What is Family Therapy?
Each family is different and unique, but all families share a bond that can be used to support one another during hard times. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for helping a family member who is struggling with alcohol or drugs or dealing with a mental illness, family support can play a vital role in helping a loved one with substance use disorders and mental illness. Group therapy for family members of addicts can improve treatment effectiveness by supporting the whole family towards recovery.
When a family member is experiencing drugs or alcohol addiction, especially with a co-occurring mental disorder, it can influence more than just the person in need of recovery. Addiction is often referred to as a family disease, as one family member’s addiction eventually affects the whole family. Finding support is important in understanding a family member’s alcohol or drug use disorder. When family members attend support groups, it surely affects the family as a whole. It can be highly beneficial in helping a family heal from the harm that addiction causes. It also improves the chances that their loved one will seek help and maintain long-term recovery.
A lot of times, a family remains stuck in hurtful patterns even after the family member with the alcohol or drug addiction problem moves into recovery. Even in the best circumstances, families can find it difficult to adjust to the person in their midst who is recovering, who is behaving differently than before, and who needs support. Family therapy aims to help the whole family to recover and heal. It can help all members of the family make specific, positive changes as the person in recovery changes. These changes can help all family members heal from the trauma of addiction or mental illness.
“Family” involves a group of two or more individuals with close and strong emotional ties. Using this description, each person in treatment for a substance use disorder has a unique set of family members. Therapists don’t decide who should be in family therapy. Rather, they ask, “Who is most important to you?” Sometimes members of a family live together, but at times they live apart. Either way, if they are considered family by the individual in treatment, they can be involved in family therapy.
Benefits Of Group Therapy For Family Members Of Addicts
- Becoming Conscious Of Family Dynamics: Unhealthy family patterns will contribute to continued alcohol and drug use. Everyone in the family should be treated to achieve the most positive result.
- Enhancing Communication: In a family environment where there may have been no communication or poor emotional involvement, improved communication is necessary and will need investment by those interested in the most successful recovery results.
- Regaining Trust: Substance abuse and dishonesty 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, honesty, and seeing positive changes can help mend this gap.
- Sharing Feelings: During active addiction, bridges can be burned. Family members may be furious but helpless to show it. They may worry about relapse, or they may be thrilled at the chance of reconciliation. It takes time to learn how to balance, recognize and express these feelings.
- Setting Boundaries: This applies to everyone involved. Defining boundaries is not simple. But it is a crucial step toward healthy recovery for the family. This may involve detaching from any family member is in active addiction.
- Learning Self-Care: In addiction treatment, the focus is on the person with the addiction. During family therapy, a spouce or parent may discover that they need help, too. They may be advised to try Al-Anon, Nar-Anon or other mutual help groups in addition to getting an individual therapist.
Goals Of Family Therapy
There are two main goals in family therapy. The first goal is to help everyone give the right kind of support to the family member in addiction treatment so that recovery sticks and relapse is avoided. The second goal is to strengthen the whole family’s emotional health so that everyone can grow.
Specific objectives for family therapy are unique to each family, and these objectives may change over time. The family decides for itself what to focus on and when.
Objectives Of Family Therapy
- From distrust to reconciliation
- From guilt to forgiveness
- From stress to strength
- From frustration to understanding
- From despair to hope
- From sadness to support
- From anger to peace
- From conflict to agreement
- From crisis to resolution
Supporting A Loved One Dealing With Addiction
When a family member is drinking too much, using drugs, or struggling with a mental disorder, your support can be key to getting them the treatment they need. Starting the conversation is the first step to getting help.
How You Can Help
- Find the right time and place: Consider a private setting with limited distractions, such as at home or on a walk.
- Show concerns and be direct: Ask how they are feeling and describe the reasons for your concern.
- Listen and acknowledge their feelings: Listen actively, openly, and without judgment.
- Offer to help: Give reassurance that mental and/or alcohol and drug disorders are treatable. Help them find and connect to addiction treatment services.
- Be patient: Recognize that helping a loved one is not an overnight process. Continue reaching out with offers to listen and help.
What To Say
“I’ve been worried about you. Can we talk?
If not, who are you comfortable talking to?”
“I see you’re going through something.
How can I best support you?”
“I care about you and am here to listen. Do
you want to talk about what’s been going on?”
“I’ve noticed you haven’t seemed like
yourself lately. How can I help?”
Family Therapy Vs Family Education
Family therapy is more than family education. Many behavioral health programs conduct education sessions for families on such topics as a particular mental illness, alcohol and drug addiction, treatment, relapse, and recovery. Families can use this information to better understand what is happening, how it might affect them, and what to do to help the family member in treatment.
Education is essential, but many families also need help applying the information they have learned. Family therapy gives a neutral and safe space in which everyone learns how to adjust to life with a member recovering from addiction. The therapist helps the family make changes so that members support each other and treat each other with respect, stop enabling unhealthy behaviors, and learn to trust each other.
Working with a specially trained therapist, family members analyze how they act with one another. They look at whether they are handling themselves in ways that are helpful or hurtful. Family members learn how to adjust their behaviors so that they support the needs of the person in recovery as well as the needs of the whole family, including themselves. They also learn how to better interact with each other, and they learn new ways of relating, talking, and behaving.
More often, a family has problems that have been stored behind the drama of addiction and/or mental illness. These problems rise to the surface once the person with a behavioral health disorder goes into treatment. The family therapist can help the family talk together to resolve concerns and mend relationships. Moreover, the family therapist can refer members of the family to individual counseling if they need or request it.
Effectiveness Of Family Therapy in Addiction Recovery
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA). behavioral health treatment such as, family therapy works better than treatment that does not. For individuals with mental conditions, family therapy in combination with individual treatment can improve medication adherence, rehospitalization and reduce rates of relapse, relieve stress, and reduce psychiatric symptoms.
For people struggling with addiction, family therapy can help them decide to enter or stay in treatment. It can lessen their risk of dropping out of treatment. Family therapy can also reduce their continued use of alcohol or drugs, curb relapse, and encourage long-term recovery.
Family therapy benefits other family members besides the individual in treatment. By making positive changes in family dynamics, the therapy can decrease the burden of stress that other family members feel. It can possibly stop other family members from moving into drug or alcohol use. Research also shows that family therapy can improve how couples treat each other, how children behave, how the whole family gets along, and how the family interacts with its neighbors.
Family therapy isn’t always easy. There will be struggles for everyone involved, but the result is worth it. Family therapy is an effective way to help the person in treatment while also helping the family as a whole.
Find The Right Primary Mental Health Treatment with Secondary Co-Occuring Addiction Issue Diagnosis
Inpatient medical detox and residential primary addiction treatment may be available at our affiliated facility at Level Up West Palm Beach Rehab. For some primary behavioral health treatment clients, medical detox and or addiction rehab may be required first. If you have a co-occurring severe substance abuse diagnosis, please contact us prior to beginning inpatient mental health therapy. Treatment services may vary. Please call us to learn which treatment options are most suited for your individual needs.