Addiction doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Addiction often has roots in the family dynamic. Poor communication and dysfunctional patterns can lead to distress and trauma and people often use drugs or alcohol to cope. People who struggle with addiction often have parents who struggle with addiction. About half of addiction is genetic, but learned behavior and family dynamics also influence whether someone develops an addiction. This is why addiction is often called a “family disease.” What’s more, your addiction often affects your family and friends as much as it affects you. Addiction often leads to erratic, irresponsible, and destructive behavior. Naturally, your family and friends want to help you, but it’s hard to know the difference between helping and enabling. Your family may have lost trust in you because of your behavior during active addiction. Even the most supportive family can only tolerate so much disappointment. These family problems typically don’t go away just because you sought treatment for addiction. Repairing these issues takes effort, and that is why family therapy is so crucial for addiction recovery. Just as a dysfunctional family dynamic is a major liability when you are trying to stay sober, a strong, supportive family dynamic is a major asset. It may be the single most important factor in staying sober. The primary goal of family therapy is to get family members talking to each other. The point is not to assign blame but to communicate and understand. Addiction is not necessarily anyone’s fault and placing blame is usually counterproductive. During the course of family therapy, the people involved will learn to communicate better so each can understand what the others are going through. It’s especially important to understand the thoughts and feelings surrounding addiction. Understanding what someone goes through while battling addiction can help families be more patient and supportive. To that end, Recovery Ways involves our patients’ families from very early in treatment. We provide opportunities for families to be involved in family therapy at every level of care to start facilitating healthier relationships. We provide patients and their families with educational videos to help them better understand what addiction does to the brain. We also provide access to an online forum where families can interact live with staff, asking questions and participating in discussions. Finally, we offer a weekly family workshop that addresses topics such as addiction’s effect on behavior and patterns of codependency in families. It’s important to realize that family therapy is therapy just like therapy for depression or anxiety. While it does entail improving communication and openness among family members, those have a direct effect on your recovery. Effective family therapy has many significant benefits. You and your family will gain greater insight into addiction and how family dynamics play a part. You will start to reestablish trust as you develop greater openness and understanding. This openness will make it easier to tell them how they can support you before problems get out of hand. Therapy is a way to reopen communication, learning constructive ways to express anger and frustration. It is a way to learn to be assertive and set boundaries without being confrontational. It’s normal for families to have disagreements, but families who know how to communicate don’t have to resort to anger and shouting. Therefore, better communication skills can relieve a lot of family stress. Families do not only learn how to better support the person recovering from addiction. They also learn how to take care of themselves. Even when treatment goes well, recovery is a long road and there are often setbacks along the way. It’s important for families to know how to address their own needs while supporting the person in recovery. This includes learning to set boundaries and manage stress. It’s often helpful to attend meetings such as Al-Anon and Nar-Anon, where they can talk to other family members supporting someone in recovery or still in active addiction.
What to expect from family therapy
“Family therapy” might make you think of a room packed with family members, some shouting over one another while others are crying or bored. Family therapy isn’t usually as dramatic as that, not least because that kind of environment makes progress difficult. Families really don’t even have to attend therapy together. It’s not uncommon to meet with family members individually and studies show this can be just as effective. Family therapy doesn’t even really need the person with the addiction to be in therapy in order to have a positive effect, but of course, if that person is already in treatment, she will likely participate. Exactly how family therapy goes depends on the specific situation. Therapists will typically start by meeting with the patient alone and then formulate a plan for involving other family members. While family members are often blood relatives, partners, or spouses, you can really involve anyone you’re close to who your addiction has affected. Everyone has a different idea of family. Typically, family therapy will involve some sessions with individual patients and family members, and some will involve small groups. Some will involve groups of family members, but not the patient. It often makes people nervous to think about their families getting together to talk about them, but it’s important to remember this process is designed to facilitate recovery. The aim is to better understand what’s going on in the family, not to gang up on you. Family therapy differs from other forms of therapy in one significant way. While regular individual therapy focuses on your specific issues such as why you get anxious, for example, and how you can change your thinking or behavior to cope with that anxiety, family therapy focuses on the family system. It’s not so much about how you cope with anxiety, but how your anxiety affects your family dynamic. Of course, addressing your anxiety in individual therapy will likely improve your family dynamic, but helping your family understand that you have an anxiety disorder that you’re trying to fix and not that you just want to avoid them makes them feel less alienated. Everyone can help each other more when they better understand what’s going on, rather than relying on faulty conjectures. This is why education about addiction is so heavily emphasized in family therapy.
If you or a loved one struggles with addiction, we can help. Recovery Ways is a leading addiction treatment provider with an excellent recovery rate. Our expert staff includes masters and PhD level therapists and board certified addiction psychiatrists. Our comfortable facilities will help to make your treatment as enjoyable as possible and our therapists use proven techniques like sensory integration and recreation therapy to help to engage the world without the assistance of drugs or alcohol. Call us today at 1-888-986-7848 or email us through our contact page to learn more.