Those who have someone they love who struggles with substance abuse know that substance abuse affects not only the abuser but those around them as well. Drug and alcohol use can damage relationships and negatively affect others physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially. In some cases, problems within the family can contribute to addictive behaviors and prolong substance abuse. Regardless of the role family dynamic plays in addiction, addressing these relationships is critical to successful recovery. Strong support networks and healthy relationships are often cited as critical components of successful sobriety. It not only helps the person in recovery make tremendous progress, but it also helps to heal relationships, improve the family dynamic, and provide insight into how their actions or behaviors affect others.
How Family Therapy Works
Family therapy encompasses multiple types of treatment designed to serve a group instead of an individual. While in most cases a person with an addiction will receive individual therapy outside of the home and away from the environments that influenced the addiction’s development, family therapy seeks to bridge the gap and integrate family dynamics into therapy settings. This creates a more holistic environment to explore individual needs, family connectivity, and environmental factors that may be counterproductive to successful recovery.
Many family members may feel as though they do not need therapy and will point to the person with an addiction as the one with an identifiable problem. However, family therapy can have numerous benefits to many different people. Family therapy often serves a vital role in its ability to educate family members about the nature of addiction, their role in recovery, and how to care for themselves throughout the process. It can help them identify behaviors that may be helpful or harmful, learn to build trust, and identify new ways to communicate that are healthy and productive.
Family therapy provides numerous benefits. These include:
- Education about addiction and its effects on mood and behavior: Family therapy often provides loved ones with education about addiction. This allows them to better understand what their loved one is going through and provides insight into their actions or behaviors.
- Better understanding of family dynamics: Evaluating the dynamic of the family allows them to consider their own roles and assess how their actions may or may not impact their loved one.
- Strategies for communication: Family therapy can help loved ones determine ways to improve communication. Improved communication often contributes to better outcomes in recovery. This allows members of the family to express themselves in a healthy way and learn how to discuss difficult topics effectively.
- Rebuilding trust: An important component of family therapy is rebuilding trust. Addiction can often lead to actions or behaviors that break trust. Therapy can help family members learn to open up through improved communication, honesty, and positive growth.
- Establishing boundaries: Developing clear boundaries can be difficult, but they must be established by everyone. Sometimes this may require family members to make difficult decisions, but in many cases, it is imperative to spark change.
- Developing self-care: Addiction can cause family members to lose sight of themselves and their own needs. Family therapy encourages members to engage in self-care. This could be through individual therapy or by branching out into other areas of interest, but finding ways to care for oneself in the midst of chaos is imperative.
Types of Family Therapy
Family therapy encompasses a broad range of therapies. Depending on a family’s needs, different types of therapy may be used. It is also important to consider the level of involvement required from various members of the family as well as which forms of treatment are most appropriate. Ensuring everyone has an opportunity to speak and express their feelings or opinions is critical to success.
Some types of family therapy that may be utilized include:
- Solution-focused therapy: This form of therapy is designed to solve problems identified within the family rather than focusing on how a problem developed. This may include discussing ways to avoid using drugs or alcohol or describing how the home environment would look without those substances available.
- Multidimensional family therapy: This is often utilized in situations where an adolescent is using drugs or alcohol. Therapy focuses on substance abuse as well as the behavioral problems that accompany it. The therapist meets with both the teen and the rest of the family individually to work on goals. Teens often focus on developing healthy coping mechanisms and skills to improve their relationships with others, while other family members—such as the parents—work on any addictions they may have, develop parenting skills, and learn how to best support their teen in recovery.
- Behavioral marital therapy: This therapy is utilized for couples and works to help them create an environment free from drugs and alcohol. Therapy often focuses on helping the couple develop coping skills, improvement of communication skills, and relapse prevention skills.
- Multifamily groups: This form of therapy removes the sense of isolation some families may feel in recovery. Often times, families may feel that they’re the only ones going through their particular hardships, but multifamily groups eliminate that supposition. Families meet weekly to discuss varying topics, allowing them to gain valuable insight into their own actions and behaviors, while simultaneously removing feelings of isolation. This form of therapy allows families to learn from one another and draw on their own experiences to support each other.
Family therapy is always evolving and changing, and there are numerous benefits with minimal risk involved. Studies show that family therapy can improve relationship dynamics, reduce harmful behaviors, and improve social interactions. Although family therapy involves multiple people, it is highly individualized to meet the changing needs of the family. Despite individual needs, all families must establish goals, determine the setting in which therapy will take place, the frequency of those meetings, and the duration. In most cases, family therapy will occur in a group setting, but will sometimes focus on particular individuals in the group, depending on the topic.
Family therapy is only one component of the recovery process and should be used in conjunction with other forms of treatment or therapy. Utilizing family therapy in treatment provides clients with a more holistic approach to their recovery that helps them mend broken relationships, develop a support network, and provides much-needed support to their family and friends.
Have questions about family therapy?
Call 877.634.7849 to speak with an admissions counselor.