Family Therapy for Addiction

If one or more family members are struggling with addiction, it will affect everyone else. The range of the impact for each individual is going to be different depending on their relationship status.

For example, a child may face neglect and possible abuse due to a parent’s addiction, while a spouse may be left juggling all the financial and social responsibilities.

Because the dynamics are different for everyone in a family group, the resulting impact will be as well. Addiction creates negative emotions and strain within families, which only worsens over time.

Risk Factors For Addiction in Family History

Multiple studies have proven that people who grow up in homes where substance abuse disorders are present become more likely to turn to addiction themselves later on in life. Treatment will also need to be adjusted to take into account if there is an early family history of addiction.

This is one reason why family therapy is so important because it will help address any growing issues within the children and other family members so that it is not allowed to fester over time and potentially develop into another instance of substance abuse.

The Impact of Addiction on Family Members

Children are especially susceptible to being damaged by addiction within a family. Suppose a parent is unable or unwilling to provide necessary emotional, physical, and financial support due to substance-related issues. In that case, it will cause a ripple effect, which will continue to influence that child into adulthood.

Drugs often alter moods, create a warped sense of reality, and can lead to the development of dual diagnoses such as anxiety, depression, or chronic health problems.

The sober parent is then forced to attempt to provide a stabilising influence for the benefit of others. This toxic family dynamic can be mitigated through rehabilitation and family therapy.

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Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

The family and individual with substance use disorder may turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with the negative fallout. The home is where most people are able to find support and understanding, but that is not always possible if one or more family members are impaired regularly by a mind-altering drug.

Instead, it becomes a place where fear and shame are prevalent during interactions.

Some unhealthy coping mechanisms sometimes used include the following:

  • Children may stop socialising with their friend groups due to fear or shame
  • A spouse or children may turn to drugs or alcohol themselves as a way of coping
  • A spouse or partner may enable the person with a substance use disorder as a way to keep them calm, happy, and not “rock the boat”
  • Codependency is common and means one or more members of the family are unhealthily dependent on one another. This can often lead to enabling behaviours

Signs Family Therapy is Necessary

Children showing signs of mental disorders (e.g., anxiety, aggression, PTSD, etc.) are an indication that the situation requires professional intervention.

Anytime addiction is left untreated, there will be far-reaching consequences. Mental and behavioural disorders impair a child’s ability to function normally.

They also significantly increase risk factors for many other disorders, behaviours, and lifestyle choices.

The Role of Therapy in Addiction Recovery

Family therapy for addiction is highly recommended both by rehabilitation facilities and general mental health professionals. Therapists provide a healthy, outside perspective on everything taking place within a person’s life, including a poor family structure.

Unfortunately, therapy alone is not enough to create lasting changes within a family that features addiction. It must be paired with treatment for substance abuse to be most effective.

How Family Therapy Benefits Everyone

First, it is important to explain exactly what family therapy is and is not. Family therapy is not the same thing as therapy for one person, which sometimes involves other family members (e.g., for a single or series of sessions).

The entire focus of family therapy is on healing the connections between everyone in the group so that the family can become a strong, cohesive support structure within each of their lives.

The therapist will enlist age-appropriate treatments for everyone attending, and the end goal is to restore balance and a healthy family dynamic.

What Happens During Family Therapy?

If you have never attended one-on-one or group therapy, then it might be intimidating without having some idea of what to expect. Each family will have their own unique issues, and every therapist will find a way to best approach them.

This means that there is no cookie-cutter therapy session. They will differ depending on a wide range of factors. There are some things that will remain consistent. The following questions are common for those who are contemplating starting family therapy for the first time.

Where Does it Take Place?

Where the therapy takes place will depend on the therapist’s policy and the needs of the family. Sometimes home-based is required if there are younger children or other factors involved.

During instances where a person is undergoing withdrawal at a residential facility, there is often the opportunity for them to start family therapy while there. However, the large majority of sessions take place in a therapy office.

Several studies have shown that having the therapy take place in the home makes it more likely that everyone will make an appearance and that sessions will be on time and more productive. It has been an effective treatment for teenagers who are undergoing treatment for substance abuse.

Who Attends?

Ideally, the entire family would attend, but there are several types of family therapy, and some of them are more focused on specific relationships.

For example, marriage counselling or couples therapy can take place in addition to other therapies but will focus entirely on the couple.

There are also sometimes reality constraints, which makes it impossible for the whole family to attend even when it is something everyone wants or needs (e.g., work responsibilities, living outside of the area, etc.).

What Does a Session Look Like?

Like one-on-one counselling, it will mostly consist of talking. There are multiple forms of cognitive-behavioural therapies, and which one is used will depend on the individual case and what both the family and counsellor believe will have the greatest positive result.

There is no way to map out specifically what will happen in a given session since they are tailored for individual family groups. Still, the focus will be on exploring what is not functional within the relationships and working to find ways to fix them through personal responsibility and an introduction of healthy coping mechanisms.

If A Family Member Refuses to Join in Family Therapy

Therapy is scary and unknown territory for those who have no personal experience with it. That can make it hard to convince some people to give it a try. Most younger individuals are more likely to attend if the sessions take place within the home where they feel more at ease.

Adults may have inaccurate preconceived notions of therapy, and having them attend an educational workshop may be all that is needed. It will be able to explain clearly and concisely what benefits they will get from family therapy and why it is vital to get help.

When is an Intervention Necessary?

Sometimes, the person who is struggling with substance abuse disorder either does not see the point of getting help or is afraid of the changes that would occur if they start treatments.

In those cases where they are extremely averse to either medical treatment or counselling, it can be useful to get a professional interventionist to come and assist.

These are people who have an intimate knowledge of both the effects of drug addiction and the treatment options. They will be able to work with family members to educate and encourage a loved one to get the help they desperately need.

Intervention does not force people to agree to get help, so even if an interventionist is used, that does not guarantee that the person with a substance abuse disorder will agree to attend rehab or family therapy. However, it does have a good rate of success.

Support Groups for Families of People in Recovery

A popular form of support group attended by friends and family members of those battling addiction is 12-step programmes like Al-Non and Nar-Anon. Most communities will also have local self-help support groups for people who need a place to share their successes and struggles with others who understand.

Here are a few other groups that you may have in your area, which can help family members:

  • Alateen
  • Adult Children of Alcoholics
  • Gam-Anon
  • Families Anonymous
  • Co-Dependents Anonymous

You can also find national and international support groups online if you live in a smaller community.

Ready to get help?

To discover your road to recovery, call us today on 0800 111 41 08