Addictions can affect more than the person who consumes the addictive substance. People struggling with obsessive and addictive behaviours may damage their close relationships and bring pain and chaos to the life of their loved ones. Family members may also be affected by their loved one’s addictive behaviour. In most cases, family treatment is essential if they want to improve their relationships and their mental health.

What is Family Therapy?

Family treatment helps family members understand the consequences of addiction and offers support during the recovery journey. When people with dependence enter rehab, they attend individual and group therapy sessions that focus on helping them overcome addiction. Family members may also be affected and often feel neglected, ashamed, and frustrated about the situation. Children with a parent struggling with addiction feel responsible for the parent’s addictive habit and are at higher risk of experiencing emotional and mental problems.

Family therapy helps family members understand how addiction affects them and allows them to develop the coping skill to improve their relationships. A dysfunctional dynamic at home may prevent family members from communicating honestly and with love. Therapy helps family members to understand risk factors and how to prevent them.

Children are directly exposed when addiction is involved. These children become vulnerable and may develop mental health disorders such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, or depression. Abuse and neglect are two factors that can negatively impact the psychological health of children. As adults, they experience poor self-esteem, divorce, and domestic violence, or they may develop an addiction.

How Does Family Therapy Work?

Family therapy helps families change dynamics that contribute to addiction, supports members to communicate with compassion and understanding, and helps them build positive interactions. Counsellors also are responsible to make sure members of the family, especially teens and children, are protected from neglect and harmful behaviours such as violence.

Family sessions are various, including:

  • Group sessions with patients and family members.
  • Intensive family education sessions (family weekends or activities).
  • Individual therapy for spouses and children of people recovering from addiction.
  • Private family sessions that include a therapist and at least one more family member.
  • 12-Step meetings for the families of people with dependence.

Here are the most commonly used treatment models and therapeutic strategies used in family dependence treatment:

  • Multidimensional family therapy: a therapy used to help recovering teenagers; Multidimensional therapy aims to build self-esteem and stable identities for children and teens raised in families with parents living with addiction; parents are guided to improve communication, parent-child relationships and setting healthy boundaries.
  • Structural or strategic therapy: focuses on identifying and changing the structural dynamics that promote dependence; structural therapy helps family members communicate assertively, and set limits with the loved one struggling with addiction.
  • Behavioural family therapy: is based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) principles; determines damaging behaviours and thought patterns within the family system; family members then learn how to change those patterns with positive actions that support sobriety and healthy interactions.

The therapist focuses on helping family members to create healthy relationships based on communication and honesty.

Goals of Family Therapy

Family therapy sessions have a higher rate of success when there are specific goals to follow. Here are the main goals of family therapy:

Overcoming obstacles to recovery

A person with addiction may feel judged during a therapy session. It may be difficult for other family members to admit they have consciously or unconsciously played a role in encouraging the addictive behaviour by enabling the addictive habits.

Enabling may occur in various ways:

  • Buying alcohol or drugs for a family member.
  • Paying debts for a family member who is experiencing financial difficulties.
  • Hiding from friends or employers about a family member’s drug abuse.
  • Finding excuses for a family member’s aggressive or manipulative behaviour, even if it is harmful to the psychological or physical health of the family.

Restoring a healthy group structure

In families that have one member struggling with addiction, the structure of the home is damaged completely. Family life may become disorganized. Most of the time, parents may lose their authority and may be unable to set healthy boundaries for their adolescents’ children. Therapy sessions help them improve communication skills and re-establish proper family roles. During family therapy, the counsellor guides the family member to build a sober, safe environment. 

Educating about addiction

Education is one of the essential goals of family treatment. During therapy sessions, patients learn to recognize the behaviours and thoughts that encourage addictive habits and a harmful home environment. They also learn new coping mechanisms and conflict resolution skills to help them navigate through stressful situations and avoid triggers.

Families who enrol in a family treatment programme manage to identify their strengths as well as their weaknesses. During therapy sessions and activities, members learn to trust each other and communicate with empathy.

Benefits of Family Therapy

Family can have a positive impact on a loved one’s recovery process. Below are the main benefits of including family members in the therapy process of a person with dependency: 

  • Encouraging your loved one to stay motivated during treatment. 
  • The opportunity for family members to develop coping strategies to help a loved one staying on the path of sobriety. 
  • Developing better family communication skills. 
  • Addressing any mental health disorders within the family system (anxiety and depression). Educating about addiction and its consequences on the family as well as understanding how treatment works and what to expect after graduating from the rehab programme. 
  • Helping family members to express feelings and concerns and become informed about a loved one’s dependency. 
  • Offering to people with addiction the proper support after treatment. 
  • Helping family members to release feelings of fear, anger, stress and confusion related to the addiction of a loved one. 

Getting involved in a loved one’s recovery process may help to increase the chances of long-term success while improving the family’s communication skills and mental health. 

Castle Health can help you and/or your loved one overcome addiction. Call us today for confidential advice about treatment options available.