When someone starts treatment for their substance abuse, it is a time for celebration. It is the beginning of the road to recovery that will have many hills and valleys. Yet, no matter how hard it may become, it indicates a positive trajectory for someone living with addiction.
It is also natural for there to be lingering feelings of pain, frustration, and doubt for the family of the individual seeking treatment. There may be many arguments that have been left unresolved and many sleepless nights that have gone unaddressed. In order for the family to best support the individual in treatment, those wounds need to be acknowledged and given the proper resources to heal.
Furthermore, in order for the family to return to a state of proper functioning, professional help should be directed not only at the individual but at the family as well. Even if only one person in the family is drinking or using drugs, intervention strategies can be helpful for all involved.
What Are Family Programs?
While each family enters treatment with different goals depending on their unique circumstances, according to a publication by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), family programs seek to help in two key areas: helping the family to better support the individual in recovery and helping the family to return to a healthier and happier “normal.”
Family therapy aims to help a family overcome feelings of despair, guilt, and anger and instead reinforce hope, peace, and forgiveness for the sake of everyone involved. A person cannot thrive in recovery if their loved ones are unsupportive, begrudging, or hostile. The family cannot recover if their concerns and experiences are continually swept under the rug. Family programs are designed to make sure no one feels neglected or cast aside.
How Professionals Can Help
Addiction can erode the stability and trust within a family. Family programs help families to identify the dynamics and patterns that have contributed to that erosion while giving them the tools to build a new foundation. Some members of the family may have developed adaptive behaviors that enable the substance use of their loved one or that perpetuate secrecy and frustration.
Therapists can work with individuals within the family unit to replace those tendencies with more positive behaviors to help the family function better as a whole. Improving and strengthening communication can also be a focus of family programs.
These programs are facilitated by licensed clinicians specially trained to recognize family dynamics and intervene at points of tension and dysfunction. A clinician will most likely use a tool such as a genogram to get to know the family and pinpoint areas to focus on in their work together.
A genogram is similar to a family tree, but it goes further than just denoting who is related to whom and how. It can tell a clinician which relationships are strong and which are more tenuous. It can also be used to track genetic patterns of substance abuse disorder and other mental health conditions.
Important Aspects of Family Programs
Family programs often augment individual therapy, and this combination has been shown to improve outcomes when compared to individual approaches on their own.
Comprehensive family case management can help everyone make progress from the beginning of treatment until recovery can be sustained independently. During this process, a clinician can help the family do the following:
- limit codependent and enabling behaviors
- set reasonable and healthy boundaries
- identify and avoid triggers
- strengthen communication
- prevent and cope with relapses
- commit to the long-term process of treatment and recovery
Each new aspect individuals learn about their family dynamic can be used to better understand why dysfunction happens and how to not only recover from it but also prevent it from happening in the future. As the identified loved one heals from their substance abuse and learns how to return to living a productive and meaningful life, the family members can also learn coping strategies to better maintain their own wellbeing and support their loved one on the path to sobriety.
Toxic patterns can be acknowledged and unlearned, even if they have been reinforced over years or even generations.
Change Is Possible
Change is possible, and sometimes it takes an unbiased mental health professional to identify areas of dysfunction and educate about alternative courses of action. This can sometimes be an uncomfortable process, as feelings of resentment and shame may come to the forefront. No one wants to hear that they have enabled a loved one’s substance use or that their drinking has harmed the people they care about. This discomfort, however, is a necessary step toward newfound stability and growth.
When addiction enters a family, it can be hard to shake. It impacts each interaction and puts a strain on even the strongest relationships. Your loved ones might feel distant or even unrecognizable at times. It doesn’t have to be this way. If this description reminds you of your family, there is help available. A family program might be able to help you and your loved ones identify problematic patterns and reinforce healthier coping strategies. This is our specialty at Family-Centered Services, where we treat addiction as a family disease rather than as a personal failing. We will get to know each member of your family and develop a personalized treatment approach based on your specific needs. Our licensed clinicians will guide you throughout the entire process with intervention preparation and education, individual and family therapy, and comprehensive case management. Start the healing journey by contacting us at (509) 991-5822.