When we focus on addiction has a disorder, the majority of that focus is on its’ effects on the addict him or herself. While this is indeed a major source of concern, the truth is that the effects addiction has on family members are equally as pronounced. The stresses that families feel in dealing with a loved one who is struggling with substance abuse can reach a breaking point and can throw the entire family structure into dysfunction and complete chaos.
A loved one’s drug addiction has wide-reaching impacts such as the stability of the home, the family’s mental and physical health and finances. Additionally, a family member’s addiction has significant impacts on how family members interact with each other as a whole. It is important that when a loved one undergoes drug treatment that the whole family becomes involved in the treatment process. The following are five reasons why family therapy programs help addicts and their families heal and move forward in recovery.
Both the Addict and Their Family Learn About the Disease of Addiction
Addiction is a complex disease which has deep roots and has many facets and causes. Among these causes include one’s genetic makeup, social and environmental factors, family dynamics as well as family history of substance use and abuse. Through family therapy programs, experienced counselors can bring the addict and their family together to see how these factors have impacted their lives.
Through family therapy programs, the addicts will understand the underlying roots of their addiction and how their actions have not only impacted their lives, but the lives of their family. The family of the addict will also come to understand how their patterns of communication and interaction with their loved one contributed to their addiction. In family programs, the family is seen as a system with each part related to all other parts. Through counseling and therapy, both the addict and family can slowly rebuild those dysfunctional parts of the system and build a new system of interaction and communication that supports healthy relationships and recovery.
Family Programs Focus on Support
With family addiction therapy programs, both the addict and family learn they are not alone in regards to overcoming addiction. During drug treatment, the addict is encouraged to seek the support that is found in Twelve-Step groups such as AA and NA. These mutual self-help groups are made up of peers who are going through similar experiences and through their support and encouragement the addict can become empowered in their own recovery.
The family is also encouraged to seek out the support of groups such as Al-Anon, Alateen and Nar-Anon. These groups are for family members of addicts who share their knowledge, strength and hope in order to help them understand and overcome the disease of addiction. Ultimately, both the addict and family learn that the family unit itself is the best source of support. By understanding the disease of addiction and receiving the support through these self-help groups, both the addict and the family become empowered to make the necessary changes to move towards healthy relationships and communication that fosters long-term recovery for everybody.
Family Programs Help to End Enabling and Other Maladaptive Behaviors
Oftentimes families engage in enabling behaviors, and many times they don’t realize they are doing so. Enabling can take on many forms, including giving money to the addict, paying their rent and making excuses for their behavior. During family therapy programming, counselors will bring awareness to these behaviors and will allow families to acknowledge how they helped perpetuate their loved one’s addiction.
In addition to focusing on enabling behaviors, family therapy programs will also focus on other behaviors that can provide roadblocks in recovery. These behaviors include blaming, rationalizing, minimizing the addiction and denial. These methods of coping with addiction are ineffective and also contribute to a loved one’s drug and alcohol problems. Ultimately, counselors in family programs will help the addict and their family recognize their roles in regards to the addiction of a loved one and help them build healthier coping and communication skills that will help the overall family unit.
Family Programs Help Build Resilience
For families that experience drug and alcohol addiction, they go through a rollercoaster of emotions that significantly impacts the physical and mental well-being of each family member. For each family member, they may feel as though they are powerless in dealing with a family member’s addiction and as a whole the family unit can suffer. A major goal of family counseling is for family members to give voice to what they are experiencing, and once those feelings are out in the open counselors can help families find the strength to overcome those feelings of powerlessness and find empowerment.
In family counseling, each family member can be open and honest and feel they have an important role in recovery. The family learns to support each other in their own recovery and in turn this provides motivation for the addict to find the strength to break the cycle of addiction. The family learns to detach themselves from a loved one’s addiction with love and allows them to assume responsibility for their own recovery. In turn, the family works on assuming responsibility for their own behaviors.
Family Programs Help the Addict and Their Family with Ongoing Care After Treatment
Recovery isn’t a single event that takes place during a specific period of time. Instead, the recovery process unfolds over a lifetime. The truth is there is no clear cut timetable to the addiction therapy process and the possibility of relapse is as real for family members as it is for the addict. It can take months and even years for addicts and families to regain their physical and mental health and to repair their relationships.
In order to achieve the best long-term outcomes, both addicts and their families need to constantly pursue the resources that family programs can offer after formal treatment has concluded. Aftercare and sober living options can give those new to recovery the added tools and motivation they need to move forward in their recovery with confidence–and the family can also benefit from participating in these aftercare programs.