For the family of someone with a substance use disorder, their loved one’s disease may cost them money, emotional distress, and even loss of their loved one. In these families, the person with a substance use disorder may have disrupted the family’s boundaries, violated their trust, and caused them financial or legal issues. Those with substance use disorders may also come from families where these problems already existed within the family dynamic.
In any case, it is crucial for a therapist to educate the whole family on substance use disorder, how to support their loved one in recovery, and address any problems with family dynamics. When the family comes together as a whole, those struggling with a substance use disorder succeed in their recovery journey.
What Is Family Therapy?
People with substance use disorders come from every kind of family. Some families may struggle with the stigma of having a child addicted to drugs and wonder what went wrong, while for others, substance abuse may be a way of life that the person grew up in. Family members of people in treatment can feel guilty or angry, but these emotions, while understandable, do not help them mend the relationship with the loved one they lost to a substance use disorder.
Luckily, any family will benefit if they choose to participate in family therapy. Research has shown that for those struggling with substance use disorders, family participation in their recovery improves success in long-term recovery. Practitioners may use many types of family therapy modalities. Some types can be used with individuals, while some teach specific family skills like communication and setting appropriate boundaries.
How Do We Teach Family Therapy?
Therapists can use many techniques to provide family therapy, but most of them will focus on the same basic goals of stabilizing the family and creating a healthier environment. Some inpatient recovery centers allow family visits only after the family has taken a class to help them understand some of the issues of substance abuse that apply to families. In other centers, visiting family requires meeting with the therapist. These short meetings do not substitute for complete family therapy.
Family therapy with a person with a substance use disorder can become stressful and hostile. The therapist must be experienced at handling these behaviors and know how to redirect them. Depending upon that person’s place in recovery, they may or may not feel ready to admit some of the harm they have inflicted.
While most people think of family therapy as involving a spouse or parents, the definition of “family” and the number of loved ones hurt by the behavior of a person in addiction grows larger all the time. Families who require therapy can include:
Family therapy must adapt to these different situations and the age of the person in recovery. Parents tend to provide more help and support for adolescents or young adults who develop substance use disorders. The client in treatment can also be an adult with their own spouse and children who have suffered due to their loved one’s substance abuse.
Family Therapy and Addiction
Substance abuse can wreak havoc on any member of a client’s family, including children. Family members who live in a household with substance abuse may struggle with:
Due to these issues, clients struggling with substance abuse may lose relationships with family members. Family therapy helps to rebuild these connections and allows family members to have healthy, loving relationships with their loved one in recovery.
Family Therapy in Residential Treatment
Encounters with a person’s family can cause many emotions, from excitement to anxiety. When people in residential treatment undergo therapy with their families, the therapist aims to make these visits hopeful. Families should have reason to believe that some of the most destructive results of their loved one’s substance abuse, while not forgotten, can improve.
At Everlast, family members have the opportunity to come to visit their loved one during their stay.
For some families, they have not seen their loved one sober for many years. They may struggle to remember the person before the substance use disorder because they keep remembering the trauma and pain their loved one has caused.
Some behaviors that people might not feel safe discussing with family members can be addressed in a safe environment with a therapist as a mediator. Behaviors that people with a substance use disorder may have engaged in with their families include:
People may struggle to admit to these behaviors or resist when confronted with them. Many people with substance use disorders cannot or do not want to see the harm they cause to family and loved ones.
Family therapy in residential treatment should be the beginning of a longer course of outpatient family therapy. Many issues will remain not addressed, and many deep emotional responses can still emerge. While the person struggling with a substance use disorder may seem like the focus of treatment, family therapy will aim to improve dynamics and relationships within the entire family. At Everlast Recovery Centers, we are dedicated to healing the family system and understand that a healthy, functional family will increase the chance for long-term recovery.