Family Addiction Treatment
When someone is struggling with substance abuse one of the most common aspects of treatment which is overlooked is family addiction treatment. Addiction is often referred to as a family disease because when one member of a family struggles with addiction it has a profound impact on the entire family. Unfortunately, this fact is often overlooked when a family or individual is looking for help with substance abuse issues which can lead to issues for both the addict and the rest of the family both during and after treatment. This is why all of the best substance abuse treatment programs offer extensive family addiction treatment as a part of their programs.
The reason that family addiction treatment is so important is because the support of family and friends is often crucial to the continued success of an addict or an alcoholic. Family dynamics which may have been contributing to the continued abuse of drugs and alcohol must be assessed and examined by a licensed professional in order for them to suggest changes which will benefit everyone in the family. This typically requires a significant amount of participation by the rest of the family during the time that the loved one who is suffering with addiction is in treatment.
Not only is it important for family members to participate in treatment with the loved one who is struggling with substance abuse, but it is typically recommended that these family members also receive some sort of guidance or treatment on their own as well. This is because having a loved one who is abusing drugs or alcohol has a particularly unique impact on a family dynamic where many times the family members may struggle with issues like guilt or shame. These are all important reasons why family addiction treatment is designed to heal the entire family and not just the addict or alcoholic.
Why is family addiction treatment so important?
While many chronic and potentially fatal diseases incorporate family into some aspects of their associated medical treatments, this is especially crucial with forms of substance abuse for a few reasons. One of the most important reasons is the way that drug addiction and alcoholism can often present itself in the family dynamic. Unlike most other diseases, addiction and alcoholism has the insidious characteristic of convincing the individual that they do not have a problem and they do not need help.
This fact often presents itself with months or even years of progressively worsening substance abuse during which the addict or alcoholic is not able to see the truth or severity of their situation. While family members may grow concerned over an individuals continued and increasing use of a particular substance, the addict or alcoholic often times manipulates the rest of the family into believing that there are other external issues which are to blame for their problems. This distraction takes the focus away from the actual issue of substance abuse and may place it on other things like financial problems, relationship issues and other various things.
The family members of the addict or alcoholic typically play a role in this denial as well. Often times families will allow themselves to buy into these excuses because they are unable to face the reality of having a loved one who is a drug addict or alcoholic. This continued denial may start off somewhat innocent but at a certain point it can begin to create a situation where the family begins to participate in damaging behavior by enabling their addict or alcoholic, further delaying the possibility for recovery.
For these reasons, family addiction treatment which is carried out by an experienced and licensed therapist is typically strongly recommended. This treatment allows for a therapist to help the addict/alcoholic as well as the family to understand the facts and characteristics of the disease of addiction. Because addiction is as cunning and baffling as it is powerful, it can leave most people scratching their heads as to the right way to address it in their family. Often times what a family member may believe to be the right thing is actually wrong and can enable the addict or alcoholic. This is why professional guidance by a trained professional is so crucial for the long term recovery of both the patient and their entire support network.
What happens during family addiction treatment?
While family addiction treatment is typically individualized in order to address the specific situation and needs of a patient and their family, there are a few aspects which are essentially universal. The first critically important step is for the therapist to assess the needs of the patient and evaluate their relationship with their family and entire support network. This will happen during the first few meeting between the patient and the therapist and will allow them to get as much detailed information about the situation as possible. Once this has been done the therapist will then develop a family addiction treatment plan that has been catered to the specific needs of everyone involved.
As soon as the therapist has been able to get a good idea of the patient’s relationship with their family and extended support network, they will decide which family members are going to be critical for involvement in the family addiction treatment program and contact them. At this time the therapist will be able to gain some additional insight into the patient’s situation which the patient may have left out or not know. The therapist will then typically schedule meeting with these family members individually as well as in a group setting including the entire support network as well as the patient. It is typically important for these family counseling sessions to occur both with and without the patient as each have their benefits.
When the patient is not involved in the therapy sessions, the therapist is able to clearly educate the family members on the severity of their loved ones addiction and point out some of the potential roadblocks that may present themselves during their future recovery. This time is also typically when the therapist will discuss boundaries with the family members and the importance of discontinuing any enabling behavior which may hinder their sobriety once the patient completes treatment. Once the therapist has had an opportunity to speak with all of the family members, then they will typically begin to schedule group family sessions where the patient is involved as well.
During these group sessions of family addiction treatment the therapist will allow both the addict and the family members to explore how the patient’s addiction has impacted the family dynamic. These group sessions are often both powerful and illuminating to everyone involved, often times allowing everyone to see the “big picture” and understand their individual contribution to the situation. It is important to note that these group sessions are not a time for the rest of the family to attack the patient, but instead for everyone to come together to understand how they can best help them move forward successfully in their recovery.
What programs offer family counseling?
While many inpatient and outpatient treatment centers offer family addiction treatment as a part of their program, exactly what they offer can differ. Some programs provide basic family counseling which might involve one or two group meetings between the patient and the family member in order to work on any immediate issues within the patient’s support network. These more basic family addiction treatment programs are more likely to be found at shorter inpatient programs which are 30 days or less.
More extensive family programs are typically found at longer inpatient programs which are at least 90 days in length. These family addiction treatment programs usually offer multiple sessions with both family members alone as well as sessions with the family members and the patient. Because these programs are longer and are able to provide more family sessions, therapists are able to provide more in-depth counseling and treatment for everyone involved.
Often times it is recommended that family members who have loved ones who struggle with substance abuse also attend some outside support groups which are typically separate from the treatment programs that their loved ones are attending. These programs are usually made up of groups of other people who have loved ones who struggle with substance abuse. The benefit of these programs is it allows families to share their experiences with others and provide crucial support and advice for dealing with loved ones who are addicts or alcoholics. Many people find these meetings both extremely informative and comforting, which is why they are usually strongly recommended. The three most common types of these groups are:
- Al-Anon – These groups are separate from but cooperate with the Alcoholics Anonymous program. It is a mutual support program for people whose lives have been impacted by a loved one’s drinking. These groups share common experiences and apply the Al-Anon principles which can bring positive changes to their individual situations whether or not their loved one admits that they have a drinking problem or not. There is also a specific group within Al-Anon called Alateen which is designed specifically for teenagers with loved ones who have a drinking problem. More information about these programs can be found at: www.al-anon.org.
- Nar–Anon – These groups are separate from but cooperate with the Narcotics Anonymous program. These groups are primarily for those who know or have known a feeling of desperation concerning the addiction problem of a loved one. Members of these groups share common experiences and provide mutual support to one another in order to deal with the difficult situation of having a friend or family member who is struggling with addiction. More information on these programs can be found at: www.nar-anon.org
- PAL – Parents of Addicted Loved-ones is non-profit a program which was started specifically to help parents who have children who are struggling with drug or alcohol abuse. The program was founded in 2008 and has spread across the country, offering meetings in most states. More information on these programs can be found at: www.palgroup.org.
When these outside groups are used in conjunction with the family addiction treatment programs that are offered at most inpatient treatment programs, families are able to change with their addicted loved one, growing stronger as a family and offering the best possible chance for life-long recovery. If you have a loved one who is struggling with addiction, your support and effort can make an unbelievably important impact on their sobriety. Even if your loved one is not yet willing to admit they have a problem, these programs can offer valuable support and advice for you and the rest of your family to deal with the anguish that substance abuse can bring within a home.