What’s the Role of Family Therapy in Overcoming Addiction?

Family therapy helps not just the persons with addiction but their affected loved ones as well. Using substances may be a personal choice but addiction isn’t. No one wants to be an addict. However, once the addiction is present, it produces consequences that affect not just the life of one person. It comes with far-reaching implications for the life of an entire family. 

People who find themselves in what can be considered as obsessive behaviour. They seek any substance like drugs or alcohol and unwittingly do things that hurt the people around them. The craving for things they may be addicted to pushes a person to act in ways that destroy relationships. It brings a chaotic life to those dear to them. 

The families of those struggling with addiction always take the direct hit. It is why it is important for the family to go through counselling and therapy as well. Family therapy is a crucial component in the treatment and recovery of those who have addiction problems. When they know that they have their families with them, people who suffer from addiction find the will to put an end to the problem. 

Related article: Support for Families of Recovering Addicts

Defining Family Therapy

Family therapy is the avenue for the family members to voice out their take on the addiction. At this point, the family member who is addicted to substances like drugs or alcohol will be able to understand how their actions are affecting the family. 

A person who submits himself to therapy undergoes individual and group sessions designed to help him with his substance use. While it may be crucial for these individuals to get treatment, the family members who suffer from the effects of the addition need it badly, too. They take on the effects of addiction as well. And they can only provide assistance to a loved one who is into addiction therapy when they get the help they need. 

Spouses and parents of those who are addicted often feel neglected, ashamed, and angry because of the situation they find themselves in. When the children are dealing with an addiction of a parent, they often end up blaming themselves for what’s happening. These family members are at greater risk for emotional and cognitive problems. 

This is the point where family therapy becomes vital. The goal of family therapy is to make the members of the family understand how addiction affects them. It is also designed to give every family member a tool to help improve their relationship as the person with addiction tries to improve himself. 

Addiction can sometimes occur because of the dysfunction at home. Therapy provides families with a way to undercut the risk factors and other things they can do to prevent the addiction from getting worse. The children are the most vulnerable at home in the presence of someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol

Growing with a family member, particularly a parent, who is addicted to substance abuse could link the child to the risks of depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety. Physical, mental, emotional, and sexual abuses are often found in homes where someone is fighting an addiction. All of these are harmful to a child’s overall health. Family therapy can provide help for each family member’s needs. 

How can Family Therapy Help?

It takes a lot of work to keep the family together and that’s what family therapy understands. It is rooted in the fact that individuals joined together by blood relations need extra help when things don’t seem right. When a household deals with addiction, family therapy helps everyone focus on the dynamics that may have contributed to addictive behaviour. 

Therapy helps in destroying the barriers to communication to help family members interact with each other in a more positive light. Therapists also have an obligation to ensure that the members of the household understand that the choices they make have a clear implication to the rest of the family. The goal is to keep the family together while keeping the children away from any form of harm or neglect. 

What kind of sessions can one expect from family therapy? They come in many forms. The sessions may include the following:

  • Private family sessions are designed for the immediate family of the person with an addiction. It may include the parents of the spouses. 
  • Group sessions where the person with addiction submits himself to an open discussion of the situation with the members of his family. 
  • Intensive family sessions usually happen on weekends where the family gets to enjoy various activities that will enhance their cooperation and communication. 
  • Individual counselling for the children and the spouses of recovering addicts. 
  • 12-step meetings where the recovering addict is walked through step by step to achieve holistic healing. 

Related article: Addictions Counsellor: Why is it Beneficial to Involve Families in Addiction Counselling?

Setting Up The Family Goals

Why would family members submit themselves to therapy? The goal is quite simple. The family is in therapy because they want to remove all the obstacles to full recovery. Criticism and judgment won’t help a recovering addict. They could only get themselves to the worst situation. 

Sober family members may not easily admit that they have played a role in the addict’s behaviour. A person does not act alone. Their destructive habits have been brought about by the reluctance of their family members to admitting there is a problem. 

In truth, it may even be harder to admit that giving in to what the person with addiction wants provides the family with some temporary benefits, too. Giving them drugs might help control their behaviour and prevent any violent outbursts. Helping an alcoholic get his hands on some alcohol may help him become more agreeable to the terms. Enabling a teenager to get to the addiction that he wants may seem to put a parent in a position where they can be in control. 

No one would ever admit that at some point, the addiction can be seen in a positive light. However, families are often the ones that perpetuate such behaviour. How do they do it? Consciously or unconsciously, there are the many times that enabling addiction can happen in the household:

  • Lying about the addiction because the family members are too embarrassed to talk about it. 
  • Purchasing alcohol or drugs for a loved one. 
  • Paying off the bills of the family member who is in financial trouble because of their gambling addiction. 
  • Making up an excuse for the manipulative and violent behaviour of a family member with an addiction problem.

Another critical aspect of dealing with addiction is that the group structure in the family needs to be restored. In families that have been broken because of addiction, the structure may have been completely broken down. Disorganized and chaotic — those are the two words that best describe a family who is dealing with an addiction. 

Parents may have lost control over their teenager’s addiction. They might not be able to set the limitations. The family therapy sessions would be focused on bringing the structure back up. It would be focused on building back the communication lines while restoring the family roles in the process. Creating a sober and safe home is what every recovering addict needs. And it can only be achieved when the rest of the family goes through therapy, too. 

Education is the key to making things happen. For as long as family members know what they need to do to help a recovering addict live up to his goals and expectations, all will fall into place. Therapy teaches families various types of coping mechanisms and strategies that will help reduce the conflict in the household. Therapists will teach them the skills they need to deal with stressful situations as they live through each day. 

Families who engage in therapies can explore their strengths as well as their weaknesses. Through intensive group sessions, members will be able to work on rebuilding the trust and develop in themselves a new sense of empathy for their family member who is recovering from addiction.

Continuing Recovery

Healing in the family does not come immediately after the addict graduates from rehab. It may only be the beginning. Continuing therapy for parents, spouses, and children may be the key to helping build a harmonious household. The aftercare program for recovering addicts is what truly makes a recovery program successful. Research shows that a family who is involved in the recovery program provides the patient with just the right amount of support to help him see things through. 

Recovery gives a person a new opportunity to restore the old relationship and rebuild their life with their loved ones. With a more solid and sober foundation, recovering addicts can see through life with renewed hope. They can live through it without worrying about falling off the wagon. When you are ready to reach out, hold on to the thought that help will come. It is always there.