Family Therapy for Addiction Treatment
Written by: Peter Dimaira Created June 15 2017
Written by: Peter Dimaira Created June 15 2017
Family therapy is used in several addiction and co-occurring disorder treatment settings. It’s been tried and tested to be effective for adults and especially adolescents. 1,2 Therapy which involves a recovering addict or alcoholics support network is extremely important during the recovery process.
You can learn more about family therapy during addiction treatment, including:
(Family therapy is a group of therapeutic approaches which attempt to use a family’s strengths and their resources to aid them to live without the drugs or alcohol. It also helps to reduce the harm of addiction on both the afflicted addict or alcoholic and his or her family. 1
Some additional issues can also be addressed in treatment, such as parenting skills, manic depression, conflict resolution and unemployment. 2
In the treatment for addiction, family therapy is often an educational experience. Allowing family members to get answers to questions they’ve had begins a dialogue that can promote healing.
Most of family therapists have adapted the family system model, this model views drug addiction and alcoholism as a symptom of a dysfunctional family. Family therapy is based on the outlook that a family is a unique system. Each person within that system has their own effect on how it functions
The entire system will suffer when one person (in several cases the person receiving treatment) is functioning at a level of impairment. Several who’re not addicted to drugs and alcohol will discover that their behavior is also a form of dysfunction due to the efforts necessary to support the flawed system.
Some benefits gained by people in drug and alcohol treatment and their families are:
Provides a better understanding of the underlying issues of addiction and its effects on behavior – many times this is achieved through education. Like the assessment the patient goes through, the family has the opportunity for their own self-assessment and insight from a clinical therapist.
Promotes awareness of family dynamics – Mal-adaptive family patterns pay a large contribution to continued drug addiction and alcoholism. All inside the family system should receive treatment to obtain the most positive outcome.
Improving communication – In a system where there’s no communication or a limited dose of emotional involvement, improved communication is essential, but will require an investment from all parties involved for the most successful outcome.
Regaining trust – Dishonesty and addiction can go hand-in-hand. Members of the family may not want to open their hearts (or their bank accounts) to help a loved one who’s struggling with addiction or alcoholism that has betrayed their trust. Improved communication, honesty and witnessing positive changes is known to mend this problem.
Sharing Feelings – During active addiction, bridges can be burned. Many family members will be angry or hurt, but not have the ability to express it, they may fear the persons relapse or in many cases they can get anxious of the reconciliation. Many must realize the reconciliation process takes time to learn balance and how to express the anger properly through practice.
Boundary Setting – This applies to everyone involved. Clarifying your own boundaries is not easy. However, it is necessary to move toward a healthy recovery for everyone involved. This almost always includes detaching from any family member who uses substances illicitly.
Learning self-care – In addiction treatment, the focus is always on the person with the addiction. Throughout the family therapy process, a parent or spouse will learn what they need help with as well. Many are directed to Al-anon, Nar-anon or other fellowships in addition to finding their own therapist.
For adults and children therapy styles and formats will tend to vary. Treatment modals should be based upon the specific needs of the person and/or the family.
It’s important to determine the appropriate level of involvement of family members. Everyone must feel comfortable and safe sharing their feelings and opinions without fear or recourse.
Some types of family therapies that might be used in drug addiction and alcoholism treatment include:
Behavioral Contacting – The therapist typically helps the family develop a written contract that is focused on maintaining a drug and alcohol-free home. The therapist will also help the family through the identification process to acknowledge and identify certain triggers for drug addiction and alcoholism as well as predict potential problems and develop strategies to avoid them.
Behavioral Marital Therapy – The therapist will help the couple to create a drug free environment. The therapist will also work with the couple on coping skills, communication skills, relapse prevention and positive reinforcements for abstinence based recovery.
Multidimensional Family Therapy – This type of therapy is often used with adolescents and puts the focus on addiction and behavioral issues. The therapist will meet individually with the teen and their family members. Adolescents will work on coping skills, peer and family relationships. Parents often work on addiction and mental health issues they may be struggling with and their parenting skills.
Solution-focused therapy – This approach focuses on problem solving skills identified in the family culture and not so much on how they developed. The substance abuser, the family members and the therapist try to come up with ways to help the substance abuser stop using drugs and alcohol to visually experience what the home would look like without drugs or alcohol.
Multifamily Groups – These groups tend to meet once a week, and they provide families insight into their own behaviors allowing them to find comfort in the fact they’re not alone. Quite often, family members may feel that they’re the only ones going through substance abuse issues, and it’s very helpful to learn from others that have similar experiences. Often times they help one another.
Most inpatient and partial hospitalization treatment centers offer a family component.
Addiction treatment settings where family therapy may occur include:
Residential – Inpatient Treatment – Many inpatient or residential treatment centers offer a family therapy component. This typically consists of meetings over multiple weekends and is usually negotiated by the therapist or other staff members depending on the family’s availability. Therapists will meet with the family members alone and on other occasions with the clients’ involvement throughout multiple sessions. The focus is always on the couple or the entire family.
Outpatient treatment – Outpatient recovery programs are offered for adults and adolescents after stepping down from residential or inpatient treatment. In some cases, inpatient treatment may not be necessary, so a person will attend outpatient as a platform before they go inpatient, if they don’t recover. Group sessions will focus on the patient and will incorporate a family meeting along with the meeting facilitator or therapist. When the work focuses on adolescents, it’s always better to find an age-appropriate group. These groups are educational in nature and provide insight into areas the family can use help in.
Individual marriage and family therapy – Many who seek this kind of therapy typically will find a family therapist who also has experience with substance abuse as well. Different providers have different focuses and styles. It’s crucial that you ask questions to make sure they can serve you well. You may want to come up with a list of questions you will want to discuss to make sure they can cater to your needs.
Whatever your decision is, remember to educate yourself and ask questions. Having to deal with addiction in any form can be upsetting, making decision based on anxiety levels and the feeling of being rushed is a no no. You owe it to yourself to weigh out your options and find the treatment that is right for you.
Goals. The focal point of family therapy is to improve and/or initiate communication. Once this process has begun, it’s up to each member of the family to decide how or if they will continue to work on it. One of the other goals typically set in family therapy is to improve the environment of the home. This is so it can be a safe place for the recovering addict and their family.
Therapeutic Setting, frequency and duration. Therapy may be held at a local drug and alcohol inpatient treatment center, outpatient setting or in a one-on-one therapists office. The frequency and length of sessions is determined by the clinical team and your schedule. A family therapy session usually lasts an hour. Outpatient sessions usually meet for three hours over a set period of weeks. Family components in drug and alcohol treatment centers usually include group sessions along with shorter therapy sessions and beneficial leisure activity.
Therapists. A therapist or a facilitator generally solicits input from everyone who’s involved to keep things focused. It’s important to have a trained and neutral monitor of the groups as well.
Participants. Anyone who’s deemed beneficial or essential to a persons recovery can participate. This can include spouses, children, parents or guardians, extended family or close friends.
Typical Session. All sessions could vary. In a group setting , where other people and families are present. There’s typically an introduction between group members. In a therapists office, the family will meet with a therapist and themselves only. These sessions may be focused more on the individual in the group with the therapist leading the group.
There has been research done on the effectiveness of family therapy and is still ongoing. However, several studies suggest that it’s a useful component to addiction treatment.
One study found that different forms of family involved therapy can help with substance abusers and their families in rehab. It can reduce drug and alcohol use and other harmful behaviors, as well as improve social functioning. 1
There was another study found that behavioral couples therapy can aid in abstinence, better more communicative relationships, reduced occurrence of separation and divorces, and reduced risk of domestic violence. 3
A study that reviewed the advancements in a family-based therapeutic treatment found that family therapy can be helpful for a variety of adolescent problems, including drug and alcohol abuse, schizophrenia and conduct disorder. 1
If you would like to learn more about family therapy or locate a therapist in your area, you can visit these sites to learn more about availability and information:
If You’re looking for a program that uses family therapy or other types of behavioral therapy’s contact Bright Futures Treatment Center 844-207-7772 to speak with an admissions specialist.
. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Substance Abuse Treatment and Family Therapy . Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) (US); 2004. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 39.)
. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition): Family Behavior Therapy .
. O’Farrell, T.J. and Fals-Stewart, W. (2000). Behavioral couples therapy for alcoholism and drug abuse . Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment 18(1): 51-54.