Some people believe that family therapy has no business in the recovery process of addiction or other mental health disorders. People may say that it’s only the individual’s problem and they should be the only ones in therapy. However, studies have shown that family therapy, when done in conjunction with individual therapy, family therapy can greatly benefit both the individual and their family members.
Often, when a loved one experiences such serious difficulties, it can affect the entire family unit. Just because the individual has entered treatment doesn’t mean that the complex emotions endured by the family simply vanish. Family therapy is one option for working through those complex emotions and restoring trust and understanding.
What Is Family Therapy?
No two families operate the same. Every family has a unique dynamic based on shared history and feelings. Due to this, when one member of the family endures a serious issue, such as addiction or a mental health disorder, no two families are affected the same way. In many cases, such a drastic change in even one area of the family unit can lead to an imbalance throughout the entire family.
This imbalance can manifest in several different ways. Secrets may be kept, some family members may take on too much responsibility, others take none, and some may act out, etc. Studies have shown that, in some cases, one family member struggling with addiction can even lead to another family member developing substance use disorder (SUD).
Regardless of how the family reacts to this new dynamic, there are often complicated emotions for everyone involved. Family therapy helps to target these emotions in a safe and productive setting for the betterment of the individuals and family as a whole. As the person in recovery changes, the family can learn new ways of interacting with them, supporting them, and loving them. Even after treatment, the family dynamic likely won’t return to its original state — and this can be a good thing. Family therapy gives people the opportunity to become a new type of family founded on mutual respect and love.
What Are the Goals of Family Therapy?
Just as with individual therapy, the goals of family therapy will be specific to the needs of the person or their family. Changing family dynamics, lingering emotions, shared trauma, and more will determine the specific goals of a family in therapy. However, there are some general goals of family therapy that all families should strive toward:
Learning to Best Support a Loved One in Recovery
One goal should be to help the family understand the best way to support their loved one in recovery to strengthen their support system and prevent relapse. Ultimately, the goal for those in recovery is healing and actively working toward lifelong sobriety, and having a proper support system can be essential in achieving these things. Having people who love you and know how to best support you can be integral to a successful recovery, which can be achieved through family therapy.
Strengthening the Family Unit
Another goal that should be central to family therapy is to strengthen the state of the family as a whole. As previously mentioned, complicated emotions and family dynamics are often at play when a family is enduring a crisis. Having a forum to air out grievances and collectively heal can be crucial to both the family’s progress and that of the person in recovery. Since the person in recovery needs a solid support system, having a space intended for familial growth may prove to be essential.
Does Family Therapy Work?
While different treatment approaches benefit different people, research indicates that treatment that includes family therapy tends to be more effective than treatment that does not. Those who engage in family therapy tend to be more inclined to stay in recovery, are less likely to relapse, and are better prepared for long-term recovery. Part of the reason for this is because of the strong support system that was carefully cultivated through family therapy. With a stronger support system, the path to long-term recovery becomes easier to navigate.
Likewise, family therapy also often improves the well-being of the individual’s family members. Family therapy encourages open lines of communication, positive changes in family dynamics, and mutual assurances of love and support. These things can lessen the burden felt by family members, prevent other family members from developing SUD, and how the family operates as a whole.
Family therapy is not always easy, nor is it a quick fix to all of a family’s problems. However, when done earnestly and honestly, family therapy can be a great way to re-establish love, respect, communication, and transparency in a family. The stronger a family is together, the stronger they can be for each other in times of need.
When a family member is enduring a mental health crisis or addiction, it affects everyone who loves them. Family dynamics are shifted, family members blame themselves, and others shut down completely. It may feel like the family that once was is lost forever. However, family therapy may be able to help. By creating an open line of communication, a family can jointly work through their emotions and create a path to understanding. Plus, having a strong and solid support system will greatly help as they navigate the difficult road to recovery. If you and your loved ones are interested in how family therapy at West Coast Recovery Centers can help you, call us today at (760) 492-6509.