What is Family Therapy?
Family therapy or counseling is an approach to mental wellness that seeks to improve the health of the entire family. Usually, this form of treatment is in response to a major life changing event, such as divorce, death of a loved one, or some other hardship. Substance abuse, drug addiction, rehab and recovery all have a very serious toll on the user as well as their loved ones. Family therapy is a great way to work on the broken relationships, or fractures caused by a substance use disorder. Through various techniques and mediated discussions, a family counselor can assist in rebuilding what was once lost. Some of the most common situations that a family therapist is trained to handle include, but are not limited to:
- Marital Conflicts
- Substance Abuse
- LGBT Concerns
- Trauma and Grief
- Children Behavioral Issues
Why Family Therapy?
As we have discussed in other blogs, we are advocates of therapy – even for men and women not struggling with substance abuse or mental illness. The psychological benefits can really help most people to learn themselves more. Family therapy is no different. Providing the support a wounded family needs, and understanding, can be a tremendous benefit.
When substance abuse or addiction enters into a family, many mothers, fathers or spouses choose to seek out family counseling. Some individuals begin their therapy while their loved one is still in treatment, or active addiction. Going this route provides them with tools and coping mechanisms to help them through the painful experience. It also sets up the groundwork for them to be a positive and supportive advocate for their loved one’s recovery. After rehabilitation, the person in recovery is typically encouraged to attend family counseling to re-acclimate themselves and rejoin their family with a clean transition.
Like with any form of therapy or counseling, there are certain goals that the doctor seeks to meet, with benefits to their patients. This helps to give a clearer picture of why one should choose family therapy throughout the recovery of themselves or their loved one. Some of the goals and benefits include:
- Understanding and establishing healthy boundaries
- Improving trust and honesty between the family
- Reintroducing family members who have isolated or withdrawn themselves
- Creating an environment of support
Just like any form of treatment, doctors will have different approaches to their specialization. Not every family therapist will take the same approach – and every patient will need a different method. Once you have identified a counselor that you feel comfortable with, and they have a clear understanding of your situation and what you wish to accomplish, they will decide what the best system is for you.
Here is a quick overview of the more common approaches to family therapy.
This approach focuses on reviewing the current structure of the roles and power in the family, and then re-ordering it as necessary. This is typically important for families in which the balance of power has shifted away from the parents or when boundaries are out of control. The overall goal of this type of treatment is to strengthen the bonds within the household and to make sure there is no one who has too much power that it feels like control.
This approach is quicker, and more targeted. This includes giving the family members exercises to do at home to try new methods of interaction with the family member considered to be the dissenter. The therapist may also attempt to shift power around from one family member to another to attempt to reframe how situations are handled. Communication exercises are important here, especially if one family member is typically more dominant than the others in a negative way.
This is the style of therapy best suited for people who do not want to bring other family members into the therapist’s room. There are two core concepts: Triangulation and Differentiation. Triangulation is a natural tendency to vent to one family member about another, for example. Differentiation works to teach patients to become less emotionally reactive. Many times, this can be a great approach during substance abuse recovery, as the user won’t be able to attend.
Systemic Family Therapy
System therapy keeps the therapist neutral and distant. It is to allow family members to dive deeper into issues that they have as a family. It focuses on the behaviors and communications expressed by family members, that they may not even realize.
Family Therapy During Recovery
Family approaches to drug and alcohol recovery encourages the need to engage with family and loved ones during treatment. Studies have proven that support and social structure can greatly improve the process of recovery and reduce relapse. Typically occurring during the outpatient phase of treatment, family therapy can help to reduce the isolation that drugs can cause or address any internal family issues that may have pushed the user toward substance abuse.
Some of the tactics and types of family therapy during addiction recovery include:
Behavioral therapy has several facets, such as creating a contract with the entire family to maintain a substance free household. This is also greatest for marital therapy, when done in conjunction with couples coping skills and communication. While developing a relationship with the family members, the therapist helps to educate everyone on relapse prevention, goal setting and reinforces abstinence. The therapist may identify triggers and explain how to reduce them.
Multidimensional Family Therapy
This approach to family therapy is typically used with children and adolescents to address behavioral issues alongside substance abuse. Many times, the therapist will first meet with the teen and then his or her family. The child will work on coping skills, while parents will become educated on mental health, addiction and improving parenting skills.
Similar to other support group styles of therapy, multifamily therapy gathers families together on a weekly basis to help support each other. This makes the parent or loved one feel less alone as they battle substance abuse or addiction within their family. It can be helpful for people who do not have a strong support system at home.
Substance abuse is painful for everyone involved. If you or a loved one has a dependency or addiction and is in need of substance abuse treatment, please reach out to us about your detox and treatment options. Royal Life Centers admissions staff is available 24/7 to answer your questions and address your concerns. We can be reached at (877)-RECOVERY or 877-732-6837. Because We Care.