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Benefits of Family Therapy in Addiction Treatment

As stated by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Involvement of a family member or significant other in an individual’s treatment program can strengthen and extend treatment benefits” widely. One of the best ways to get family members involved in an addicted individual’s treatment program is by making the commitment to attend family therapy. Through the many benefits of this therapeutic method, all parties involved can become happier and healthier, and relationships between parents and children, spouses, siblings, and other family members can become much stronger.

Opening the Lines of Communication

Very often, individuals who frequently abuse drugs and alcohol to the point of addiction stop communicating with their family members, causing them to become isolated from those they love. This occurs partly because the addicted individual becomes secretive in order to protect their substance abuse, sometimes even hostile, and partly because, usually after trying several times to discuss the problems with their loved one, family members begin to pull away. A lack of communication between family members can often be the worst result for a person struggling with substance abuse, and therapy can help by opening those lines of communication up again.

In addition, therapists can help patients and those most important in their lives communicate in a way that is productive and non-judgmental, a change that is often extremely necessary to bridge the gap between loved ones whose relationship has been hurt by addiction. In family therapy, each individual is given the same amount of attention, and their thoughts and feelings are treated as valid, which helps positive communication flow much more freely.

Recognizing and Working to End Enabling

Enabling is a type of behavior that family members often engage in that supports an addicted person’s substance abuse. Some ways in which a loved one might enable an addicted individual include:

  • Bottling up emotions instead of sharing them at the appropriate time
  • Being more preoccupied with keeping the peace than with addressing issues
  • Avoiding conversations involving the person’s abuse
  • Justifying or rationalizing the person’s abuse
  • Using with the addicted individual
  • Denying the presence of a problem
  • Becoming overly protective of the individual
  • Minimizing the seriousness of the situation

According to the University of Pennsylvania Health System, “By not allowing the addicted person to accept the consequences for their actions,” family members prevent any real healing from occurring and only allow the behavior to continue. With regular family therapy sessions, counselors can help point out behaviors that enable the addict and ways in which family members can change their behavior so that it is more beneficial to everyone.

Building Back Trust and Initiating Support

family therapy

Family therapy in addiction treatment can help build back trust.

Addiction can take away a lot of things from a family, most often the trust that others have in their loved one as a result of their substance abuse. Addiction causes people to act in ways they normally wouldn’t, and over time, can cause family members of the addict to step away or even be unable to continue their relationships with the addicted person. Family therapy sessions can help build back the trust that healthy relationships are based on and allow families to become whole again.

Not only is this beneficial for the family as a unit, but it can also help the addicted individual immensely because they often would not be able to have the support of their family members otherwise. Support from loved ones is one of the most important things a person in addiction treatment has to help them stay resilient in their decision to stop abusing drugs. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “Family members who become the champions of their loved one’s recovery… provide essential support” during addiction treatment and beyond, and patients can more easily gain this type of support if their relationships are more trusting and healthy.

Helping Family Members Understand Their Needs are Important Too

When a family has rallied around an individual with addiction and agreed to attend therapy together, the treatment also allows the family members themselves to benefit by helping them understand that their needs and feelings are important too. Therefore, the counselor makes sure the loved ones of the addict feel they can speak their minds and that they also understand the importance of giving themselves time to heal, just as the addict is doing.

Family counseling can teach relatives of addicts that:

  • They should take time for reflection, just as their loved one is doing during treatment.
  • Their feelings are valid and matter just as much as the feelings of the addict.
  • They are allowed to feel hurt, even angry, about the way the addict behaved as a result of their substance abuse.
  • They deserve to feel happy and well adjusted.
  • They can benefit from their own treatment regimen as well.

In fact, a number of other treatments for family members of addicts exist, including mutual-help groups like Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, and Adult Children of Alcoholics, and a family therapist can often recommend them to the loved ones of addicts as additional treatment. This helps the people hurt by a family member’s addiction to realize they must focus on themselves in addition to helping their loved one, as it will create a much more beneficial outcome for everyone involved.

In Family Therapy, Everyone Benefits

The main job of a family therapist in addiction treatment is to facilitate productive and considerate communication between family members that will help solve and heal the problems substance abuse has caused in a family’s dynamic. As stated by SAMHSA, “The therapist helps ensure that every family member is accorded a voice,” and that each individual can speak with their voice to a truth that may have gone long unspoken. Once everyone starts to feel safe and validated when they speak their minds, the true benefits of the treatment can begin to come to light.

At SubstanceAbuse.org, we can help you find treatment that provides family counseling so you and your loved ones can begin to heal from the toll substance abuse has taken on your family. Call 1-800-895-1695 today and make a change.

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