What Are the Benefits of Family Therapy for Drug Addiction Treatment?

When someone struggles with addiction, it can impact the entire family. As part of the recovery journey, it is often recommended that the family takes part in the process by entering family therapy.

This article will discuss what family therapy is, how it works, and how it can benefit not just individuals in addiction recovery, but the whole family as well.

What Is Family Therapy?

Couples therapy

Family therapy is a specific type of group therapy where all of the individuals in the therapeutic situation are related and treated by at least one therapist. Family therapy is often identified by a number of different names that actually describe the relationships that the individual members and the group have, such as:

  • Marital therapy or marriage counseling (for married people).
  • Couples therapy (partners that may or may not be married).
  • Systems therapy (where typically family members who live together are part of the group).

Therapists delivering family therapy can have backgrounds in any of the major therapeutic schools of psychology, including cognitive behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy, humanistic therapy, or several others.

The Goals and Principles of Family Therapy

The different types of family therapy attempt to understand and identify how the particular family or relationship structure affects whatever issue is being treated. Therapists treating families have several goals, including:

  • Strengthening the relationships in the family system.
  • Identifying and realigning power structures so there is more equitable distribution of power.
  • Understanding and fostering the communication system between family members.
  • Addressing other problems that lead to the family being unbalanced or in distress.

In order to accomplish these goals, the family therapist will try and understand the family unit as both a single entity and a group that is composed of different individuals.

Using this type of approach, there are a number of basic assumptions that family therapists from different psychotherapy paradigms share.

  • The different members in a family system represent separate individuals who exist independently and also exist as part of the family unit. This means that personal experience can contribute or take away from the coherence of the family.
  • The family itself is a separate and identifiable entity (that is obviously composed of different individuals).
  • Issues occurring to any single person in the family unit not only affect the individual but can also influence the family. Issues affecting the family will often affect each family member.

Some issues can affect the family system and its members negatively and may lead to imbalance in the family or the development of dysfunctional relationships within the group. The possible effects of such dysfunctional relationships can include:

  • Some members of the family isolating themselves from the family unit.
  • Individuals in the family beginning to distrust one another.
  • Certain members of the family being dishonest with others.
  • Family members keeping secrets from each other.
  • Other members of the family forming alliances with one another against family members.
  • Some family members trying to take control of the entire situation.

Any of these issues can result in the family unit being unbalanced and unable to be a source of nurturing and support for its members. For instance, individuals with substance use disorders may invoke an element of tension and stress in the family unit. This dynamic can lead to a number of issues with stress, anxiety, depression, and other psychological issues in individual members of the family and may result in exacerbating the person’s substance use disorder or the development of substance use disorders in others.

The family therapist would attempt to restore balance in the family and get family members to work on the issue together. The therapeutic process results in the family learning strategies that are rational and functional to address the particular issues.

How Does Family Therapy Work?

Family therapy works by bringing members of a family together and treating them as a whole unit, rather than individuals. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, families are viewed as systems where each part is related to all other parts. This means that when even one family member is experiencing adversity (such as a substance use disorder), the rest of the family can experience it and its effects, too.

Family therapy works by helping each family member with the following:

  • Recognizing how the substance use disorder is affecting them
  • Identifying how the substance use disorder is affecting the entire family
  • Determining what behaviors of theirs change as a result of the substance use disorder
  • Developing ways to make individual and familial changes to manage the impact of the substance use disorder

Family Therapy in Addiction Treatment

Addiction is a family disease, meaning that it affects every single member of a family, including those who do not misuse substances. Therefore, it is important to treat it as such. While there are many addiction therapy types, family therapy for addiction helps family members come together to discuss  the addiction itself, how it has impacted them, and how they are behaving in response to it. With the help of a trained therapist, the family can begin to sort through their issues and begin developing ways to overcome their struggles on the whole.

It is extremely important for all members of a family to participate in family therapy, as each individual plays a role in this unit. While it is possible for families to participate in family therapy without some of its members, it is advisable to have as many core family members present at all sessions. This allows all participants to get the most from their therapy and, in turn, help create the best possible result for their family.

How Does Family Therapy Help Addiction Recovery?

For those who are addicted to drugs or alcohol, having the support of family while recovering is a priceless bonus. Familial support can help an individual increase their confidence, have someone to talk to candidly, and continue to strive to accomplish goals in their sobriety. Additionally, family members of someone with an addiction can also benefit from this type of therapy, as it allows them the opportunity to learn more about this particular condition, do some reflection on themselves, and develop ways to make their overall family unit stronger than before.

The Benefits of Family Therapy

Family therapy has been demonstrated to be effective in the treatment of a number of issues that are traditionally thought of as best addressed in individual therapy, such as the treatment of family members who have substance use disorders, personality disorders, or other co-occurring disorders. Family therapy has also been shown to be effective at helping the family to participate in the treatment of individuals with very severe mental health disorders, such as schizophrenia.

Several of the recognized benefits of family therapy include:

  • Helping families with members who have experienced a crisis or families that have experienced a crisis as a unit (e.g., the death of an important family member) come together and address the situation.
  • Working on developing honesty and trust in family members who have historically not trusted one another.
  • Helping families address issues with stress and tension that disrupt the family’s functioning and efficiency.
  • Developing a supportive family environment in cases where there was little support among family members and the relationships are characterized by isolation and apathy
  • Working on acceptance and forgiveness.
  • Resolving conflicts that occur between family members that disrupt the family unit, and have been ongoing.

Even though family therapists spend a great deal of time explaining how individual relationships affect the overall family unit and how the overall family unit can affect individual relationships, family therapy is not simply a method of tutoring or instructing individuals on improving behaviors, providing parenting tips, or just conflict resolution. Family therapists have a number of different empirically validated approaches to assist both the family as a unit and its individual members, including:

  • Improving the parent-child relationship, including kids and teens.
  • Addressing adult children and parental dynamics.
  • Helping couples work through feelings surrounding their partner’s substance use.

Individual vs. Family Therapy

It is not uncommon for individuals with specific types of problems, such as substance use disorders, issues with depression, or other mental health concerns to attend individual therapy vs family therapy sessions that focus on their issues specifically while also being involved in family therapy that helps the individual adjust within the family unit to whatever issues are present. However, family therapy can also be the major form of treatment without participation in individual therapy for individuals with a number of different issues, including substance abuse and other behavioral issues.

Thus, family therapy is useful in addressing a number of specific issues that affect relationships within the family unit as well as specific aspects of individual behavior.

Addiction Treatment Near Oxford, MS

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol, we can help. At our inpatient rehab in Etta, MS we use effective evidence-based treatment to help people find meaningful recovery from substance use disorders and get back to living the lives they deserve.

To find out more information about how our addiction-focused healthcare can get you on the road to recovery, call our caring and compassionate admissions navigators at . They can tell you more about our different levels of addiction care, what to expect in inpatient rehab, and even help you make travel arrangements. If you have questions about ways to pay for rehab or about using insurance for addiction treatment, our navigators can help.

Recovery is possible. Reach out and start the admissions process today.

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