Addiction is often referred to as a family disease, and it’s a disease that typically impacts every member of the family of an addict. Living with addiction is extremely stressful, and health, finances and family relations are strained. Those that have lived with an addict for any length of time often find that life has begun to feel unsafe and unpredictable.
Another problem that arises is that the behavior of family members sometimes unintentionally perpetuates active addiction. Family members may make excuses or cover up for the actions of the addict because they feel bad or because they feel guilty for contributing to the problem, unintentionally preventing the addict from having to face the consequences of his or her behavior. Social drinking may be a way of life throughout the family which may lead to a sense that substance abuse is not only tolerated but expected.
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Families of addicts might feel like they live for the day when the addict decides to get help. While there is a sense of relief once the addict makes the decision to go into addiction treatment, there may also be many other feelings, such as anger for what everyone has gone through and fear that the addict will go back to his or her old ways.
If you are part of the family of an addict, members of your family may have adopted behavior patterns that are unhealthy, and just because the addict has gotten sober doesn’t meant that everyone and everything is all right.
What is the Goal of Family Therapy?
As an addict begins to recover, family therapy may be recommended as a method of working on family dynamics. This includes helping the family to understand the disease of addiction, and also to improve the way that family members interact with each other. Family refers to anyone who has a long-term supportive relationship with the addict, so the people who participate in family therapy may not be limited to just blood relatives.
In family therapy, the goal will be to improve communication and reduce conflict. During active addiction, family members may have related to each other in unhealthy ways. Some members of the family may have inadvertently or accidentally enabled addictive behavior by allowing the addict to avoid having to deal with the consequences of his actions.
How Does Family Therapy Work?
Members of the family may feel like they shouldn’t have to go to therapy, since the addict is the one with the obvious problem, but the health of the family can have a big impact on the addict’s recovery. Family therapy doesn’t replace other forms of therapy, but it is done together with other forms of treatment, such as medication management, individual therapy and other support groups.
During family therapy, a variety of topics will be addressed. Family members will discuss their roles and ways to rebuild trust and improve communication. The family will learn more about the disease of addiction and how behavior on the part of the family members can be helpful or harmful to the recovery process.
This process is meant to reestablish or improve communication and to help guide the family in providing a safe environment for the recovering addict. Therapy can be held in different settings, such as a treatment facility, therapist’s office or an outpatient setting. The therapist will guide the group and help everyone stay focused.
Why Family Therapy is Important
A family is made up of different individuals, and a change in one of the individuals can lead to changes in all the other individuals. Addiction can impact the members of a family in many different ways. Some take on too much responsibility while others try to escape from dealing with what is going on.
Family therapy allows each member of the family to learn more and to recognize their part in the shared experiences of the family. Without help, a family can stay stuck in unhealthy behavior patterns, but with the help of family therapy, the family as a whole can start to heal.