Dealing with addiction isn’t easy—the ripple effect of its impact can tear apart the very fabric of a family. But you can take solace in knowing that help is out there. One avenue many families turn to is family therapy.
Family therapy is an evidence-based form of psychotherapy that helps individuals and families better understand their patterns of behavior and develop healthier ways to communicate. It can be particularly effective when dealing with addiction and mental health issues. Family therapy can help increase accountability and build support among family members.
What Is Family Therapy, and How Can It Help With Addiction?
If you’re struggling with an addiction or have a loved one who is, you may want to consider family therapy. This form of therapy engages the whole family in addressing addiction. It helps to restore and build trust between members and improves overall family dynamics.
Family therapy can help your entire family heal together by creating safe and open dialog channels to become aware of underlying issues that contribute to addiction. In a supportive environment, each family member is given the opportunity to learn more about themselves and their role within the family while mutually working to understand the impacts of addiction on everyone involved.
Family therapy can also provide an understanding of the unique challenges that come with dealing with an addicted individual. This includes how codependency and enabling behaviors play out in unhealthy patterns. Through these sessions, families can grow together in how they approach addiction, from learning healthier communication skills to identifying destructive behaviors that need to be replaced by healthy ones.
What other Issues Can Family Therapy Help with?
Family therapy can help with a variety of issues that affect families, couples, and individuals. Besides addiction, some common issues that can be addressed through family therapy include communication difficulties, conflicts between family members, parenting challenges, behavioral problems in children, mental health issues, and life transitions.
Here are some additional examples of problems that can be addressed through family therapy:
- Marital and relationship problems
- Divorce and separation
- Blended family issues
- Grief and loss
- Eating disorders
- Chronic illness
- Sexual dysfunction
- Domestic violence
Family therapy can be particularly helpful for families that are struggling with complex, systemic problems that cannot be resolved by working with individual family members alone. By involving everyone in the therapy process, family therapists can help families identify and address underlying patterns and dynamics that contribute to ongoing problems.
Preparing for Family Therapy: What to Expect
When you make the decision to start family therapy, your therapist will likely discuss the process with you so that everyone can be prepared. From the onset, your therapist should be up-front about the issues they’ll cover and the type of treatment they specialize in.
AToN’s intensive family therapy in San Diego offers a supportive, therapeutic environment for individual families to come together and begin the healing process as an entire system. Family therapy sessions are typically 90 minutes in length and are facilitated by one of our Clinical Psychologists. These sessions are offered multiple times while clients’ are residing at AToN’s luxury drug rehab.
Before starting your first session, everyone in the family should understand:
- What is family therapy, and how can it help?
- Their role in the treatment
- What to expect during sessions
- How long should therapy last?
- Any techniques used by the therapist
- Common goals or outcomes of therapy
- Healthy ways to respond to emotions during sessions
- The roles of each family member in recovery
Family therapy usually happens over multiple sessions. Depending on your needs and goals, it could take a few months, a year, or more. At AToN Center, residents learn about family dynamics and their roles in the family system. They create and present genograms to their peers and discuss how substance misuse has impacted themselves and their families. Many residents have reported this to be an especially helpful exercise during treatment. Residents carefully prepare for Family Sessions, which occur in the second half of treatment. Family members receive the AToN Family Packet to assist in preparing for the session as well.
How Does Family Therapy Work?
So, how does family therapy actually work? Well, the process may vary depending on the type you choose, but generally speaking, the goal is for family members to learn skills that will help them interact better together and work through difficult situations. This usually involves learning ways of communicating that are non-judgmental and supportive, as well as developing problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills.
Family therapy typically begins with an individual or family assessment. During this stage, your therapist will understand the family dynamics and all of the struggles you’re dealing with. Then they can move on to creating goals and designing a specific plan tailored to address each person’s needs.
The length of time it takes for family therapy to work will depend on many different factors, such as how many people are involved, how committed the family is to making changes, the severity of any issues present, and things like whether any underlying mental health conditions need to be addressed. Generally speaking, though, many families experience positive effects within 8–12 sessions.
Types of Family Therapy Approaches for Addiction
Family therapy for addiction is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Family therapy for addiction offers various approaches tailored to the specific needs of each family. Some common types include marriage counseling, functional family therapy, strategic family therapy, systemic family therapy, and structural therapy.
- Marriage counseling focuses on improving relationships and addresses issues such as communication, infidelity, sexual challenges, and marital transitions.
- Functional family therapy addresses communication and behavioral problems and is very useful for adolescents.
- Strategic family therapy targets conflict and communication issues and focuses on unhelpful behavior within the family.
- Systemic family therapy considers the interconnectedness of family members and rather than targeting individual problems, it focuses on issues that affect the family system.
- Structural therapy aims to change power dynamics and support members who are making a lasting change, such as becoming sober, by identifying the strengths and weaknesses in the family structure.
Each approach offers unique benefits and is chosen based on the family’s circumstances, including the extent and severity of your loved one’s addiction and any other existing mental health issues.
The Benefits of Family Therapy for Addiction Recovery
Those in recovery who are actively engaging in the treatment process will be able to make amends and maintain the love of their family with time and continued commitment. For the family members who have endured the active addiction, it’s important to be heard and supported. In order to heal, forgive and rebuild trust, both parties will need therapy, support and education. Our philosophy at AToN Center is that those closest to our residents play an important role in their treatment process. We understand that in order to truly benefit our residents, we need to offer assistance to the family and residents together.
Here are some ways family therapy can be beneficial when it comes to treating addiction:
- Increased Understanding. As your family therapist helps every member recognize their individual and collective roles in your situation, they will be better able to understand addiction as well as any enabling that has occurred.
- Improved Communication. Family therapy encourages family members to communicate more effectively with each other. It teaches them how to express thoughts, feelings, and needs without fear or judgment.
- Enhanced Coping Skills. Family therapy can also teach all members healthy coping strategies for managing stressors both inside and outside of the home. Developing positive ways to cope with triggers or learning how to set healthy boundaries with others
- Reduced Conflict. As everyone learns how to identify potential sources of conflict, resolve disagreements constructively, and practice empathy towards one another, you’ll find that arguments are dramatically reduced.
- Healthy Habits. Working with a professional therapist is also beneficial. It provides an opportunity for families to learn healthier habits and routines that those in recovery can use to stay preoccupied during times of temptation or relapse risk.
Finding an Addiction Family Therapist: What to Look For
When searching for an addiction family therapist, it’s important to find a qualified professional. Look for a therapist certified by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, indicating completion of an accredited graduate program. Consider therapists with additional credentials, such as continuing education and clinical experience. Other factors to consider include:
- Years of experience
- Availability for regular sessions
- Cost and insurance coverage
- Specialization in addiction recovery or related issues
Our family therapy sessions at the AToN Center in Encinitas, California are lead by clinical psychologists. Our psychologists have many years of experience in helping families address and overcome issues relating to addiction. We also encourage all residents to participate in at least one family therapy session.
AToN Center offers Family Therapy to assist with Addiction Treatment
The AToN Center recognizes that addiction is a family disease that affects the entire family system. We believe that each member of the client’s family deserves the opportunity to engage in therapy in order to overcome the wounds attached to drug and alcohol use.
We understand that every family is unique and that it can be difficult to involve the entire family in recovery. Our experienced therapists in Encinas, California, will work together with the whole family unit! We will take into consideration each individual’s needs and roles and bring everyone together in an open and non-judgmental environment.
AToN Center uses evidence-based approaches that help families affected by addiction and mental health issues overcome challenges and develop healthier coping strategies. We believe that each individual can learn how to better support their loved one’s recovery journey moving forward. Get in touch with us today!