In part one of this series, we discussed the history of family therapy, the structure of the session and what to expect with your family therapist. Now we will shift our focus to what happens in treatment between your family and the therapist.

Family therapy can be broken down into four phases: joining and assessing, restructuring, value changing and generalization. Each phase is an important part of the process, which seeks to achieve the goals directed by the family.

Phase 1: Joining and Assessing

The first phase of treatment is known as “joining and assessing.” This portion of treatment focuses on defining family strengths, abilities and needs while simultaneously identifying the unspoken rules of the family and assessing various changes or adjustments affecting the family unit. In treatment for addiction, this can be a time for remembering aspects of your family that may have been forgotten in the disarray of active addiction. Remember, addiction touches everyone in the family and not just the person who is suffering from active addiction.

Phase 2: Restructuring

The second phase of treatment focuses on restructuring. During this time, the focus will be on negotiating the tasks and interactions of the family unit. The therapist will focus on disruptive communication and interaction patterns, set direction for new ways of interacting and ask the family to practice in session and in between sessions. Updates on what is working and what is not working will be helpful information to share with your therapist as the family begins to redefine their structure. Often, the chaos surrounding addiction can shape how the family operates, which requires strength and practice to modify.

Phase 3: Value Changing

The third phase presents the value-changing phase of treatment. The focus will be directed toward defining reasons to support the behavioral and structural changes taking place in the family. The idea that “change brings change” is represented in this phase because the process of the family will begin to shift as the behaviors start to shift. This means that members of the family will have to focus on the shifts occurring, seek to find value in them and understand why they are important and necessary to achieve repair.

Phase 4: Generalization

Before treatment concludes, the final phase addresses generalization. This portion focuses on everything that took place since the beginning of treatment and asks the family to look through an analytical lens. The family therapist will facilitate this process, which includes evaluating the changes made, assessing the family’s ability to use the strategies learned and determining a time for the end of treatment. This is a time to focus on all the changes that have occurred in your family and the growth you have all achieved.

Since addiction affects the entire family, including the family in treatment will be an important step toward making progress in life. The success of treatment relies on the commitment, collaboration, goals and motivation held by each member of the family.

Family therapy has the potential to be a wonderfully healing and reparative experience for one’s family. Always remember to investigate your options for therapy, choose a therapist whose approach matches your goals and allow the process to unfold.