It used to be that those addicted to alcohol and drugs were seen merely as bad people, weak of character and willfully destructive to themselves and others. However, years of research have shown us that addiction is a chronic, progressive disease of the brain, caused by altered brain structure and functioning and resulting in compulsive relapsing behavior. When an individual develops an addiction, he or she experiences a variety of negative health effects, but also deterioration to the mind and emotions. In practice, those in the throes of active addiction often experience dramatic changes in appearance while having a tendency to become unreliable and even frequently resorting to criminal behavior as a means of sustaining an expensive, all-consuming substance abuse habit.
However, addiction is often called the “family disease” due to the tendency of addiction to also affect those individuals who are in an addict’s life, such as offspring, parents, spouses or partners, close friends and other relatives, and even colleagues. Many times the loved ones of an addict will be unsure of what the best course of action would be that would help the addict most, which can sometimes result in loved ones enabling the addict due to codependency. Due to the profound damage that the disease of addiction can have on the family, oftentimes an addict’s addiction treatment curriculum will include family therapy. The inclusion of family therapy in an individual’s addiction treatment can be an important part of recovery, both for the individual as well as for his or her family. Before one can fully conceptualize the major role that family therapy can play in recovery, it’s important to have a thorough knowledge and understanding of what family therapy actually is.
What is Family Therapy?
In an addiction treatment program, individuals receive a variety of treatments and participate in several types of counseling. While group-oriented counseling session are a mainstay of most rehabilitation programming, the goal of most group sessions is for each individual to gain additional knowledge or skills that promote healing and self-improvement. On the other hand, family therapy is more concerned with the individual’s relationships with family members and the dynamic of the family unit. By definition, family therapy is a form of group psychotherapy for members of a family that seeks to identify and solve problems that threaten the group’s structure while also helping to improve a family’s communication.
Family therapy is a very active form of psychotherapy that tends to take place only for short periods of time. Over the course of family therapy sessions, the counselor or psychotherapy will look at many characteristics of a family’s unique dynamic or personality as the social system and patterns of communication in a family are guided by many factors, including the parents’ values and beliefs, each family member’s individual personality and the extent of influence that personality has had on the group, and whether the group is being influenced by outside forces like extended family members. According to the tenets of family therapy, an issue or symptom manifested by a family member can be a sign of a more significant problem within the family; moreover, change in one individual will affect every other individual as well as the family as a whole. In short, changes or dilemmas originating in one individual—injury, addiction, marriage, and so on—will have some level of effect on family members individually and the family as a whole, which can result in conflict.
How Addiction Affects the Family Unit
When an individual develops alcohol or drug addiction, he or she experiences a very quick transformation. Depending on one’s substance or substances of choice, there can be damage to specific organs or processes in the body, damage to the brain, dramatic change in demeanor and personality, and a collapse in quality of life. However, addiction will often cause major changes in an individual’s family, especially if he or she resides in the same household as loved ones. Addiction causes financial instability, domestic uncertainty, results in a loss of trust due to lying and/or stealing, makes individuals unreliable and irresponsible, and so on. In a family, these are situations that not only jeopardize familial harmony, but each individual’s well-being as well. For instance, in situations where there are children or other dependents in the home, an addicted parent can become unable to care and provide for offspring, which can quickly result in legal action and their removal from the household.
How Family Therapy is Beneficial to Addiction Recovery
Adopting principles of a form of psychotherapy called cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy has two main goals in substance abuse treatment. First, family therapy is used as a means of assessing a family unit in order to identify the family’s resources and strengths, which is instrumental in developing ways of creating and sustaining an alcohol and drug-free lifestyle for all members of a family. Additionally, family therapy is used to help an individual and his or her loved ones heal from the resultant effects of chemical dependency and addiction.
However, there are other benefits too including family therapy in an individual’s addiction treatment. Oftentimes addicts have a skewed or inaccurate perception of their previous behaviors and experiences; family input can be useful in helping a counselor or therapist to form a full picture. Moreover, family involvement in therapy will make an individual more accountable for the role he or she will play in maintaining continuous effort to abstain from substance abuse and remain sober. Many individuals damage or even destroy important relationships with family members over the course of active addiction, but family therapy offers a forum in which individuals can repair or rebuild those relationships while extending their support networks. And since substance abuse is often related to other significant problems—socioeconomic hardships, comorbid psychological disorders, a history of abuse, and so on—family therapy can be a means of identifying potential triggers that may have initiated or instigated an individual’s substance abuse.
Explore Your Recovery Options Today
Family therapy can be an important part of addiction treatment, especially for those who reside with family members. Alcohol and drug addiction have many profound effects on an individual’s loved ones, making family therapy an important tool for rebuilding familial relationships and fortifying one’s support network in recovery. If you or someone you love is suffering from chemical dependency and would like to learn more about rehabilitation, Recovery Hub can help. Call now at 888-220-4352 to speak with an experienced recovery specialist who can guide you through the process of selecting the best facility and program for your individual needs. Don’t wait—begin a healthy, sober life today.