Family therapy is a term used to refer to any type of treatment intended to help a group or family unit rather than just one person. In recovery treatment, family therapy is used to rebuild relationships, help family members to recover from damage caused by addiction, and help the family to establish new hierarchal roles and interactions rather than falling into old and often negative patterns.
While relatively new in the field of addiction treatment, family therapy is becoming more and more common as researchers and therapists recognize its importance and impact on the efficacy and duration of recovery. The goal of family therapy is often to ensure that the recovering addict has a stable family base and support to go back to, which will help them to recover, stay in recovery, and avoid negative emotions that could lead to relapse.
How Does Family Therapy Work?
Family therapy typically includes a holistic approach to family relationships and family health. In most cases, treatment facilities will provide BSFT, FBT, FFT, MST, or MDFT therapy depending on your and their goals.
BSFT – Brief Strategic Family Therapy includes 12-16 sessions of family therapy designed to help individuals investigate and improve their own negative interaction patterns to improve their relationships.
FBT – Family Behavior Therapy uses behavioral therapy with contingency management to improve positive behaviors and help train out negative patterns.
FFT – Functional Family Therapy works to approach the family as a system, using behavioral therapy techniques to help families work through trauma, issues, and negative behavioral patterns to benefit the family as a whole.
MST – MST or Multisystemic therapy approaches family behavior and patterns that possibly contributed to drug use and could contribute to relapse.
MDFT – Multidimensional Family Therapy works to correct high-risk behavior in a drug-addicted person and enabling behaviors in the family.
Family Disease Model – The Family Disease model looks at substance abuse as a disease which affects the entire family. This treatment option approaches non-dependent family members as potentially codependent or enabling – with negative behavior patterns built up around this concept.
Family System – The most common treatment method is the family system method, which approaches treatment on the basis that with one member of a family dependent on a substance, the rest of the family must organize behavior and emotions around that person. Changing responsibilities, family dynamics, and emotional output from addicted persons changes family relationships, which go on to impact every other aspect of the family system as a whole. Treating this means looking for maladaptive patterns and roles or structures, which can only be sustained by abuse, and works to correct those elements to return the family structure to a healthy and normally functioning one.
In some cases, more than one of these therapies will be provided. For example, MDFT is typically a combination of Family Disease and Family System treatment.
Goals and Benefits of Family Therapy
Family therapy is intended to achieve multiple results, but frequently:
Education – Family members who understand addiction and its effect on their loved one are better able to understand and react. Understanding what a loved one is going through also provides insight into their actions, allowing family members to make better decisions.
Improving Family Dynamics – Family therapy revolves around helping family units to work together, which can help to create a better understanding of dynamics and roles and therefore how their actions impact their loved one, help to establish boundaries, and work to ensure that everyone knows how they contribute and are valued in the family unit.
Better Communication – Good communication is the foundation of good relationships, and family therapy works with addicts and their families to help both to understand each other’s ways of communication. This enables family members to build trust and communication, which helps with every level of the relationship.
Recognizing Barriers – Family environments, stress, and relationship problems often contribute to addiction. If your child or spouse is using, you may be contributing at no fault of your own. However, if your relationship is negative or contributing to stress, it is crucial that you be able to explore how and where your relationship can be improved, which will benefit every member of the family over time.
Is Family Therapy Effective?
While many family members feel that they don’t need therapy – after all it’s not them with the problem, right – family therapy contributes in multiple ways. FT helps to educate family members about addiction and their role in the recovery, while ensuring that the family of the addicted person have the tools to care for themselves and their own mental health. It helps families to rebuild trust and build healthy and productive communication patterns. And, it helps individuals to build up to where they can get the support and help they need from their family.
Family Therapy for Parents
Persons suffering from a substance use disorder but who have children in their care need family therapy more than anyone. Here, family therapy functions to teach parenting skills, reduce the impact of emotional withdrawal on young children, and help young children to move past emotional trauma. In one study with 144 parents, 33 sessions of family therapy improved parenting skills, improved parental management, and reduced the number of deviant or harmful peers and activities for the children in question. For adolescents, other studies showed that sessions were able to identify and treat coocurring disorders to improve the total function and relationship of the family, both improving emotional communication, and greatly improving adolescent opinion of family life versus before the treatment.
How Important Is It?
While family therapy is new to the world of addiction treatment, studies are showing that it dramatically increases the addict’s chances of recovery. In one study, it was shown that families going through family therapy with their addicted loved ones were more likely to be able to support their recovering family member, helping them to avoid relapse – so that the person in recovery managed a fuller recovery.
In many cases, addiction causes trauma, distrust, anger, and negative patterns inside of a family unit. Family members, accustomed to their addicted loved one acting like an addict (manipulative, lying, mistrustful, paranoid, angry, etc.) often do not easily transition into behaving normally around a loved one. Pent up anger and frustration don’t go away on their own.
Family therapy helps families to work on trauma and mistrust together, so that everyone can rebuild and move on. By moving past dysfunctional patterns, family units can rebuild into something new. Data shows that family therapy can make addicts more willing to stay in treatment, more likely to change their habits, and more able to develop strong relationships with close family members or partners.
If you or a loved one is suffering from a substance use disorder, everyone in the family has been affected. Seeking out family therapy will help you to not only recover from the damage caused to the family by substance abuse but also to build a better future relationship, based on good communication and trust. Please call us today at (877)-447-4977 and speak with one of our experienced and professional intake advisors about different addiction treatment programs.