Addictions are personal but the consequences have the potential to destroy the whole family or those closest to the person struggling with a drug problem. Since every family is a system, of interconnected individuals, a change in one person is bound to bring about changes in all the others. When one family member experiences addiction the entire family is impacted. Similarly, a healthy family environment can help individuals battling drug addiction to attain sobriety and achieve long-lasting wellness.
This explains why family therapy is such a crucial component of addiction treatment and recovery. It helps family members understand how addiction affects them and arms them with tools for repairing and improving their relationships. People can sometimes become addicted to alcohol and other substances because of dysfunction at home and therapy gives family members a chance to understand such risk factors and do their best to avoid or prevent them.
Addiction also changes family dynamics and it’s not uncommon for family members to feel angry, neglected, guilty and ashamed thanks to their loved one’s drug abuse. While their loved one gets to go for individual therapy or seek out some other form of drug treatment, other family members rarely know where to turn. Family therapy, therefore, gives them a way to let out their feelings about addiction while gaining insight into how their behavior might have influenced the situation and how they can bring about positive change.
How Does Family Therapy for Drug Treatment Work?
Family therapy sessions are led by therapists who understand the group dynamics in a family and how each person is affected by others in the family group. Family therapists often have experience in helping each individual in the family to get better and interact more positively within the family unit.
Before family therapy for drug addiction can start, the client has to identify family members who they think or feel should be included in the counseling process. Family members who meet these criteria are usually those who:
- Maintain the household
- Are key in providing support
- Mainly provide financial help and resources
- The client has a strong and enduring emotional bond with
Clients normally decide to include family members, their significant others, friends or coworkers as part of their family for therapy purposes.
In many cases, families have already identified the individual battling addiction as the “problem” within the family. However, there is no blame in family therapy and focus remains on assisting the whole family to recover, pull together and move forward as a unit.
Some of the common services offered during family therapy include:
- Private family sessions where the therapist meets with one or more of the family members.
- Group sessions where the family, the client included, meets and discusses issues surrounding the addiction, recovery and their familial relationships.
- Intensive family education sessions which often include family activities aimed at teaching them healthier ways of interacting with each other.
- Individual counseling where the therapist has one-on-one sessions with spouses or children of recovering addicts.
- 12-step meetings for families of addicts where different families struggling with similar challenges meet, learn and gain support from each other.
Coping Mechanisms for Families Dealing with Addiction
Families that have one or more of their members dealing with substance abuse often resort to some unhealthy behaviors to cope with the addiction. These include:
- Enabling behaviors – where family members unwittingly support a loved one’s drug problem by not allowing them to experience the consequences of their behavior. This makes it easy for the loved one to keep using. Examples of enabling behaviors include – purchasing drugs or alcohol for the family member, paying bills for the family member so they don’t get into financial trouble or excusing their violent or manipulative tendencies and drug habits.
- Denial – the family members refuse to acknowledge the drug addiction and try to minimize its severity. They also bottle up their feelings to avoid upsetting their loved one.
- Co-dependency – the dysfunction in the family leads some members to become obsessively concerned with their loved ones’ feelings while simultaneously ignoring their own. As a result, they develop low self-esteem or have misplaced anger that often comes out as outbursts against other household members. They might also get unhealthy behaviors e.g. over-eating to help them cope with the stressful situation they find themselves in.
Goals for Family Drug Therapy
Family therapists often have a few goals in mind when working with families troubled by drug addiction.
- The first is to help the family overcome any obstacles that might hinder their recovery. Since most families turn to denial, enabling behaviors or co-dependency in a bid to cope with their loved one’s addiction, they must be taught to identify and break such habits. For instance, some families with drug addicts end up giving their loved one drugs in a bid to avoid violent or destructive behavior.
- Secondly, family therapy aims at restoring normal, healthy family roles. Addiction causes chaos and disorganization as it destroys families and inverts roles. Those from such families normally have trouble setting limits or boundaries and it’s normal to find kids taking care of their parents. In therapy, families get to focus on restoring appropriate family roles, improving communication with each other and creating a safe family environment.
- Some family drug treatment programs are big on educating families affected by drug abuse to identify behaviors or thoughts that create perfect conditions for addiction at home. They are also educated on the effect of addiction, what the recovery process entails and the role they have to play to support their loved one’s recovery.
Help is Available
If you or your loved one is struggling with a drug or alcohol problem it’s understandable to feel overwhelmed. However, with the right care, they can beat addiction and get their lives back on track.
Call the Robert Alexander Center for recovery on (502) 513-6242 today to learn more about our Drug Treatment Family Therapy in Kentucky.