Four Benefits Of Family Therapy In Addiction Treatment

Manish Mishra, MBBS

Medically Reviewed By: Manish Mishra, MBBS

on December 11, 2022

Like many other diseases, addiction impacts a person’s whole family. Many families address addiction-related challenges by attending family therapy. This form of group therapy provides a variety of benefits, including increased empathy, better communication, and healthier family dynamics.

About 200,000 Ohio residents live with drug addiction (also called substance use disorder). This disease affects a person’s entire family. For example, it can disrupt routines, change family dynamics, and contribute to a wide range of conflicts. 

To address these issues, most inpatient and outpatient treatment programs for addiction provide family therapy (also called family counseling). This unique type of group therapy offers a variety of benefits that help families heal

1. Increased Empathy & Understanding

Many people have trouble understanding their relatives who struggle with drug abuse. For example, they might wonder why their loved one can’t just stop using drugs. They may even assume that the person’s inability to stop using drugs means that the person does not care about them. 

Family therapists help people realize that addiction is a disease and not a choice. This can help them feel more compassion for their loved ones. It can also be an important first step toward restoring family relationships that have been damaged by addiction. 

The therapist will also educate families on other aspects of addiction, including causes, symptoms, and treatment interventions. This information helps people become more involved in their loved one’s addiction recovery process. 

For many people, family involvement plays an important role in long-term recovery. In fact, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), it can help people become more engaged in treatment and also reduce their risk of relapse. 

2. Better Communication

Often, families affected by addiction struggle with communication. In particular, they may bottle up their feelings about their loved one’s disease. 

This strategy helps them avoid conflict in the short term. In the long run, though, it only leads to resentment, broken relationships, and, in some cases, mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.

Family therapy sessions give people an opportunity to share how their loved one’s addiction has impacted them. The therapist carefully guides these discussions and ensures that each person gets to express their feelings. 

The therapist will also explain specific ways to communicate more effectively. For instance, they may discuss how to become a better listener, how to say no to unreasonable requests, and how to give compliments. The family will also learn how to resolve conflicts in a safe, productive way.

These strategies can continue to improve the family’s functioning long after the person with addiction completes treatment.

3. Healthier Family Dynamics

Most types of family therapy follow a family systems model. That means the therapist will examine how the family functions as a system or unit. When one family member struggles with addiction or another mental illness, the whole family unit suffers. 

Other members may then adopt unhealthy behaviors to support the dysfunctional unit. 

For example, they may start making excuses for the person’s behavior or refuse to admit that they have an addiction. These behaviors are often a sign of codependency. Codependency is a relationship dynamic in which one person enables another person’s addiction. 

One of the main goals of family therapy is to fix codependent relationships and restore healthy, functional family roles. In particular, the therapist can help the family set appropriate boundaries with their recovering loved one. For instance, they may refuse to give their loved one money if they relapse. 

They may also refuse to take on their loved one’s responsibilities. In many cases, a person will try to help their addicted loved one by doing all the cleaning, cooking, childcare, and other tasks. This not only leaves them exhausted but also prevents their loved one from becoming a healthy, independent adult. 

4. Improved Family Mental Health

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), family therapy can help families identify unhealthy patterns that contribute to addiction and other mental health challenges. The therapist can help the family address these dysfunctions in a variety of ways. 

For example, they might use strategies from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which is a type of therapy that teaches people how to change unhealthy behaviors and beliefs. 

In addition, the therapist will try to help each member take care of their individual mental health. For instance, they might recommend that certain family members attend individual therapy or family support groups. 

The most popular support groups for families affected by addiction include Al-Anon, which focuses on alcohol abuse and alcohol use disorder, and Nar-Anon, which focuses on opioid abuse and other types of drug abuse.

To learn more about substance abuse treatment and family therapy, please reach out to Ohio Recovery Center. Our board-certified healthcare providers offer a variety of drug addiction treatment options to help you and your loved ones recover from the effects of substance abuse.

  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse — Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction Treatment and Recovery
  2. Substance Abuse And Mental Health Services Administration — Chapter 3—Family Counseling Approaches
  3. Substance Abuse And Mental Health Services Administration — FAMILY THERAPY CAN HELP

Written by Ohio Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Ohio Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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