Family Addiction Counselling
Most substance and behaviour addiction problems are immensely self-destructive but don’t just affect the person who is addicted. Addiction problems have a negative impact on the whole family as well as the friends of the person suffering. This is why at Rehab Recovery we specialise in family addiction counselling.
It is common for feelings of anger, frustration and bitter resentment to arise in among family members, causing relationships to break down.
This, in turn, makes the addicted person’s problem worse as they end up in a spiral of shame. This can in turn force them back to their addiction to “make the pain go away.”
Here at Rehab Recovery, we are aware of how terrible an impact on the addictive behaviour of a family member can have on an entire family.
This is why we can offer advice and access to counselling for families who are affected by addiction. Family counselling creates a safe and secure environment for family members so that they can be open and honest with each other about their feelings on the situation. The family as a whole is, therefore, better able to understand the nature of addiction as an illness, rather than “just a problem” that their family member has which is affecting everyone.
Family addiction counselling also provides advice and coping strategies for handling their loved one’s problem during the trying process of treatment and recovery.
Now armed with the tools they need to handle the stress of these difficult times, they are able to begin rebuilding their relationships, both with each other and the addicted loved one so that when addiction treatment is complete the entire family can move forward together in a healthier and happier life.
Why Is Family Addiction Counselling Important for Recovery?
Recovering from addiction requires a variety of therapies to be successful and family therapy is one of these. Primarily, the therapy will allow all members of the family to gain a clearer understanding of addiction and how it might alter a person’ behaviour – this will allow the family to better understand the person who has developed an addiction.
In addition to this, the therapy will allow the family to become aware of its dynamics and bring about change as a way of battling the addiction.
What’s more, family therapy can aid families in bringing back good levels of communication. Quite often, when addiction takes over a family, the lines of communication are lost but being able to communicate allows for a smoother recovery.
Alongside opening up the lines of communication, the trust will begin to be regained as family members can talk more freely and honestly with one another.
When dealing with addiction, all family members need to set boundaries, whether this is the addicted person saying that there will be no substances in the home or other family members refusing to give financial aid – these boundaries lead to healthier relationships.
Family therapy can help members set boundaries and stick to them, which is vital in addiction recovery.
Finally, addiction therapy for families will allow each member to learn self-care techniques. When battling addiction, the focus of the family tends to be on the individual who is addicted and this can mean that other members of the family neglect themselves.
To successfully heal as a family, each member needs to be physically, psychologically, and emotionally healthy.
The Role Families Play in Active Addiction
When a person is battling with addiction, it is not they alone who are affected – addiction is known to be a disease that has an impact on the entire family unit. However, there is a typical pattern that many families fall into when attempting to manage problems with addiction and in some ways, this can do more harm than good.
Aside from the addicted person, within a family, you may find the following roles being acted out:
1. The Hero
A person who will always pull through and will not let the family unit down. Usually, a person who overachieves and is always well turned out, the hero, or sometimes referred to as the savior may attempt to cover up for the addicted person, not wanting things to appear ‘out of place’ or ‘abnormal.’
Quite often, those who play the hero may have internal fears and anxieties of their own and are usually in denial about the entire situation.
2. The Mascot
This is a person who uses humour as a way of coping and will attempt to lift spirits for other family members. They can be useful in effective situations but often come across as though they are not taking the illness seriously.
3. The Lost Child
Is someone who keeps their emotional turmoil hidden within themselves and will be certain to never cause any problems, often wanting to keep everything calm and undisturbed.
4. The Scapegoat
This family member may often create other problems to attempt to deflect from the addiction and will usually be blamed for everything.
5. The Enabler
Sometimes referred to as the caregiver or the rescuer will find it hard to hold the addicted person accountable and will often make excuses for their behaviour. By assisting the addicted person and refusing to allow them to face the consequences, this person will often hinder their recovery.
What Is Family Addiction Counselling?
Family therapy can be dated right back to the 1950s when the approach was first developed, and since then it has come a long way in helping families find strength in trying times.
The main thought behind family addiction therapy is that there are different parts within a family system and each of these is affected equally if one person finds themselves struggling with addiction.
This means that things can become tense and difficult within the family unit with members telling lies and keeping secrets as well as each member experiencing extreme emotions.
Even after someone battling addiction has recovered, the emotional toll left on the family can remain and it is important to address this through family addiction therapy. The therapy can ensure that each member of the family finds new, positive ways to make a change and can help them to overcome the emotions they are feeling.
What Is the Aim of Family Addiction Counselling?
When undergoing family addiction therapy, the main aim is to strengthen the relationships and bonds within the family through identifying issues and attempting to find a resolution, therefore bringing balance back to the family.
A therapist will help each family member to express their feelings, openly and honestly so that the entire unit can gain a better understanding of one another. In addition to this, the therapy aims to allow family members to work together to tackle problems. In many cases, the stress and tension within a family can cause the addiction to worsen, but by helping each member address their psychological needs, family addiction therapy can reduce stress levels which in turn, helps with addiction recovery.
One of the most prominent aspects we see in a family battling addiction is that the power distribution is not balanced, with some family members attempting to gain control over the situation. This is not healthy since the family should be working together to overcome the problem and one of the aims of the treatment is to restore a healthier balance of power.
How Can Family Addiction Counselling Help Families?
Addiction is an illness that has an impact on the entire family, not just the person who has become addicted. One of the main negative impacts of addiction is that it can close the lines of communication within a family, but by undergoing family therapy, these lines can be reopened.
Once a family can communicate, trust can be rebuilt and the family can talk about its problems openly, making them easier to manage. This can be particularly useful when looking at behaviours that enable addiction. In turn, the relationships within the family will be strengthened.
What’s more, family therapy will allow people to set boundaries and this is essential for both addiction recovery and healthy relationships. The therapy sessions will provide families with the chance to ask questions and air their concerns in a safe and controlled environment, something they may not have been able to do in the home setting.
One of the great problems with addiction is that many people do not fully understand it, making it hard for family members to understand their loved one who is struggling with it. Family therapy can educate and bring awareness to how addiction works and the behaviours it causes. As a result of this newfound knowledge, families are better equipped to help their loved one through recovery.
Types of Family Addiction Counselling
Every family is different and every case of addiction has its differences too which means that family therapy must come in a variety of forms. The type of therapy that works for your family will depend on who is involved and your circumstances. Some of the most common types of family therapy are:
1. General couples therapy
This type of treatment is geared towards couples and is often given by inpatient services. It may include cognitive behavioural therapy, which is designed to work with the interpersonal interactions of the couple and improve these.
You may also be offered integrated behaviour couples therapy which is a treatment that aims to bring about acceptance and change within the relationship and is often used alongside emotion-focused couples therapy which can help with regulating and expressing emotions within the partnership.
In addition to this, you might attend group sessions with other couples to work through issues as a group with the assistance of a trained mental health therapist.
2. Addiction-focused couples therapy
This is a type of therapy that works with couples who have experienced addiction triggers relating to alcohol within their relationships and who want to work towards more positive interactions.
Another form of this therapy can focus on couples rewarding positive behaviour relating to drug and alcohol abuse and reducing the amount of distress experienced within the relationship. The aim is to create a relationship that remains abstinent but healthy. This can, in turn, directly impact the chances of relapse.
3. Community/family approaches
When working with families, there are a variety of treatments that can be of benefit:
- Community reinforcement and family training work to help family members in helping their addicted loved ones. This might be through learning new communication strategies and developing reward systems.
- The Matrix model combines a variety of treatments including 12 step programs, motivational enhancement, and cognitive behavioural therapy and is often done as part of an intensive outpatient program. All members of the family will take part in both individual and group sessions to gain an education on addiction, develop new coping strategies, and preventing relapse.
- Brief strategic family addiction therapy provides support for substance use in adolescents who are also struggling with other behavioural issues.
When Should Family Therapy Begin?
When treating addiction, it is important not to overload the person as this can cause a potential relapse. In the early stages of recovery, a person battling addiction will need to place their focus on adjusting to a new way of life. This might mean detoxing from a substance, getting used to new medications and adapting their behaviours. All of these things require the addicted person’s full attention, making family therapy ineffective at this time.
However, once a person has made some good progress with their recovery, family therapy can begin. The time span for this will vary from person to person but generally could be anything from a few months to over a year. As your recovery moves forward, your therapist will offer you advice on when and how to proceed with family therapy.
Who Can Attend Family Addiction Counselling?
There is no set rule on who can attend a family therapy session, more often than not the therapist will ask who is important to the person and this will determine who will benefit from taking part. It doesn’t matter whether the family members share a household or live separately. Some of the people who may attend are:
- Brother and sisters
- Honorary family members
- Work colleagues
How Is Family Addiction Counselling Organised?
A family therapy session will usually take place within a clinic setting or an office, however, in some cases there is the possibility of it taking place within the home. A session normally spans around an hour and can greatly vary in intensity with some sessions being pretty laid back and others very emotionally challenging.
Each session will place focus on either the person who is recovering, another family member or the family as a whole and in some instances, not all members will be required to attend each session. But your therapist will develop a treatment plan that suits your family and will explain this to you.
Your sessions may vary, with some being therapist-led and others where the family talks amongst themselves while the therapist listens. As he or she begins to gain a good knowledge of the family, they may suggest additional support for each member.
At the beginning of your therapy, each member will likely be asked to sign a contract as a way of agreeing to how the sessions will be conducted – for example, you may agree to only one person speaking at a time. In addition to this, you may be expected to sign a consent form as a way of demonstrating that everyone understands and is comfortable with the rules of the therapy and its confidentiality.
What Happens in A Session?
It is important to remember that your therapist will always aim to make each family member feel welcome, comfortable and never judged and how the therapist operates may greatly depend on who is involved in the meeting. For example, the therapist may take a different approach to a child than they would to an adult.
Each session you attend may focus on a different issue, or many issues and may involve one or more of the family members taking an active approach. Some of the topics which may be covered in a session are as follows:
- Talking about how each of the family members is feeling and any concerns they may have.
- Paying attention to a trauma or crisis that has occurred.
- Talking about changes that need to happen or have happened.
- Learning new coping skills.
- Work on communication.
In some cases, your therapist may request that you take part in some homework between your sessions. This could be something as simple as sitting down to take a meal together or something a little more complex like looking out for certain behaviours. These exercises aim to bring the family closer together and help them to learn new, positive ways of interacting with one another.
Are There Any Risks of Taking Part in Family Addiction Counselling?
As with any form of therapy, there are some risks to taking part in family therapy, for instance, it may feel that one family member is being placed under attack which can cause negative emotions. There may also be a rise in violence or aggression from one or more family members, which is detrimental to the recovery of the family unit.
In some cases, the therapy may be a trigger for the addicted person who may begin to engage in unwanted behaviours once again. However, due to the intense screening and monitoring on the part of the therapist, these risks are relatively low. For most people, family therapy is a positive and effective experience.
What If A Family Member Refuses to Take Part?
For some people, the idea of any type of therapy is upsetting and uncomfortable so it comes as no surprises that, from time to time a family member may not be willing to get involved. There are multiple reasons that they may not take to the idea which could include:
- The fear of change. Many people struggle to adapt to change even if it is positive.
- Feeling tired of dealing with the same problems.
- Fear of losing control or power.
- Feeling sceptical that therapy will be beneficial.
- Lack of trust about opening up to a stranger or other family members.
If any family members are feeling this way, it can be useful for them to speak with the therapist privately. This can be an opportunity for them to talk through their concerns and feel more comfortable.
Family therapy can take place in many different settings. Where you will attend will depend on your circumstances and the type of treatment you have taken part in up until this point.
Residential or inpatient programs offer family therapy which will take place as part of a wider treatment program. In this case, the therapist will speak with family members both with the addicted person and separately.
You may also undergo family addiction therapy as part of an outpatient program. This could be after an inpatient program has been completed or for patients who have opted to complete an outpatient program on its own. The circumstances of the addicted person will depend on the type of treatment offered, for example, if the person is an adolescent, age-appropriate therapy will need to be sought.
Couples may decide to work with a private therapist who has experience in helping couples battling addiction. It is a good idea to ask plenty of questions as a way of finding out if the therapist can provide for your needs. Many counsellors with experience in this area can work at saving a relationship, help children cope with separation and deal with financial problems amongst other things.
Support Groups for The Families of Addicts
A person recovering from addiction will require ongoing support in the form of support groups, however, these groups may also be beneficial for families.
Joining a support group gives family members a chance to share their experience with other people who have gone through something similar and is often an excellent way to air frustration and fatigue. There is a good selection of support groups available in the UK.
- AL-ANON is aimed at supporting families of those with alcohol addiction and will also welcome the friends of alcoholics
- ALATEEN is a group which aims to provide support for teenagers who have been affected by alcoholism within the family. Quite often, people attending these groups will have parents struggling with alcohol abuse
- Adult children of alcoholics can be a support to those who had difficult childhoods as a result of their parent’s drinking
- NAR-ANON provides support for those whose loved one’s struggle with drug abuse
- CO-DEPENDENTS ANONYMOUS offers support for those who rely on helping others to their detriment
Is Family Addiction Counselling Effective?
Any type of therapy is only effective if the participants are fully committed and family therapy is no exception to this rule. But what is most interesting is that more than half of all people who took part in family therapy were able to avoid relapse compared to less than forty per cent who did not complete family therapy. This shows that the process is greatly effective in the treatment of addiction recovery.
It is thought that family therapy is particularly useful for young people dealing with addiction but this is a process which can also be very beneficial for adults. For adults who have come from a background of addiction and then developed an addiction themselves, tackling family issues can often result in no further problems with addiction for the entire family.
Family therapy aims to rebuild broken relationships and fix communication issues which can be very effective for those trying to overcome addiction.