Family Therapy for Addiction

If you’ve ever attended individual counselling, you’ll know that therapy is a safe space in which you can discuss your feelings, thoughts and past experiences with a professional counsellor.

Many people think that therapy is only available for the person who has the addiction, but family therapy involves other family members – even if they themselves do not have an addiction.

What is family therapy for addiction?

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Family therapy for addiction is an opportunity to heal and strengthen the relationships between family members, and to repair the connections that may have been strained or severed by the impact of the addiction.

It can also help to uncover any relationship dynamics within the family that may be contributing to the addiction and provide strategies to prevent this from occurring in the future.

Family therapy can be a helpful way to educate other family members about the unique challenges of addiction and find ways that they can support their loved one effectively.

Who can be involved in family therapy for addiction?

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It can sometimes be difficult to determine which family members should be involved in family therapy for addiction.

In most cases, it is recommended that the affected person’s entire immediate family should attend family therapy, both parents and siblings as well as spouses and children.

If one of the family members is an extremely young child who is unlikely to understand, or if the topics that will be discussed are deemed inappropriate, then the child does not need to attend.

Alternatively, children may be asked to leave the room at certain points during the session while more adult issues are addressed.

If an extended family member is extremely close to the affected person, is contributing to the problem or is in any other way affected by the addiction, then it is recommended that they should also attend.

it can be helpful for the family therapist to meet with various family members, both immediate and extended, as this can allow them to understand the family dynamics and how each family member affects the others. [2]

Often, the decision is down to the person affected by the addiction. If they feel uncomfortable with the presence of a certain family member, they can request that they do not attend.

What happens during family therapy for addiction?

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During family therapy, all participating members will sit in a quiet and private room with a trained counsellor.

Led by the counsellor, a conversation will begin in which you will explore various family dynamics and past events to get to the root of any issues within the family.

This may sometimes be emotional, uncomfortable and difficult but it can also be enlightening, positive and touching.

You will be encouraged to be as open and honest as possible, as the therapy room will be a safe environment in which you can express yourself.

In most cases, the affected person will be involved in these discussions but in some cases, there may be sessions primarily for the other family members to discuss the addiction without them being present.

Family therapy for addiction primarily involves talking, and you will often find that it becomes easier to express your thoughts after one or two sessions.

Here at Rehab 4 Alcoholism, we offer free advice from a team of non-judgemental professionals, many of whom are in recovery and understand how hard can be to change your relationship with addiction.

Simply reach out to our 24/7, confidential hotline on 0800 111 4108.

What are the benefits of family therapy for addiction?

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Family therapy can be emotional and difficult, but it can also provide a vast number of benefits.

Some of the benefits of family therapy are listed below:

  • Family therapy can improve the communication between family members, resulting in better conversations and a more harmonious environment
  • It can allow family members to understand more about addiction and how they can help their loved one
  • This form of therapy is an effective and safe way for family members to express their concern about the addiction and ask any questions
  • Family therapy can be a regular opportunity for family members to track their loved one’s progress during treatment
  • It can increase the chances of the affected person receiving effective support from their family after treatment
  • This form of therapy can help to keep the affected person engaged in their recovery, increasing their motivation as they may feel accountable to their family members
  • Family therapy can help to address any unhealthy dynamics or relationships in the family which may be contributing to the addiction and find solutions to these problems
  • It can help all family members to feel better about the addiction, reducing feelings of stress, fear and anger
  • This form of therapy can help to uncover any underlying issues within the family which could be contributing to the addiction, such as mental health issues or additional addictions

If you are struggling with an addiction, consider involving your family members in treatment.

It can improve your recovery, your health and your long-term relationships within your family.

What kinds of family therapy are available in addiction treatment?

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Family therapy for addiction is not a one-size-fits-all form of treatment.

Depending on the needs of your family as well as other variables such as the type of addiction and the main issues that will be addressed, you may be offered a specific type of family therapy.

These may include the following:

Supportive Family Therapy

Having a family member suffer from addiction is an extremely challenging event, and some families may require additional support during this time.

Supportive Family Therapy can assist family members in coping with the addiction and the affected person.

This may involve opening up a discussion about the addiction and making all family members feel safe in sharing their thoughts, feelings, and worries.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Families

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You may be familiar with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) in regard to individual therapy sessions, but did you know that you can also get CBT for families?

Based on the idea that your thoughts can change your life, CBT for families involves making healthy behavioural changes by improving the core beliefs within a family.

This can lead to less codependency or enabling and therefore help the affected person to recover from their addiction.

Psychodynamic Family Therapy

This form of family therapy will explore the roots of the addiction, primarily focusing on past experiences and family events.

Specific attention will be focused on traumatic events during Psychodynamic Family Therapy, and family members will be encouraged to share their feelings about these events.

Any unresolved conflicts may be brought to the surface and tackled in a healthy way, with the support and guidance of a trained professional.

Here at Rehab 4 Alcoholism, we offer free advice from a team of non-judgemental professionals, many of whom are in recovery and understand how hard can be to change your relationship with addiction.

Simply reach out to our 24/7, confidential hotline on 0800 111 4108.

How does addiction impact families?

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Addiction is also known as a family disease. This is because it does not just impact the affected person – instead, it affects the entire family.

Each member of the family will likely experience high amounts of stress as a result of the addiction, as well as frequent disruptions to their usual routines and structure and even scary or traumatic events.

If a teenager or child is addicted to drugs or alcohol, parents may feel an immense amount of shame or guilt in their inability to prevent the addiction. Even parents of adult children are likely to experience these emotions.

If a parent is struggling with addiction, children may feel unsettled and frightened on a regular basis and may not be receiving the care and attention that they need.

No matter which family member is addicted, all other family members are likely to feel worried about their safety and health as well as any aggressive or worrying behaviour that they may exhibit.

How do family members cope with addiction?

Teenage boy walking down road with backpack, head down

Each family member may attempt to cope with the addiction in different ways, and many of these coping strategies may be unhealthy.

Some people may live in detail, refusing to accept that their loved one has an addiction.

Even if they know deep down that there is a problem, they may avoid it and keep their concerns buried.

Others may focus excessively on the addiction, frequently arguing with the affected person and attempting to force them into treatment.

It is common for family members to consciously or unconsciously enable the addiction, therefore supporting this behaviour to the detriment of themselves and the affected person.

This may involve:

  • Shielding the affected family member from the consequences of their addiction
  • Making excuses for their behaviour to others
  • Taking on additional responsibilities so that the affected person does not have to
  • Avoiding the subject of addiction to not upset their family member
  • Agreeing that they do not have an addiction just to keep the peace

Some family members may become codependent, which is when they neglect their own needs in favour of someone else’s.

Codependency is very common in addiction within families and can be damaging for the parties involved as well as other family members. [3]

Signs of codependency include:

  • Conflict with other family members due to your treatment of the affected person
  • Mirroring the affected person’s moods – you’re happy as long as they’re happy
  • Displaying unhealthy behaviours in your own life as a way to deal with the stresses of the addiction such as overeating or shopping too much
  • Constantly thinking and worrying about the affected person and their addiction
  • Low self-esteem and self-worth

Family therapy for addiction can address enabling and codependent behaviours, allowing you to break free from the burden of addiction and support your loved one in a healthy and effective way.

Why is family therapy effective as an addiction treatment?


There are many reasons why family therapy for addiction is an effective form of treatment.

While individual therapy can be extremely helpful, it often does not address the family dynamics which are so crucial to long-term recovery as well as the impact of the addiction on other family members.

During family therapy for addiction, family members can speak openly about their experiences and emotions with guidance from a professional counsellor.

This can help to remove feelings of resentment and anger which can strain these crucial relationships and help each family member move forward in a positive way.

Family therapy can also increase the chances of long-term recovery as it provides family members with the knowledge and tools to help their loved one.

Here at Rehab 4 Alcoholism, we offer free advice from a team of non-judgemental professionals, many of whom are in recovery and understand how hard can be to change your relationship with addiction.

Simply reach out to our 24/7, confidential hotline on 0800 111 4108.

How can I help a family member who has fallen into addiction?

A man and woman talking, wearing warm coats looking over city lights at night

It’s common to second-guess yourself when you feel concerned about a family member’s substance use, particularly if they or other family members tell you that you are overreacting.

However, it is very unlikely that you are overreacting.

if you are in this situation, take the time to research the signs of addiction as much as possible and see if you can identify any of them in your family member.

You may wish to observe your family member over a certain number of days and speak to other family members to share your observations.

It is recommended to speak to the affected person about your concerns at a time that they are sober, as the situation could potentially turn violent or uncomfortable if they are under the influence of substances.

Ensure that you are safe at all times, and do not be afraid to remove yourself from the situation if you begin to feel uncomfortable.

This conversation may be difficult, but it may also help to shine a light on the problem. You won’t know unless you try.

You can also speak to a doctor or another medical professional to share your concerns and ask for advice.

They may be able to point you in the direction of help and support and provide a medical viewpoint on the situation.

If your family member refuses to accept that they have a problem and will not seek help, you can ask for the assistance of other family members and arrange an intervention. [4]

What should I do if a family member does not want to participate in family therapy?

A man looking fraught

If one of your family members does not want to be involved in family therapy, you cannot force them to.

Family therapy is only beneficial when each person is a willing participant, so it’s important that each person involved is doing so of their own free will.

Some people may feel emotionally exhausted due to the impact of the addiction, feel nervous about the idea of attending or simply not believe that family therapy can help,

It can be helpful for this person to speak to the counsellor individually to express their reasons for not wanting to attend family therapy.

Other family members may wish to encourage them and educate them on the benefits of family therapy, but ultimately it is their choice whether to attend.

It is still recommended that other family members continue to attend family therapy even if one or more people choose not to attend.

Here at Rehab 4 Alcoholism, we offer free advice from a team of non-judgemental professionals, many of whom are in recovery and understand how hard can be to change your relationship with addiction.

Simply reach out to our 24/7, confidential hotline on 0800 111 4108.

When should my family go to family therapy?

Woman with head on clasped hands, eyes closed

No matter what type of addiction you or your family member is struggling with, the idea of attending family therapy for addiction should always be considered.

You and your family should look into attending family therapy as soon as the addiction has been discovered.

If you can address the issues contributing to the addiction and learn how to effectively support the affected person early on, then there is a much greater chance of long-term recovery.

Arguments, conflicts, abusive behaviour, stress and fear can all stem from addiction and take root within the family.

This can cause relationship breakdowns and potentially make the addiction worse.

Even if you do not believe that the family dynamic is contributing to the addiction, this form of therapy can still help.

You may uncover previously unaddressed conflicts or resentments that have been simmering below the surface and learn effective ways to tackle them.

Additionally, improving communication and strengthening relationships between family members can only be a good thing when it comes to recovering from an addiction.

How can my family access family therapy?

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If you and your family are ready to begin a course of family therapy for addiction, continue reading to learn more about how you can access this form of treatment.

If the affected person is completing a treatment programme at rehab, family therapy for addiction may be included in this programme.

Speak to staff at the rehab clinic to see whether they offer this form of treatment and ensure that you and your family are able to access family therapy.

If family therapy is not offered at this specific clinic or the affected person is not currently receiving treatment, speak to your doctor or local drug and alcohol support team and ask for a referral.

You can also access family therapy for addiction privately, and friends or other family members may be able to recommend a specific counsellor based on their past experiences.

Researching various family therapists via the internet can also be effective, particularly if you are able to read reviews left by previous customers.

Don’t give up – you are entitled to receive the appropriate help for you and your family, and this includes family therapy for addiction.

Here at Rehab 4 Alcoholism, we offer free advice from a team of non-judgemental professionals, many of whom are in recovery and understand how hard can be to change your relationship with addiction.

Simply reach out to our 24/7, confidential hotline on 0800 111 4108.

How much does family therapy for addiction cost?

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The cost of family therapy will depend on several factors including how many sessions you attend and how you are accessing this treatment.

If you are accessing family therapy as part of a rehab treatment programme, the cost is usually included in the price of the treatment programme so you may not need to pay anything extra.

If you are attending private family therapy outside of a rehab clinic, prices often range between £100 and £250 per session depending on each counsellor and the area that you live in.

Some family therapy practices will charge on a sliding scale dependent on your income, so the less you earn the less you will have to pay.

Others may have a flexible payment plan to help make this form of treatment more accessible and affordable.

It may also be useful to speak to your doctor to see if you can access family therapy for addiction on the NHS, meaning that you will not need to pay for your treatment.

How long does family therapy for addiction last?

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It’s normal to want to know how long you will need to wait before seeing progress in family therapy, as well as how long an individual session may take.

The first few sessions will be more introductory, involving getting to know the affected person and each family member as well as establishing the various relationship dynamics.

Each session may take between 45 minutes to one hour depending on the size of the group and the preferences of the counsellor.

If you are accessing private family therapy outside of a rehab clinic, sessions may last for anywhere between 4-6 weeks to several years depending on the severity of the addiction and the dynamic of the family.

If you are accessing family therapy as part of a rehab treatment programme, sessions will generally last until the treatment programme ends which can be anywhere from 30 days to 90 days.

Each addiction is different and each family is different. Therefore, it can be difficult to predict how long family therapy for addiction will last.

Here at Rehab 4 Alcoholism, we offer free advice from a team of non-judgemental professionals, many of whom are in recovery and understand how hard can be to change your relationship with addiction.

Simply reach out to our 24/7, confidential hotline on 0800 111 4108.

Frequently asked questions

Teenage girl looking down

1. What happens if a teenager has developed an addiction?

Even adults struggle with addiction, so a teenager with a developing brain and rapidly-changing hormones will likely find it even more difficult to cope.

As the family member of an addicted teenager, you play an important role in shaping their future.

Studies have shown that a strong support system is one of the most effective ways to help a teenager recover from addiction.

If you can develop a positive and healthy relationship with your teenager, this can hugely benefit them and their recovery.

Some of the reasons that a teenager may develop an addiction include:

  • Feeling pressured by friends to use substances
  • Going through a challenging event, such as a death or parental divorce
  • Growing up in an environment where substance use is normalised
  • Experiencing a traumatic event
  • Attempting to self-medicate an underlying mental health issue
  • A lack of discipline, structure and boundaries within the family

This is where family therapy for addiction comes in. Strengthening and repairing the bond and communication between you and your teenager is exactly what family therapy should be used for.

It’s also a good chance for your teenager to be honest with you about their thoughts and feelings.

2. Should my family go to family therapy for addiction?

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If a family member is struggling with an addiction, then you should go to family therapy even if you do not believe the addiction is impacting the family or vice versa.

Learning new ways to connect and interact with your family members will only benefit you all individually and as a group, and can even help the affected person to recover from their addiction.

Most people are not aware of the subtle behaviour changes that they can make in order to change the family dynamic for the better.

Codependent and enabling behaviours are not always clear to see, and family therapy for addiction can help to bring them to the surface.

Here at Rehab 4 Alcoholism, we offer free advice from a team of non-judgemental professionals, many of whom are in recovery and understand how hard can be to change your relationship with addiction.

Call the Rehab 4 Alcoholism team on 0800 111 4108 for advice and support in accessing family therapy for addiction. Take this step towards recovery – you won’t regret it.

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