Therapy For Families With Addicts: Why It Matters

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Addressing addiction is one tumultuous aspect that family and friends of drug- or alcohol-addicted individuals go through. In most cases, daily family interaction has only managed to enable the addict. Often, they have a hard time bringing up the issue, and some choose to look away because they don’t want to risk losing a loved one.

These are actual situations that some people face on a daily basis. Trying to approach their loved one as gentle as they can prove to be challenging, but what families need to understand is that intervention, and positive family involvement is the only way for patients to consider treatment for substance abuse.


The Purpose of Family Therapy

Family therapy is a set of therapeutic methods that encourage the family’s resources and strengths to help them live a life without alcohol or drugs. This therapy also aims to minimize the harm of addiction on both sides — the family members and the substance abuser.

Family therapy may also open the issue of family conflicts, depression, abuse, unemployment, and even parenting skills. According to Dr. Maher Soudah, director of Kaiser Wellness Center, it can be challenging for the family to undergo this process, but an important thing to remember is that it takes the form of education. Family members are often encouraged to ask questions until they can bring themselves to heal.

When a family undergoes a therapeutic intervention, a discussion about family roles will ensue, including the ways to fix trust issues and improve communication. They will be educated as to what’s harmful and what’s not, so they’ll know how to interact with one another without losing the element of respect.

Family Therapy Models

The Department of Health and Human Services indicates four family therapy models that are approved and are currently being used across the U.S. These are:


Family Disease Model

Considering the concept that substance abuse and addiction is a disease, this model touches the fact that every member of the family is affected by the disease. It tackles the tendency of family members to be codependent on the addict with regard to their material and emotional stability.

The goal of the family disease model is to help the whole unit make changes to the environment and their behavior so that the condition can be cured.

Cognitive Behavioral Family Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) emphasizes on promoting sobriety and improving relationships within the family by eliminating damaging thought patterns and behaviors. Each family member is taught to find out what triggers the addiction or what possible situations may have caused substance abuse. Dr. Soudah notes that CBT is also a popular form of personal therapy and can also be used onto the patient to correct damaging habits and thoughts.

Multi-Dimensional Family Therapy

Multi-dimensional family therapy (MDFT), as the name implies, uses several different approaches to help families build a healthier and stronger relationship. It uses cognition, emotion, behavior, and environment, which may all have contributed to the addiction.

Family Systems Model

The result of the family systems model is family with a healthier organizational pattern. This model centers on the concept that family members have the tendency to become enablers. For example, a family member may “allow” alcoholism to exist within the family because a certain family member cannot simply be productive without alcohol. With this therapy, maladaptive behavior is corrected.

Why Family Therapy Matters

“The tendency of most parents is to put so much focus on getting their son or daughter healthy that they neglect themselves,” Dr. Soudah says. This is also seen among brothers and sisters of someone with an addiction, and friends as well. If their suffering is left unaddressed, relationships will be damaged, which could lead to families breaking apart.

To help a family work together to achieve a common goal, therapists can help them communicate better, solve problems together, and handle delicate situations without losing trust and respect for each other.

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