Rarely is the case when addiction doesn’t affect the entire family unit. Countless addiction treatment centers incorporate family therapy in their rehab programs. Besides providing a safe space for family members to talk about addiction, family therapy is an important treatment element.

Substance Abuse Treatment and Family Therapy

In substance abuse treatment, individual therapy focuses on the behaviors of one person. In contrast, family therapy focuses on relationships and the family dynamic. 

The goal is to clarify each family role and foster a safe and supportive environment for family members to interact if they choose to. This type of therapy can be highly beneficial for both the individual struggling with addiction and the family members.

What to Expect in Family Therapy

In the context of substance abuse treatment, family therapy focuses on looking at how substance use and abuse play a role within the family unit. Initially, a family therapist will focus on understanding the different dynamics and roles each family member plays. 

From there, a therapist will focus on teaching the family techniques to reduce unhelpful behaviors that could be triggering for the person with the substance abuse disorder.

A typical session will only involve the family members who want to participate in the session and the therapist. 

While each family therapy is different, here’s what you should expect:

  • Discussions about family roles
  • Identifying ways to rebuild trust
  • Learning how to recognize relapse triggers
  • Identifying new ways to interact that respect the needs of everyone
  • Learning how to determine what’s helpful and what isn’t helpful
  • Hands-on behavioral therapy exercises 

Family therapists also help identify coping skills and mechanisms that can help family members in this process. Anxiety, anger, and frustration are common feelings when a family deals with addiction. In family therapy, therapists focus on addressing these feelings, and any reactive behavior members may have. 

In addition, a family therapist may also recommend family members attend family support groups. Groups like Al-Anon and Nar-Anon can benefit family members with a loved one in addiction recovery. 

Benefits of Structural Family Therapy

Family therapy can be highly effective in helping substance abusers reduce harmful behaviors and improve social functioning. 

Some of the benefits of incorporating structural family therapy in addiction recovery include:

  • Having better understanding of behaviors: The therapist will likely use this space for education. Has the person been assessed? The family assessment provides a significant opportunity to gain insight from a therapist.
  • Understanding the family dynamics: Becoming aware of the roles and family patterns that might have contributed to the substance abuse. Therapy can help family members better understand this and start assessing how to act in the future. 
  • Improving communication: Most likely, there hasn’t been much communication in the past. Improving communications is key to long-lasting recovery. 
  • Focusing on repairing trust: Trust is one of the first things substance abuse destroys in a relationship. Family members may not be ready to open their hearts and support to help a loved one who has betrayed their trust, probably on several occasions. Regaining trust by the hand of a professional can help mend this breach and start fresh. 
  • Providing a safe space to share feelings: It’s easy to lose communication throughout someone’s active addiction period. Family members often struggle to express their anger, fears of relapse, and other emotions. In family therapy, members focus on balancing these feelings and finding the best way to communicate. 
  • Learning how to set boundaries: Substance abuse is a breach of limits on so many levels. Yet, clarifying boundaries in a family unit isn’t as easy. Depending on the case, sometimes limitations might involve detaching from a loved one with an active addiction. A family therapist can help members better understand their boundaries. 
  • Learning how to practice self-care: Family members are often consumed by their loved one’s active addiction and focus on caring for them. Often therapists recommend attending support groups directed to family members and loved ones of active addicts. 

Family Therapy in Rehab

If you or a family member needs family therapy, please seek help. Speak with a trained support specialist to understand the type of therapy you need. For many, attending family therapy takes time, don’t rush it. If you need to seek help by yourself first, please do so. Family therapy only works if every member is willing to participate.