addiction Treatment Counselor. Ken Seeley found sobriety in 1989 and has dedicated his life to helping others find s life of sobriety.
Learn how the family therapy program at Ken Seeley Rehab can bring your family back together. Our team of professionals is waiting to help you and your family start the road to recovery. Contact us today.