In 2017, 19.7 million Americans age 12 and older battled some type of substance addiction. 

Although addiction is a disorder that plagues individuals, it also affects many American families. 

When a family member is finally ready to seek treatment, the involvement of the entire family is essential in this process. Family addiction counseling can help families start the healing process. 

Read on to learn the importance of family in the addiction recovery process.

What is Family Counseling?

Before you understand the role of the family in addiction counseling, you should learn what family therapy involves. It’s also important to define what constitutes a family.

While some people think of family, they associate those related by blood. Other people simply think of close friends as family. 

Family therapy refers to sessions that involve the person in recovery and family members and close friends. Other times, the family participates in a session without the person in recovery. 

No matter how a counselor carries out the sessions, the goal is to help the person in recovery. 

Therapy Can Educate the Whole Family

Although people might think they know and understand addiction, going to therapy can open their eyes to how to handle the recovery process. Many people in the family might not understand all of the implications of substance abuse their loved one might be facing. 

Most of the time, the entire family has the best intentions to help the person suffering from addiction. However, it doesn’t mean they handle the situation in a way that benefits the person. 

Family counseling sessions can help families learn ways to approach their loved ones who are struggling with addiction. If previous efforts have failed in the past, going through therapy can show the whole family how to support a person going through treatment. 

Counseling can teach all individuals how to handle tough situations and what to do if they suspect a relapse. In family therapy, it’s believed the more educated a family is about addiction, the more it will benefit the individual.

Addiction Involved the Whole Family

Although it seems like addiction only affects the individual, in reality, affects the whole family. The person might be going through all of the effects of addiction, but each member of the family become spectators. 

The family has to worry about the well-being of the individual and in the process they over-extend themselves. Families often live in fear and forget to take care of themselves in the process.

Depending on how severe the addiction is, members of the family might fear to get a phone call from the police. They also fear for the person’s life worrying about accidental drug overdoses. 

If the person suffering from addiction has financial troubles, the financial burden will also fall on the family. 

With the emotional roller coaster of addiction, the family often has trouble going forward. 

The Family Needs Treatment Too

As we mentioned earlier when a member of the family suffers from addiction, the whole family suffers from addiction. Once the individual decides to get help, the rest of the family also needs treatment. 

Attending therapy as a family also shows the person recovering from addiction that they’re doing everything in their power to help them out. 

The wounds of addiction take time to heal. Going to therapy as a family will help everyone heal their wounds and give them tools to help the individual going forward. 

For example, if a member of the family took the role of the enabler, therapy might help them address the behavior. Therapy can also give them ways to cope with stress and anxiety associated with the consequences of the individual.

Since therapy provides a safe space, it gives them an opportunity to talk about any bottled up feelings. 

Family Involvement is Essential 

Although maybe only one person suffers from addiction, there may be other problems within the family that lie beneath the surface. 

When in therapy, all of those concerns will get addressed. With the help of a counselor, many of the unhealthy behaviors should surface and addressed.

Helps Strengthens and Rebuilds Relationships

After many months or years of going through addiction with a loved one, family bonds and relationships will most likely be estranged. 

Attending family counseling to recover from addiction is beneficial to the whole family. During therapy, issues specific to each family will be put on the table and addressed openly. 

For example, if an individual says their drug addiction began as a way to cope with issues in the family, those issues will get addressed in therapy. As a family, they can come up with the best solution to work on the things that damaged the relationship.

Without a therapist to guide family sessions, it might not be as easy to see their other person’s point of view. The role of a counselor in these sessions is to allow everyone to address their feelings in a safe space.

With a counselor present, even those family members who were more hesitant to therapy might pitch in the conversation. 

Although family therapy is difficult and emotional, it’s the first step for the family to address unresolved issues and start rebuilding family bonds.

The family is Essential Post-Treatment Support 

Family therapy sessions help the individual the most during their treatment. However, it’s important to continue with these sessions post-treatment.

Continuing with therapy will not only bring the family closer together, but it will also help the individual stay on track with their recovery and prevent a relapse. 

Maintains a Strong Support System

After individuals step back into the world and attempt to rebuild their lives, they need a strong support system.

Counseling sessions are a place where the individual can feel free to address any fears. This way the family will know how to support the person and prevent a relapse.

Importance of Family Addiction Counseling: The Bottom Line

Family addiction counseling can have a major impact on a person’s recovery. Family counseling can help rebuild family ties, not to mention every family member affected also needs to heal. 

Do you or someone you love suffer from addiction? You’re not alone. 

Discovery Institute is here for you. Contact us for admissions information.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.

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