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The Importance of Family Therapy in Addiction Recovery

An addiction can destroy families as much as it can destroy the individual.  The causes of substance abuse are varied and complex and family issues can contribute to and perpetuate the addiction. Addiction is often called a “family disease” since it can traumatize everyone in the family and everyone is equally likely to suffer. Without intervention through a family therapy program, the whole family may suffer effects that last a lifetime.

There are several ways family members can get involved, which include attending family support groups, seeking social support, and understanding relapse prevention. Because family roles in addiction can be complex, the whole family needs to be on the journey together in order to beat the addiction.

Side-Effects of Addiction on the Family

Addiction can affect the entire family which includes:

  • Children of addicts tend to perform poorly at school. Moreover, they might have limited career choices in adulthood.
  • Children can develop the idea that addiction is normal. They have a greater risk at experimenting with substances at a young age and follow their parents into addition.
  • Addiction can destroy strong relationships.
  • Children of addicts are more likely to have mental health problems.
  • Substance abuse can often lead to domestic violence.
  • Substance abuse is closely linked to child abuse.
  • Children of addicts miss out on a normal childhood and deal with things even adults would struggle with.
  • Substance abuse can lead to financial instability for the whole family.
  • Family members might suffer from embarrassment and guilt because of the addict’s behavior.
  • Family members might become isolated trying to hide their loved one’s addiction.
  • Children can be born with birth defects if their mother abused alcohol or drugs during pregnancy.

Addiction and Family Roles

In every family, each member plays a different role to help the family function better and to maintain a level of stability and balance. Including the addict, there are six roles created to understand how the family functions around the abuser.

The enabler

This is the role taken by the non-using spouse or the oldest child. The enabler takes care of finances, ensures the kids are going to school, maintains communication with family members and friends, and makes justifications for the addict in social and business situations. The enabler is often in denial about the severity of the addict’s illness and will continue to make excuses for the addict.

The hero

This is the family member who appears confident and serious. This role is usually taken by an older child that takes on responsibilities that exceed their developmental stage. These responsibilities can include taking care of the household, and providing support to the non-abusing parent. The hero feels that she/he needs to take on more and more responsibilities and these behaviors are underlying issues of stress, anxiety, and guilt.

The scapegoat

This role is assumed by the child in the family who displays defiant tendencies and often misbehaves. These negative behaviors portray the negative and poisonous atmosphere in the home. The scapegoat usually feels resentment and anger towards the abuser.

The mascot

This is the individual in the family who uses humor as a coping mechanism. The mascot is aware of the momentary sense of relief she/he brings to the family and will continue to do so in order to maintain this balance.

The lost child

This is the person who isolates himself/herself from the rest of the family and has trouble developing relationships as a result. This lost child often engages in fantasy play to disassociate themself from the negative home environment.

The addict

Many abusers feel shame, guilt, and remorse about the pain they have caused to the entire family. However, there are also many addicts who do not wish to stop using and keep on causing great anger and resentment throughout the family.

What is Family Therapy?

Family therapy is a type of psychological counseling that helps family members improve communication and resolve their conflicts. This psychotherapy is generally provided by a psychologist, clinical worker, or licensed therapist. In case of addiction, the family attends family therapy while the abuser participates in residential treatment. This therapy strives to reduce the harm of addiction on the substance abuser and his/her family. During family therapy, a wide range of issues are addressed, including parenting skills, abuse, marital conflict, teenage rebellion, depression, unemployment, and family conflict.

Family therapy can take place in a counselor’s office, rehab clinic, hospital or community center. It includes individual sessions for each person in the household, combined with sessions for the entire family unit. The family may also take part in group meetings or 12-step programs with other family members, such as Al-Anon.

Benefits of Family Therapy

The most notable benefits of family therapy include:

  • Assisting the addict to become aware of their behaviors.
  • Improving the mental health of the entire family.
  • Improving communication between family members and relationship quality.
  • Helping families learn how to avoid enabling behaviors.
  • Preventing the addiction spread throughout the family.
  • Developing better understanding of the nature of addiction and how it affects behavior.
  • Regaining trust, enhancing honest interaction, and witnessing positive changes.
  • Teaching family members how to recognize, balance, and express their feelings.
  • Learning self-care.

Types of Family Therapies

Therapy formats vary for adults and children. Treatment must meet the specific needs of the person and the entire family. Some of the most commonly used types of family therapy include:

  • Multidimensional family therapy: this is a comprehensive, family-centered treatment for adolescents that focuses on substance abuse and behavioral problems. It includes individual and family sessions taking place in an office, in the home, or the community. Adolescents work on coping skills, and peer and family relationships. Parents work on addiction or mental health uses, as well as parenting skills.
  • Solution-focused therapy: this type of therapy focuses on solutions, rather than on the problems that brought the family unit to seek therapy. The addict, their family, and the therapist work on coming up with ways to help the user stop abusing and see how a home without drugs would look like.
  • Family behavior therapy (FBT): this style is aimed at addressing not only the substance use problems, but other co-occurring issues such as child mistreatment, depression, family conflict, and unemployment. FBT has value for both teens and adults, focusing on building skills to improve home life and developing goals to end substance abuse.
  • Behavioral contracting: the therapist helps the family to develop a written contract that specifies the child’s behavioral obligations in maintaining a substance-free home.
  • Behavioral marital therapy: this therapyis designed for couples with relationship distress and one abusing partner. The therapist may work with the couple on problem solving, relapse prevention skills, and reinforcements for abstinence.
  • Multifamily groups: this therapy involves working with a collection of families, including the families of the identified patient, in a group setting. In a group setting, the family learns that they are not alone, learn through identification with other families, and broaden their understanding of the treatment process.

For more information please call this Toll Free 24/7 Addiction Treatment Helpline at (844) 439-4765. This is a completely confidential call. If you have health insurance it often covers 100% of the treatment cost. So please call now!

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