Family relationships play a significant role in a person’s life and are often severely impacted by the presence of an addiction. Addiction affects more than just the person who struggles with it. It is often described as a family disease because it takes a toll on family dynamics, negatively impacting the mental and emotional health of loved ones. Over time, addiction can damage relationships, create conflict, and affect the dynamics of the household. These factors combined often lead to enabling behaviors and dysfunctional relationships that allow addiction to thrive. Even the most well-meaning families may inadvertently enable addiction to continue due to its impact on family dynamics. A person in treatment for addiction will be undergoing individual therapy to address their needs in recovery, but in most cases, it is beneficial to include family therapy as part of the treatment plan in order to address the underlying issues that cause addiction to thrive.
Family involvement is a critical component of recovery. Family members are often significantly impacted by a loved one’s addiction. Relationships are damaged, trust is broken, and there may be feelings of guilt, resentment, and anger that further strain interactions. As much as addiction treatment focuses on helping a person overcome their dependencies, it is also vital that the family heals as well. Every family is different, and their needs will vary, but it is crucial to address this aspect of a person’s life in recovery. Helping family members come to terms with the impact of addiction, what their own needs are, and how they can support their loved one’s recovery can improve outcomes and enable healing.
Why is Family Therapy Important?
Substance abuse affects family dynamics and enables dysfunctional behaviors that may not be supportive. While a person can receive treatment for addiction regardless of family involvement, returning to an environment in which their recovery is not support adequately can lead to negative outcomes. Family therapy is designed to begin repairing relationships damaged by substance abuse and educate family members about their loved one’s needs in recovery. It is a way to not only help family members heal from the toll substance abuse has taken on their own lives, but also a method of changing family dynamics and rebuilding trust.
Family therapy can begin before a person even enters addiction treatment. Regardless of what an individual chooses to do, family members can use therapy as a way to develop healthy coping mechanisms and provide support in a way that does not reinforce enabling behaviors.
Prior to Addiction Treatment
Your loved one does not need to be in addiction treatment to begin the healing process. In many cases, family members may choose to meet with an intervention specialist or counselor for guidance about their specific experiences. A counselor or specialist can go over the specifics of the situation with family members to determine the best way to approach their loved one. Regardless of the outcome of the situation, opening communication is the first step in healing and can be an opportunity for family members to seek therapy and support for themselves.
As a loved one goes through treatment, family members can be involved in the process. Family involvement in recovery can help loved ones identify the negative behaviors and patterns that enable substance abuse. It is an opportunity to better understand the nature of addiction, how it impacts their loved one, and how they can mend their own relationships. Healing from the damage addiction causes can take time, but with the assistance of family therapy, unaddressed issues can be discussed in a productive way.
After Treatment in Recovery
Sobriety requires a commitment to maintain. Most people who have overcome addiction stay engaged in varying levels of aftercare services to strengthen their recovery and minimize the risk of relapse. Family members can continue to benefit from engaging in therapy following the completion of treatment to ensure they do not lose sight of their own needs. This also can help reduce the likelihood of old habits and behaviors resurfacing that could lead to enabling behaviors or codependency.
There is no true end to addiction recovery as there may always be aspects of relationships that must be revisited and addressed to support continued sobriety. Addiction is a “family disease” and it will inevitably affect family members to varying degrees. Although there may be efforts made to repair relationships damaged by substance abuse, the reality is that not all relationships can recover. In some cases, a lack of support or misunderstandings surrounding addiction can be detrimental to a person’s recovery and may result in ties being cut. As difficult as this may be, it may be necessary in order to protect one’s sobriety.
Family therapy gives loved ones the opportunity to address issues addiction has caused and methods of coping in a healthy way. By better understanding the nature of addiction, families are equipped with the knowledge to set healthy boundaries, share their feelings, improve communication, and learn methods of self-care. While there are a number of different approaches to family therapy, the ultimate goal is the improve communication between family members and create an environment that supports everyone equally.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, we are here to help. Give us a call at 310.403.1032 or send us a message below and one of our admissions counselors will do their best to get you the help you need.