Family counseling is a set of therapeutic approaches that attempt to use the family’s strengths and resources to help them live without drugs or alcohol. It also seeks to reduce the harm of addiction on both the substance abuser and his or her family.
Additional issues may also be addressed in treatment, such as parenting skills, abuse, depression, family conflict and unemployment.
Benefits of Family Counseling for Addiction
Some benefits gained by people in treatment and their families are:
Better understanding of the nature of addiction and how it affects behavior – This is accomplished through education. Just as the person has been assessed, the family has an opportunity for self-assessment and insight from a therapist.
Becoming aware of family dynamics – Maladaptive family patterns will contribute to continued substance use. Everyone in the system should be treated to obtain the most positive outcome.
Improving communication – In a system where there may have been no communication or limited emotional involvement, improved communication is essential and will require an investment by those interested in the most successful recovery outcomes.
Regaining trust – Dishonesty and substance abuse sometimes go hand in hand. Family members may not want to open their hearts (or their wallets) to help a loved one who has betrayed their trust. Improved communication, honest interaction and witnessing positive changes can help mend this breach.
Sharing feelings – During active addiction, bridges can be burned. Family members may be angry but unable to express it, they may fear relapse or they may be excited at the possibility of reconciliation. It takes time to learn how to recognize, balance and express these feelings.
Setting boundaries – This applies to everyone involved. Clarifying boundaries is not easy. But it is a necessary step toward healthy recovery for the family. This may include detaching from any family member who is in active addiction.
Learning self-care – In addiction treatment, the focus is on the person with the addiction. During family therapy, a parent or spouse may learn that they need help, too. They may be directed to try Al-Anon , Nar-Anon or other mutual help groups in addition to finding an individual therapist.