Family Therapy Addiction Treatment

Addiction is often referred to as a family illness because it has a deep and lasting impact on the entire family unit. It is for this reason that family therapy is usually included in a recovery programme. As well as helping all members of the family to deal with the issues relating to the affected individual’s illness, it may also uncover family issues that might have contributed to the illness in the first place. Read on to find out more about family therapy and what you can expect if it forms a part of your treatment programme.

What Is Family Therapy?

The negative consequences associated with addiction and mental health disorders are never reserved solely for the person with the illness. If you are struggling with a mental health disorder, addiction, or behaviour disorder, you may already know that it is also having an impact on those around you. It is important therefore that your loved ones can also access help to ensure they too overcome the illness with you.

Within the family unit, everyone will have their own way of dealing with the issues associated with your illness. While some will try to deal with these issues head-on, others will prefer to bury their head in the sand and pretend that nothing is wrong. This only serves to allow the maladaptive behaviour to continue.

Keeping emotions and feelings under wraps can cause significant problems in the future and without help, many family members might go on to struggle with their own similar issues. It is not uncommon for children, in particular, to suffer from addiction themselves in later life.

Family therapy looks to deal with family issues so that everyone can express their views and thoughts. The idea is that bringing family members together to discuss the impact of the illness will help them to understand each other’s feelings and thoughts and to appreciate their needs. It can also be used to help everyone learn to identify, and then change, negative behaviours that have either caused the illness or have resulted because of it.

How Does Family Therapy Work?

The aim of family therapy, therefore, is to help all family members to be considerate of the needs of each other and to recognise each other’s strengths. A key goal is to improve communication between family members so that every person will feel comfortable expressing his or her opinion and feelings.

Family therapy usually involves either one-to-one counselling sessions between a counsellor and individual family members or group therapy sessions with several family members present and led by one or more counsellors or therapists.

While some families are not functioning healthily, and their dysfunction can be the root of the addiction or mental health problems, others suffer because of such an illness. Family therapy tries to heal the family unit and help members to develop and maintain the skills necessary to function positively.

Most family therapy sessions last for around an hour and the duration of the programme itself tends to be quite short. If you are in a residential programme to treat an illness such as addiction or a behavioural disorder; it might be the case that family therapy sessions will take place during your treatment programme. So over the course of a number of weeks, your family members will be invited to attend the clinic to take part in therapy sessions either with or without you being present. The number of sessions that your family takes part in will depend on circumstances and how everyone is responding.

Family therapy works by dealing with the relationship issues within the family unit. By bringing all family members together, substance abuse issues and mental health problems can be addressed. Negative thought processes can be identified and challenged, and positive behaviours can be developed and reinforced.

Family therapy looks to bring the family together and to encourage honest among all members. This can help with rebuilding trust and the development of a supportive family environment.

Resentment and anger are common among family members where addiction is a problem, but in family therapy, members will be encouraged and helped to forgive each other so that they can all move on with their lives.

Understanding Family Therapy

For family therapy to work, a good therapist is essential to the process. Without a person who has been fully trained in family therapy, some problems can be exacerbated. In addition, it is necessary that family therapy continues for as long as is required to prevent problems from reoccurring.

If you and your family members want to overcome the issues that have led you to this point, it is important for everyone to participate. Even those who are reluctant in the beginning usually find the process extremely therapeutic and beneficial.

Family therapy, and how it is run, will depend on your personal situation. For example, when one member of the family is suffering from an illness, such as addiction or a behavioural disorder, the goal will be to help other family members understand more about the illness and the reason why their loved one is acting in the way that he or she does.

Family therapy is designed for anyone who plays a supportive role in the life of the addicted individual. So it will not always mean blood relatives, nor does it only apply to those who live in the same house as you. You may have strong relationships with close friends or extended family members, so it would be beneficial for these people to take part in family therapy as well to help repair any damage that has been caused by your illness.

What Abuse/Addictions is Family Therapy Used to Treat

  • Drug Addiction
  • Alcohol Addiction
  • Gambling Addiction
  • Internet Addiction
  • Sex and Love Addiction
  • Gaming Addiction
  • Shopping Addiction
  • Food Addiction

How Does Family Therapy Help in Addiction Recovery?

Family therapy is a powerful tool used in addiction recovery. Family circumstances can often lead to substance abuse and addiction developing as well as various behavioural disorders and mental health problems setting in.

We know that underlying issues within the family unit can often contribute to internal conflict and negative thought processes. Moreover, because negative thoughts can result in negative actions, it is important that family issues are effectively dealt with as part of a comprehensive recovery programme. Failure to address any family issues that may have led you to this point in your life can mean that you end up right back where you started at a later date.

Beyond that, family therapy is also used to help family members deal with the issues they are facing because of the addiction. Your illness has undoubtedly had a negative impact on family members; there is no way to avoid it when a loved one has an addiction.

Some close family members might have developed what is known as co-dependency, where they have changed their own behaviour in response to yours. They may also be sacrificing their happiness as their entire world starts to revolve around you and your addiction. It is necessary that they learn how to separate themselves from you, for your good and theirs.

Children can be particularly affected by parental addiction, and without adequate family therapy, many will go on to suffer deep emotional scars in the future. The children of addicts often suffer from addiction issues themselves and may develop mental health problems. Some will find it hard to develop healthy relationships with others, which can affect their prospects in the future.

With family therapy, every member of the family will have a chance to deal with the issues that are directly affecting them, giving them a chance to recover and for relationships to be repaired.

Family Therapy Techniques

When it comes to family therapy, there are many different techniques that are used. Your own family circumstances and the issues affecting it will dictate the types of techniques that are utilised in your case. Below are a few examples though:

  • Structural Therapy – aims to help with the re-organisation of the family unit. Your therapist will identify the role of each person within the family unit and by analysing the dynamics of the family, if necessary, he or she can work on distributing the amount of power that each member has. Every member of the family should be empowered so that the needs of everyone are addressed. This will help to establish trust and respect between all family members.
  • Systemic Therapy – also known as Milan therapy, is designed to focus on the beliefs of each family member. With this type of therapy, the meaning behind family members’ behaviour is analysed, the idea being that many of the communications and interactions that occur between family members happen at an unconscious level. Family practices and beliefs that cause conflict are challenged and work begins on the development of positive alternatives.
  • Strategic Therapy – probably the most direct form of family therapy and is ideally suited to those who want to see results quickly. The aim is to help family members become more aware and mindful of the patterns of behaviour within the family unit that cause conflict. Every member of the family is encouraged to work on their own behaviours in order to reduce conflict with others. Homework is given to help change the way that family members interact with each other, and particularly the person with the illness.

How Family Therapy Differs from Other Psychotherapies?

The difference between family therapy and other psychotherapies is the fact that family therapy attempts to heal the dynamics of the family in order to address any underlying issues that may have contributed to the illness.

Family therapy is designed to help on a number of levels. It works by helping family members to develop and maintain healthy boundaries as well as promoting unity and communication among everyone. By encouraging all family members to gain an understanding of the needs of each other, the entire family unit can recover from the illness. In doing this, conflict is resolved and relationships can be mended.

Families that take part in therapy sessions will learn more about how their family works and will gain an understanding of their own needs and the requirements of other members. With an improved family dynamic, stress levels will be reduced, which will help to prevent a recurrence of the illness.

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Co-Occurring Mental Disorders Family Therapy Treats Include:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Psychosis
  • Depression
  • Social Anxiety
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Panic Disorder
  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder
  • Eating Disorders
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Unresolved Trauma

Other Supplemental Therapies

  • Psychodynamic Therapy
  • Art Therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
  • Music Therapy
  • Fitness Therapy
  • Massage
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Sports and Nutrition
  • Dialectical Behaviour Therapy
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Motivational Interviewing
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