What is Family Therapy?
During treatment for addiction, family members and loved ones may be asked to attend a family therapy session or several sessions with the individual who abused drugs or alcohol. During family therapy, you and other members of the family can discuss the relationships that have changed as a result of the substance abuse.
Ultimately, family therapy refers to the treatment that involves an entire family or certain family members when a loved one is in a treatment program. Since addiction can be complicated, having the support and encouragement of loves one can help improve the results of the treatment.
The topics that may arise during treatment can include:
Since substance abuse and addiction can relate to a variety of different problems and situations, the family therapy may reflect the problems that are causing the addiction. For example, if a trauma has contributed to the addiction, then family members may be informed during a treatment session about the traumatic experience so that they are able to understand the reasons that a loved one started using drugs or alcohol.
It is important to realize that addiction treatment can take many forms. Even family therapy can vary based on the dynamics of the family unit and the problems that are associated with the substance abuse. When a family has faced many challenges in association with the addiction, the therapy may focus on forgiving the individual or learning new strategies to support a loved one without giving up personal needs and goals.
Learning Appropriate Support
The National Institutes on Health explain that the family unit plays an important supportive role when a loved one is abusing drugs or alcohol. Since friends and family can mistakenly enable a loved one while trying to offer support, family therapy may provide more than just assistance to help with the family unit and gaining forgiveness.
Learning an appropriate way to support a loved one can help prevent further problems in the future. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services explains that one of the primary goals of family therapy is to use the strengths of the family unit to properly support and encourage a loved one during his or her recovery.
It is not possible to support a loved one while giving him or her the tools to keep abusing the substance. As a family unit, it is important to learn proper coping strategies for the potential problems and temptations that may arise after the treatment program is completed. Furthermore, family members must learn the difference between supporting a loved one and enabling the addiction to continue.
During treatment, the information that familymembers can expect to learn may include:
Addiction recovery is a challenge that a loved one may find difficult. That is why it is important to learn proper coping strategies when a loved one relapses on the substance or returns to old habits. Furthermore, it is important for a family to understand how their behavior may contribute to the addiction so that it is possible to make changes.
During family therapy, the members of the family will learn about the challenges that may arise and will be prepared to face those problems with a loved one. Support plays a key role in recovery, especially when it is support from the loved ones who are closest to the individual who is trying to recover.
Learning to Forgive
Although it is important to remember the challenges that are associated with substance abuse, it is also important to learn how to forgive a loved one who is trying to recover. Family therapy can help every individual who is involved with the person abusing drugs or alcohol so that they are able to move forward and forgive.
The act of forgiving is not always easy. In some cases, it can take time and effort to actively make the decision to stop holding on to anger, sadness or other negative emotions that may be attached to the behaviors of a loved one while he or she was abusing drugs or alcohol.
Oprah.com recommends that individuals focus on things that they are grateful for when they are trying to forgive. By focusing on gratitude, it is easier to remember the good times before the substance abuse began.
For example, give thanks for a loved one’s efforts to give up drugs or alcohol. Realize that it is not an easy task and that the decision to start treatment can be the first major challenge.
Realize that a loved one may be tempted to abuse the substance in the future, but feeling grateful for his or her decision to work toward recovery can help with forgiveness. It also improves the supportive environment so that it is possible to help with the challenges that will arise in the future.
Forgiveness Is A Personal Healing
Addiction Treatment Magazine states that you should think of forgiveness as an action that you are doing for yourself. Holding onto anger or a grudge is not only making it hard to interact with a loved one, but it is causing stress and problems in your own life.
Stop thinking of forgiveness as an action that you are doing for the other party. Focus on the ways that it will benefit you and your personal relationships with other family members.
Learning From One Another
According to Addiction Treatment Magazine, it can also help with the process of forgiveness if you are willing to take a moment to think from the perspective of the other party. Depending on the reasons that a loved one started abusing drugs or alcohol, thinking from their perspective can be challenging.
For example, a war veteran may have experienced terrible events and situations. As a result, substance abuse may be an attempt to forget the trauma or to run from the experiences. By realizing that the individual may be facing more complicated problems, it is easier to give up the anger and focus on his or her current needs.
Forgiveness is not always easy. It can be very hard to let go of negative emotions, especially when a loved one has been behaving in a manner that is dangerous for the entire family. Despite the difficulties, it is an important part of moving forward and making decisions for the future.
Learning Ways to Handle a Relapse
It is possible that a loved one may relapse in the future. Even after years of recovery, an unexpected event can trigger cravings for the substance and result in a relapse. As a family member, it is important to learn different ways to handle a relapse or encourage a loved one to stop the substance for a second or third time.
During family therapy, the members of the family may be given coping strategies and recommendations regarding their own behavior if a relapse occurs. Family therapy can provide educational information about the impact of drugs or alcohol on the brain and body of the individual, which helps with understanding the problem.
Addiction is a complicated problem. Help Guide explains that it can alter the way the brain functions and appears. In some cases, the changes to the brain are permanent, so there may always be a risk of relapsing on the substance.
How Stuff Works explains that family members must understand that addiction is a disease. It will not simply go away after treatment. A family member will need to recover for a lifetime and will often face temptations that are associated with certain smells, locations or situations.
Coping strategies that may help after a relapse has occurred include:
Generally, the coping strategies that are most appropriate will depend on the specific situation. In some cases, it may be possible to encourage a loved one to seek treatment and start working toward recovery by making a recommendation. In other situations, it may be necessary to take more extreme measures.
Gaining Support Daily
Everyday Health explains that the best way to support and encourage a loved one to recover is to actually focus on your personal well-being. In some cases, that may mean that you will need to focus on your personal hobbies or interests. When the situation is dangerous, it may mean that you will need to put your safety before that of your loved one and you may need to leave the house.
Regardless of the situation, you can always encourage a loved one to seek treatment. Everyday Health recommends that you direct a loved one to his or her original treatment plan and then allow him or her to make the final decision. Avoid pushing treatment or recovery if a loved one does not seem interested.
By taking measures to cope with the changes that arise when a loved one relapses, it is easier to focus on the situation and avoid further complications. Supporting a loved one does not mean you need to put yourself or any dependents in the house in danger. You should always consider the situation carefully before making any decisions regarding the appropriate actions.
Family therapy is not only focusing on the needs and goals of a loved one who is seeking treatment. It is also considering the damages to the family relationships and the possible problems that may arise as a direct result of the changing situation.
During a therapy session, family members may be given the support and encouragement that they need to start regaining confidence and self-esteem that can be damaged from the substance abuse.
Help Guide explains that family members are also impacted by the abuse of a substance, even if they are not taking the drug or drinking the alcohol personally. It is not enough to try offering quiet support or the recommend treatment. According to Help Guide, it is important for family members to speak up about their problems, frustrations and the way that the substance abuse is impacting their personal lives.
Family Structure Helps Build
That is why family therapy is important. Generally, it focuses on the changing dynamic within the family. You and other members of the family can find it hard to trust a loved one who has abused drugs or alcohol. It may take time to start rebuilding that trust and there may always be changes to the way that you view the individual.
Family therapy works on identifying the problems and the changes so that it is possible to repair some of the problems and start working on a realistic solution. Furthermore, the treatment can identify individuals who may need additional support for their own concerns and problems.
The reasons that you may want to consider obtaining additional support for your own needs when a loved one is getting treatment for addiction include:
Family members often need as much support and encouragement as the individual who is in treatment, especially for close relationships like a spouse, sibling or parent. Family therapy can determine when additional group therapy or supportive programs may be appropriate for a family member who is finding it difficult to forgive or trust.
Moving Forward After Addiction
Although family therapy can focus on the needs of the individual who has abused a substance and the dynamic of the family unit, it can also provide assistance to every individual who is involved in the situation. Furthermore, it may be appropriate to continue the therapy after the initial treatment is completed so that the family is able to start moving forward.
Recovery is a long process. It does not stop with the completion of an initial treatment program. As a result, it is necessary to take measures to prevent a relapse from occurring and to ensure that every individual who is involved is prepared for any eventuality.
Getting The Family Involved
The National Institutes of Health explain that providing therapy and treatment to the entire family unit can improve the effectiveness of a treatment program. The reason is that the entire family is working out the problems that are contributing to the addiction. Furthermore, it is helping rebuild trust and bonds that have been damaged as a result of substance abuse.
By continuing to work on the problems that are impacting the entire family, it is easier to avoid a relapse and to ensure that the family can move forward together. It also helps the family members identify when a relapse has occurred so that it is possible to start treating the problem before it develops and gets worse.
Moving Forward As A Family
Along with the positive benefits on the individual who has abused drugs, the therapy can have a lasting impression on all of the family members who were involved in the treatment program and who continued to offer support.
It teaches the appropriate behaviors to cope with problems that may arise and the actions that are not appropriate when a loved one starts to abuse drugs or alcohol in the future.
It also helps loved ones admit their own role in the situation so that they are able to make positive changes in their own behavior and lifestyle. It is only possible to determine the appropriate way to move forward after identifying a personal role in the situation and the problem.