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Addiction impacts all members of the family in negative ways. Family therapy is a form of psychotherapy that works with family units and analyzes family dynamics in an attempt to change problematic behavior patterns. Family therapy has proved successful across a range of fields, including numerous mental health and substance use disorders. This form of therapy is often combined with cognitive behavioral therapy and other forms of psychotherapy, both during rehab and on an aftercare basis.
While family therapy isn’t a cure-all for addiction or family issues, it can be a beneficial part of treatment for addicts and the people around them.
Addiction is often referred to as a family disease, and for most families, having an addict in the group can make their lives much more chaotic. From poor behavior at gatherings, to simply withdrawing from loved ones, addiction can and often will change the way a person behaves around the people they care about.
A generally strained family life, whether it’s due to financial issues or the stress of knowing a loved one is hurting themselves with alcohol or drugs, will take a huge toll on the emotional health of even the most loving families.
Family members also play a major role in the addiction process. While most family members have only the best of intentions, you may be playing one of the family roles that you’re not aware of.
- The addict: The individual dealing with drug addiction or alcohol addiction. This person is often the center of attention within the family because of their struggle with addiction.
- The hero: A person who excels within the family structure, hoping to divert attention away from the addict while attempting to motivate them to do better through their example.
- The enabler: The loved one who steps in and defends the addict’s behavior. Enablers often pick up this behavior simply because they are trying to protect the addict’s feelings.
- The scapegoat: A person that creates problems that divert attention away from the addict and their behavior.
- The mascot: The individual in the family that uses humor to distract themselves and the family unit from the pain that addiction can bring.
- The lost child: A loved one that is attempting to ignore the addiction problem within the family altogether. Often the lost child takes on this behavior simply to protect themselves from pain or confrontation.
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Family counseling might seem like an abstract concept at first. There are a few main goals that you should keep in mind when it comes to what you’re trying to achieve by going to therapy together.
- Address the issue of addiction within the family in an open, clear manner.
- Get the addict to realize they have a problem and seek help on their own behalf.
- Set up reasonable, proper boundaries that family members can live with.
- Build a strong family bond that will help all members handle the addiction recovery process today and further down the road.
- Build and discuss a clear support system to show the addict and all members of the family they are not alone when dealing with issues related to drug or alcohol addiction.
- Restore trust among all family members to allow for open, honest communication in the future.
Family therapy can be beneficial to many groups once the addict has some grasp on recovery. In general, therapy sessions are conducted in the office of a counselor that typically deals with families in the grip of drug or alcohol addiction.
Family addiction therapy is often much like traditional talk therapy. Significant others, friends, and even coworkers may attend sessions however, especially if they play an important role in the life of the addict or family.
After an addict seeks help through rehabilitation, family therapy can be hugely beneficial to keep them on the right path toward long-term sobriety. Family counseling can also help other members of the family from falling back into the role they once played. These sessions are meant to rebuild relationship bonds and restore emotional health within the family unit.
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Abuse, N. I. (n.d.). Family Behavior Therapy. Retrieved August 30, 2016, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/evidence-based-approaches-to-drug-addiction-treatment/behavioral-5
Last updated on April 6th, 2017 at 09:22 pm