An important aspect of recovery is mending relationships with loved ones and family members. Even though substance use disorder is often treated with cognitive-behavioral therapy that focuses on the patient’s ability to change their own emotional, cognitive, and behavioral patterns, family therapy gives a person another way to treat their substance use symptoms by focusing on the person’s relationship with their family. Substance use disorder isn’t just caused by an individual’s negative patterns, but also by existing negative patterns in relationships the person may have with other people. Family therapy may include changes in multiple members of the family in order to positively alter how the family interacts with one another.
People may define family in different terms. For some people, family may mean blood relatives while for others, family may mean people that a person chooses to be in their life. Family therapy can be applied to any situation in which people are affected and involved in another person’s life on an emotional level. Often families exist in the same ecosystem either by living together or by consistently being near one another. You may share the same economics, values, and habits. This can be especially true for families that have dependents and use government agencies such as social services, criminal justice, or child protective services.
Substance Use Disorder Affects Family
People’s actions affect the ones they are closest to the most. A person’s substance use disorder isn’t something that a person should deal with alone because their recovery will affect the person’s family, friends, and loved ones. Family therapy helps people understand how their addiction may have negatively impacted the people around them. On the other hand, family members might also learn how their behaviors enabled the person’s substance use.
A person’s substance use may affect family members emotionally, physically, and economically. A family member may have experienced trauma or physical affliction due to the person’s inebriated state. Since substance use disorder may lead to unemployment due to a lack of performance or productivity, someone’s substance use disorder may control the economic state of their family. This may be especially true if the person is responsible for dependents.
Family therapy focuses on understanding and validating all family members’ experiences, allowing each family member to process and digest their emotions. These experiences may involve a member of the family’s substance use or an event that negatively impacted or drastically changed the family dynamic. The goal of family therapy is for the family to reduce unhelpful or harmful behaviors and create positive, healthier ways of communicating with one another. In family therapy, a therapist will analyze how substance use is potentially related to family interactions.
A successful family therapy session requires all participating family members to be dedicated to helping the person who is struggling with substance use disorder. The family members must be open to listening to the other members’ perspectives and beliefs, even if they don’t necessarily agree with them. This will ensure that each member of the family feels heard. The family will also be encouraged to understand the person’s motivation for their exhibited behaviors in their relationships instead of hastily prescribing character flaws or attributes to the person.
The next steps would be for the family to collectively change behavior towards one another and to change potentially damaging beliefs that govern the family system. For instance, a family may have to reconsider how they talk to one another about their feelings, what to do when a person is crying, or how information is dispersed throughout the family. Family therapy can lead to healthier relationships, better communication, and a chance to mend and heal.
Other Ways to Include Family
If family therapy is not possible due to coordination issues or unwillingness to participate, there are other ways to keep family involved in a person’s recovery journey. For people who have issues coordinating family therapy sessions, updating their families on their current emotional state and treatment progress will help keep their families involved in their recovery. The more the family understands about what the person is going through, the easier it will be to mend relationships and for the family to be able to provide support for that person.
On the other hand, family members may not be willing to participate in family therapy because they might be too hurt by events or interactions surrounding a person’s substance use disorder. It is impossible to force someone to confront an issue that they are not ready to confront. However, the person suffering from substance use disorder can apologize to the family member that they hurt and explain to that family member the behavioral and emotional changes that the person has made during their recovery.
Family therapy may make it easier for someone suffering from substance use disorder to understand how family relationships may have affected their substance use. Including family in a person’s recovery process can help heal the family as a whole by improving communication among family members.
At Shoreline Recovery Center, we offer family therapy because we understand the important role that family plays in a person’s recovery. One of the biggest roles that family plays in a person’s recovery is how they’ll be able to contribute to that person’s support system. Shoreline encourages our clients’ to build support systems with people who they can trust and rely on. A good support system should follow a person after treatment and family members can contribute to continued support after attending a rehab facility. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use disorder, please call us at (866) 278-8495 to learn more about our programs.