Understand Family Therapy in Addiction Treatment

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When many people think of someone who is addicted to alcohol or drugs, they tend to think of how these individuals are physically and visually affected by their addictions; they think of things like being unclean and unkempt, being physically malnourished or even emaciated, the variety of health problems that can result from chemical dependency. However, some of the most profound effects of addiction aren’t things that are reflected by one’s appearance. As individuals progress deeper into the depths of addiction, patterns of thinking and behavior become increasingly warped as dependency causes addicts to do things they never thought they’d do.

Addiction is known to cause financial hardships as addicts spend more and more of their income on sustaining their habit. Before long, they’ve reached such levels of financial destitution that they’re behind on all their bills and on the brink of homelessness. This is why many addicts resort to criminal behavior in order to obtain the money they need to fund their substance abuse. This also often entails taking advantage of their family, friends, and other loved ones. As they lie to and steal from loved ones, addicts cause immense damage to these important relationships, even risking their destruction altogether.

In entering an alcohol and drug addiction treatment program, individuals receive a variety of treatments and participate in effective therapies, many of which are based on the tenets of cognitive behavioral therapy CBT), helping individuals to identify and correct destructive, harmful, and unhealthy thought and behavior patterns. However, there are a number of supplemental and alternative therapies that are often included as part of an addiction treatment program. Of the many supplemental therapies that are offered at many rehabilitation facilities, many addiction treatment centers offer family therapy and counseling for addicts and their loved ones.

What is Family Therapy?

The most basic goal of family therapy is to improve communication and empathy between family members, resolving conflicts and animosities that have been inhibiting communication. Family therapy is characterized as a form of psychological counseling or psychotherapy that is typically conducted by a professional psychotherapist, licensed counselor, or a clinical social worker. More often than not, family therapy is used as a short-term form of group treatment that either includes all members of a family or perhaps just those who have a particular conflict that is in need of resolution; the duration and goal of treatment is determined according to a professional psychotherapist assessment of a family’s particular needs. Some of the issues or conflicts that can result in a family’s need for family therapy can include traumatic or stressful events such as a death or illness in the family, financial hardships, marital conflict, the presence of substance abuse, changes in family dynamic due to divorce or remarriage, and other instances in which grief, anger, stress, and conflict or troubled relationships are caused to members of a family. Family therapy is designed to help arm members of a family with the tools and strategies that can be used to maintain long-term healthy, empathetic communication.

Family therapy tends to occur independent of other forms of treatment that are occurring for members of a family. For example, if the purpose of a family’s group treatment is to help them deal with a family member’s mental illness, the individual who suffers from the mental illness will continue with his or her individual treatments alongside family therapy as the individual treatments address the mental illness while the family therapy addresses the effects of the mental illness on the individual’s loved ones. As a result of a family’s participation in therapy, loved ones tend to become much closer, understanding each other better and being more sympathetic to one another’s experiences, thoughts, feelings, and perceptions.

family therapy session

Substance Abuse Treatment and Family Therapy

When an individual is in a recovery program for alcohol and drug addiction, it’s often recommended that he or she participate in family therapy with loved ones in order to assess the damage addiction has caused and help the family to heal while developing healthy communication skills. In fact, addiction is often referred to as a “family disease” due to the numerous and profound effects that substance abuse disorders can have on all members of an addict’s family. In the early stages of family therapy, this often entails assessing the family’s strengths and existing resources in order to identify ways for the addict to alleviate the effects of his or her previous substance abuse and chemical dependency on loved ones. It’s also important for members of a family to be educated on the nature of addiction as a disease; this includes learning about the many factors that contribute to the development of addiction, the many symptoms and effects of dependency, and the breadth of treatments that are used in addiction rehabilitation and the particular symptoms of addiction that they address individually.

Over the course of family therapy, each member of a family becomes more aware and better able to express their own needs while the family identifies ways to prevent addiction from manifesting in proceeding generations. Psychotherapists who facilitate family therapy are required to be knowledgeable of how different family structures experience the effects of alcohol and drug addiction differently. Some of the structural differences that these counselors must be familiar with include cohabitating couples without children, couples with minor children, blended families that include stepfamilies, older couples with adult children, and adolescent addicts living with parents.

What’s more, in analyzing the structure of a family and the interactions between members, counselors can often expose unhealthy behaviors such as codependency and enabling behavior, which can compromise the integrity of an addict’s recovery if there’s a chance that loved ones will inadvertently make it easier for the individual to relapse after treatment. Furthermore, it’s important to identify whether aspects of the family history or dynamic could have contributed to the addict’s development of the disease of addiction, which could include physical or sexual abuse during childhood or the experience of having a parent that suffers from chemical dependency. In identifying many of the historical and behavioral traits of a family, it can be easier to find ways to make a family’s communication more effective and empathetic, which will help to ensure that each member’s needs are expressed and addressed as the addict continues with his or her recovery.

Learn More About Addiction Recovery for the Family

If you or a loved one suffers from addiction and would benefit from individual and family therapy, call Recovery Hub 888-220-4352. We have a team of recovery specialists that has helped numerous individuals recover from chemical dependency in order to regain their health and live productive, fulfilled lives. Don’t wait—let us help you and your family today.

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