If you’ve ever shuffled through your family’s heirlooms and photographs, you’ve probably gotten a sense of a hidden narrative in your family history. From old photographs, well-worn jewelry, and safely-stored military medals, there are vibrations of some deeper, interconnected stories in our family narratives. Few of us are lucky enough to know the full history of our family’s lives, and how they impact our own life-stories. More often than not, we internalize our own struggles, ignoring that our lives are deeply influenced by forces in motion before we were ever born. At AToN Center, our rehab and recovery center in San Diego, we’ve seen hundreds of residents who felt that addiction was their own shortcomings, that it was a personal failing. Family therapy has been an invaluable tool to help residents understand that our own rehabilitation often involves fixing not just their addiction, but the very environment that stimulated it.
Family Therapy is the Oil-Change of Recovery
People often enter rehab after many attempts at quitting cold-turkey, sometimes at the persuasion of their family and loved ones. Few, however, think about how and why they first started using. Depression, familial stress, and lack of clear life-orientation are all-powerful forces that can make us susceptible to addiction. Previous family addictions, genetic variances, and socio-economic factors can all influence addiction. Treating addiction without addressing the family environment is like fixing a car without ever changing the oil. Years of tension, hostile relationships and other deep-rooted issues will consistently destroy any progress made by detoxing alone.
While in rehab, counseling has helped many residents discover that their own living environments were contributing to their addiction and stopping them from truly embracing recovery. A trained clinician can help families realize how their own behaviors and methods of communication can be fostering a hostile environment for recovery. From there, recovery often means establishing clear, coordinated goals between the resident and their family, and giving them the tools to communicate clearly amongst one another.
Family Therapy Can Benefit Anyone
The drug crisis in the US has been closely monitored since the mid-20th Century. In that time, a number of family-therapy models have arisen, with varying success. This can mean therapy between spouses, distant relationships, or between parents and their children.
Parents aren’t given an instructional manual for their kids. Each child is born different, with their own temperament, their own DNA, and a number of life events in their future that can’t always be perfectly accounted for. Nonetheless, research prevails that parenting is still one of the most effective influencers of a child’s behavior, even in adolescence. As such, programs that specifically consider the interactions between a parent and an adolescent are popular options for families considering rehab and recovery.
Family is the Most Important Network
Addiction Recovery is deeply influenced by the social network of the resident. Peers who are supportive of addictive behaviors can influence residents for the negative, increase relapse rates post-recovery, and make them less likely to seek treatment in the first place. Likewise, a network that holds the person accountable for their recovery and actively encourages healthy behavior can promote wellness and recovery. The goal of family therapy then is to strengthen the resident’s most immediate social circle—their immediate family. Family therapy, in conjunction with detox, can encourage a healthy chain of communication and promote a new family narrative one of long-term recovery and wellness.