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Family Counseling In Addiction Treatment

Family Counseling

Article Contents

Most substance abuse treatment plans involve counseling, also called therapy. This service can help you change unhealthy behaviors and cope with challenges during recovery. 

Some people think they only need individual therapy. However, because addiction affects your loved ones, you should also consider family counseling.

What Is Family Counseling?

Family counseling, or family therapy, is offered by a mental health professional, usually a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) or licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). 

The therapy sessions involve the person seeking addiction treatment and at least one family member or significant other. 

The therapist will likely help each person:

  • express their feelings
  • manage conflicts
  • repair or strengthen relationships 
  • establish trust and forgiveness
  • learn about the causes of addiction
  • restore a healthy family dynamic 
  • learn to cope with stress
  • create a safe, stable home environment
  • protect all household members, especially kids and teenagers, from harm 

The Importance Of Family Counseling

In general, family counseling has two main goals: teach families how to support their loved one’s recovery, and help families recover from addiction-related harm. 

Teaching Families How To Support Their Loved One’s Recovery

To help their loved ones recover from addiction, families must set healthy boundaries. In particular, they should avoid enabling the person’s drug use. Common examples of enabling include:

  • covering up or making excuses for your loved one’s behavior 
  • buying drugs for your loved one
  • giving money to your loved one
  • taking on your loved one’s responsibilities 

These actions come from a place of love. However, they prevent people from seeing the consequences of their actions. When someone sees these consequences, they’re far more likely to seek and stay in treatment. 

In family therapy, people can learn to avoid enabling while still showing love. The therapist will remind them that addiction is a serious disease rather than a moral failure. 

This knowledge can help the family treat their loved one with compassion and understanding. It’s much easier to recover when you feel understood. 

Helping Families Recover From Addiction-Related Harm

Family therapy focuses on the health and personal growth of each family member, not just the person facing addiction. That’s because witnessing a loved one struggle with addiction can cause anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns.

To ease these issues, the therapist may promote wellness activities like meditation, yoga, exercise, healthy eating, and journaling. When each family member cares for their well-being, they can better support their loved one’s recovery from addiction. 

Types Of Family Counseling

Different treatment programs offer different types of family therapy. The most common types include:

Family Behavior Therapy (FBT)

FBT encourages the person facing addiction to set specific recovery goals. When they reach these goals, their family members will provide rewards, such as new clothes or gift cards. 

The therapist will also teach the family to make the home environment safe and comfortable. In a safer environment, their loved one has a higher chance of meeting their recovery goals.

Structural Therapy

Structural therapy focuses on the interactions between family members. The therapist identifies unhealthy patterns of interaction and then works with the family to develop a personalized treatment plan to strengthen family dynamics and support the addicted individual’s recovery. 

Strategic Therapy

When affected by addiction, families often encounter unexpected problems. In strategic therapy, the therapist teaches the family to identify potential problems and develop thoughtful solutions for them. 

Systemic Therapy

Systemic therapy encourages the family to view addiction as a family issue rather than an individual issue. It examines how a family’s beliefs and perceptions can shape the family dynamic and contribute to unhealthy behaviors.

Narrative Therapy

In narrative therapy, the therapist helps the family realize that each family member creates individual narratives about the family’s problems and that these narratives don’t always reflect reality. The family then works on viewing the problems objectively instead. 

Transgenerational Therapy

Transgenerational therapy considers how a family has interacted and solved problems in the past. This information can help the therapist determine how the family can recover from addiction-related challenges and manage future conflicts. 

Communication Therapy

As its name suggests, communication therapy focuses on improving a family’s communication. It helps the family identify and resolve causes of communication issues, such as trauma or emotional distance. 

Psychoeducation 

Psychoeducation empowers families by educating them on addiction and other mental health disorders. Common topics include what causes addiction, how to get the right treatment, and how to cope with stigma.

Relationship Counseling

Addiction can take a serious toll on a romantic relationship. In relationship counseling, couples can learn how to address problems with mental health, finances, intimacy, trust, and other important areas. 

Family Counseling For Adolescents 

If your loved one who struggles with addiction is under 18, you have even more family therapy options. These include:

Brief Strategic Family Therapy (BSFT)

BSFT examines how family problems may contribute to substance abuse and addiction among adolescents. 

It typically consists of 12 to 16 sessions. During each session, the therapist will teach the family to interact in healthier ways and fix problems. 

Functional Family Therapy (FFT)

Like BSFT, FFT helps families strengthen communication and resolve conflicts. FFT can also improve each family member’s motivation to make changes that support the adolescent’s recovery. 

Multidimensional Family Therapy (MDFT)

MDFT helps adolescents who are recovering from addiction develop stronger relationships with their family members. It also helps them succeed in non-home settings, such as school and work. 

Multisystemic Therapy (MST)

MST aims to identify and eliminate triggers for an adolescent’s drug use. These triggers may come from the adolescent’s family, peers, school, or community.

If you or someone you love struggles with substance abuse, please contact a Recovering Champions specialist to learn about our comprehensive treatment options. 

Written by Recovering Champions Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.

National Center for Biotechnology Information - Chapter 1 Substance Abuse Treatment and Family Therapy
National Institute on Drug Abuse - Family-Based Approaches
National Institute on Drug Abuse - Family Behavior Therapy

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