Family Therapy and Its Role in Addiction Recovery

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People who are in recovery for addiction to alcohol or drugs concentrate a lot on the individual work of recovery. They learn to develop responsibility for their choices, both current and in the past, and focus on plans to stay sober. These individuals typically also spend time thinking about their families. Family therapy and recovery go together because this combination allows the person in recovery to incorporate their family into their recovery in a way that is healthy and productive for everyone.

Why Are Family Therapy and Recovery Important?

Family is important to everyone, especially during trying times and after something difficult has impacted the family unit. When a person struggles with a substance use disorder, it affects the entire family. When they begin recovery, while this positive event is to be celebrated, it does not negate everything that took place before it began. 

Family therapy can provide a roadmap that helps family members take a look at past events with fresh eyes. They also learn to deal with events that happen during their loved one’s recovery without leaping to conclusions or unfair judgment. 

Relearning How to Talk to Family Members

Family therapy helps everyone learn a new way to communicate with each other. The turmoil of being embroiled in addiction often throws up roadblocks that make talking to each other problematic for a family. Even when some relationships were healthy before the addiction took hold, they likely sustained damage along the way.

Combining family therapy and recovery allows people to learn new ways to talk and listen to each other. A trained family counselor can guide family members in sessions so they learn how to identify unhealthy communication patterns and replace them. 

Topics that may have felt forbidden to discuss when a loved one was actively drinking or using drugs can now be brought up. The therapist can help set the stage so that everyone feels comfortable taking time to express themselves. Once someone has said their piece, the therapist will confirm that the others have a clear understanding of what was said. This eliminates misheard comments and helps build bridges within the family.

Recovery Is Not a Race

A big advantage of family therapy and recovery work has to do with addressing a common but incorrect assumption about recovery itself. Many family members view a loved one entering treatment as equivalent to crossing the finish line in a race. They view it as the final step and believe the entire family can now relax because their loved one is out of danger. While going into treatment certainly qualifies as an enormous step, it should not be interpreted as the final one. 

To use a comparative example, a person may have been dealing with a physical ailment for a long period of time but in denial about it. Once they admit they need help and see a doctor for their medical problem, that does not mean it is now cured. The treatment itself can be drawn out over a long period of time and sometimes prove emotionally painful.

The same applies to recovery from addiction to alcohol and drugs. This is the reason for the familiar saying that admitting you have a problem constitutes the first step. Once an individual starts treatment, they have begun a new journey, not completed a marathon. 

Families who receive professional counseling with their loved ones learn to understand how to help and when to back off. They also can learn things like how to be more compassionate or how to resist the urge to be co-dependent. All of these lessons are tantamount to helping families understand they are witnessing their loved one’s new journey. While it is not a race, they can still cheer them on from the sidelines. 

Who Can Attend Family Therapy?

Family therapy generally serves anyone considered to be part of a family unit. Parents, siblings, and extended family members can all join the sessions. Children often benefit from family therapy, with the therapist taking into consideration the age of the child before determining how they fit into the dynamic. Younger children may need individual counseling, but in general, adolescents and adult children of individuals in recovery for addiction derive helpful input and ideas when engaging in family therapy.

Licensed counselors trained as marriage and family therapists can treat the person in recovery and their spouse or partner together. These romantic partners may also choose to participate in family therapy. It often proves helpful for family members to understand better how the partnership is fairing during recovery. As well, the couple can form a united front when it comes to their approach to issues within the family.  

A person in recovery who becomes interested in how family therapy and recovery work together can speak with the therapist ahead of time. Together they can make a decision about who to ask to attend sessions. Even if everyone in the immediate family does not consent to participate in family therapy, much progress can be made with the rest of the family. 

Addiction Treatment and Family Therapy in Los Angeles

Launch Centers offers world-class treatment for people suffering from the disease of addiction. We offer programs that address co-occurring mental health issues and help create and achieve educational goals. Our long-term programs involve the family to help everyone learn to come together and strengthen the family unit.

If you or someone you love is ready to embrace recovery and needs help, call Launch Centers now.

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