Family therapy is when a counselor helps several members of a family by meeting with them as a group, but the counselor may also provide individual therapy sessions to one or more family members separately. When a family member is struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction, this can affect and harm the entire family over time if the addiction is not treated in drug rehab. While standard individual counseling sessions can help, this may not be enough to repair any broken relationships within a family that have occurred as a result of their loved one’s substance addiction.
Basics of Family Therapy
There are several types of family therapies with different psychological approaches and ways of helping the family. In some cases, the family member struggling with addiction will attend therapy sessions with the family. In other cases, that person will attend residential treatment for substance abuse while the family goes to therapy to help them cope with their loved one’s addiction. The duration of your typical family therapy session is 50 minutes, once a week or every two weeks, often for a full 12 sessions until treatment is complete.
However, if problems in the family persist past 12 sessions, the counselor may continue therapy or refer their clients to a therapist who will be better able to help them. In general, all forms of family therapy identify problems, determine any struggles with problem-solving, examine different family roles or patterns to see what may be creating conflict, and make family members aware of their strengths and weaknesses. Not all family therapists will take the same approach to your family because each counselor tends to favor different theories of psychology in their work. Below are some examples of the variety of approaches out there.
Behavioral contracting therapists do exactly what the name of this therapy suggests, the therapist works with the family to create a written contract to promise an environment with no addictive substance use. This therapy also reorganizes family functions to create order, which enforces responsibility. Responsibility is key to maintaining abstinence. The therapist accomplishes these outcomes by identifying family problems and guiding members to develop healthy coping skills to handle the distress that comes with a family member quitting an addictive substance.
Bepko and Krestan’s Therapy
Bepko and Krestan’s therapy uses three stages of treatment that include presobriety, early sobriety, and maintenance. During presobriety, the family is expected to block emotional responsibility to the person with the addiction and to tell them to go to a self-help group as a part of their drug rehab. Early sobriety focuses on helping the children express how they feel about their family member’s substance abuse while working on decreasing pride and self-loathing that the member addicted to drugs may feel. Maintenance means anger management and self-control.
Family Behavioral Therapy
Family behavioral therapy uses techniques from behavioral contracting and contingency management therapy, which is normally used in residential treatment for substance abuse. This approach reinforces abstinence with rewards for maintaining a drug-free home environment and lifestyle. Rewards are often given by family members because they have a higher emotional impact on the loved one than the therapist. If the family member who is abusing drugs is a parent, then they are guided by the therapist to set goals for effective parenting.
Strategic Family Therapy
Strategic family therapy focuses on a parent who is struggling with an addiction by modifying parenting skills for leadership, behavioral control, nurturance to their children, and guidance. This approach is strategic because it effectively improves conflict resolution abilities so that relationships within the family structure can be healed and social bonding can increase. This is done by rewording any negativity reported by family members and encouraging supportive behaviors.
Multidimensional Family Therapy
This approach combines multiple psychological perspectives and theories as a multidimensional family therapy. Psychosocial functioning is worked on along with adaptation skills for each family member so that they can adjust to the struggles their loved one will face when dealing with addiction and the process of drug rehab. Parent and adolescent functioning are worked on in terms of personal functioning for the parents and coping skills for the adolescent.
Multisystemic therapy identifies barriers to healthy family interactions, ways to overcome those barriers, what risk factors exist, and what protective factors can be encouraged. Protective factors are things that naturally protect someone from negative emotions or experiences. This approach also aims to increase responsible behaviors to decrease substance abuse.
Solution-Focused Family Therapy
The therapeutic relationship for solution-focused therapy depends on trusting the therapist because the therapist is the one who guides family members to find solutions to problems that may be contributing to a loved one’s addiction. Solutions are the primary focus and the therapist encourages the client that they can maintain abstinence now because they have done so in the past. Family members often realize how much they can help their loved one adhere to abstinence because the solution process occurs rapidly.
Benefits of Family Therapy
Family therapy is for those who feel that their family has fallen apart from a loved one’s substance addiction. If the loved one has harmed, abused, or emotionally hurt other family members because of their addiction, then family therapy can help them find ways to heal and move on while attempting to work towards a drug free home life for everyone.
Seeking Help for Substance Addiction
At the Recover, we understand that addiction can be difficult for anyone to experience or manage due to the severity of withdrawal symptoms, personality changes, and relapses. You might feel like you are alone with no hope, but we are here to tell you that the research supports the idea that you do have a strong chance of breaking free from addiction if you accept help from others. We encourage you to explore the variety of addiction treatment programs currently available.
The Recover is an unbiased substance abuse and mental health news provider that provides information about substance addiction. We also provide information about West Virginia centers for addiction recovery. If you or a family member is struggling with a substance addiction, call (888) 510-3898 to speak with a treatment specialist who can help you find a residential treatment for substance abuse for your current situation.