The Benefits of Family Therapy In Addiction Recovery

family holding hands together

No matter what form addiction takes, the psychological (and physical) wounds of dependency can run deep, affecting not only the addict but their entire family.

These effects can cause significant damage to families and addicts no matter how an addiction presents itself.

Whether you (or somebody you know) have a dependency on alcohol, drugs, or prescription medication, support and help are always available.

Although, addiction isn’t always substance-related.

Sometimes a person’s addiction goes down a different route, where they find themselves engaging in specific behaviours outside their control, such as gambling, compulsive shopping or sex addiction; either way, the effects can be long-lasting.

Addiction can disrupt (and even damage) the stability, happiness and trust within a family.

All this may trigger anger, resentment, confusion, and a host of other negative emotions, particularly for families unaware of addiction’s effects and how it may impact their loved ones.

Without proper addiction awareness, the lingering hostility within each family member may grow or worsen, leading the addict to slip into more shame, isolation, and increased destructive coping behaviours (such as drinking or drug-taking).   

Help and support are only a phone call away.

At Centres for Health and Healing, we recognize how addiction disease impacts individuals and their families.

Our addiction treatment programs include comprehensive family support to help cultivate awareness and understanding around all aspects of addiction, leading to reduced stigma and increased compassion, support, and acknowledgement within each family system. 

Please speak to a team member today to learn about our family therapy programs.

This article explores family therapy’s vital role in addiction recovery and the various benefits of this treatment. Let’s begin by looking at how family therapy supports those in addiction recovery (and their relatives).

The role of family therapy in addiction recovery

Addiction is known to be a family disease. This alone can help us understand how family dynamics may shift, be disrupted, or even be damaged by a family member’s ongoing substance abuse.

Because of the virulent effects of substance addiction on addicts and their families, addiction specialists and rehabilitation centres usually include family therapy as part of a holistic treatment program.

Family therapy uses various therapeutic approaches to addiction recovery. It draws on unique relational patterns, systems, and family strengths to facilitate understanding, acknowledgment, and support as an impetus for positive change (and, ultimately, recovery).

Holistic approach

family having therapy together

Unlike some (slightly more antiquated) addiction treatments, family therapy leans on the family system to encourage and facilitate recovery.

Family therapy doesn’t just focus on the person with an addiction; this treatment also includes family members as part of the recovery program, meaning that each person has the opportunity to heal collectively.

In our experience, addiction is often the result of deep, underlying trauma. Thus, family therapy recognizes all members as part of a “super system.”

Each person in the ecosystem must be acknowledged, supported, and made to feel safe enough to discuss unresolved traumas and family dysfunction and how addiction might play a role within this complex dynamic.

How family therapy works

Let’s start by saying that family therapy is not about blame, guilt, or projection.

Family therapy aims to cultivate awareness, support, and empathy, not to cause further aggravation or agitation by ruffling anyone’s feathers!

The therapist’s role is to facilitate an objective, calm, and nurturing environment where each family member feels safe enough to discuss their feelings and issues openly.

In addition, family therapy’s goal is to provide an opportunity for each individual to feel safe, heard, and acknowledged in sessions without judgment or ridicule.

Why family support is essential in addiction recovery

Addiction specialists have long recognized the positive effects of family participation in addiction recovery. 

Studies show that a lack of family support (or none) increases an individual’s risk of relapse since people need the support of others to encourage and help them through this challenging time.

Hence why, family therapy is a crucial aspect of addiction treatment. The various advantages of family inclusion in addiction recovery are limitless, not only for the addict but also for the entire family unit.

Let’s look at some of the benefits of family therapy in addiction recovery.

The benefits of family therapy in addiction recovery

Getting help for addiction

Those who engage in family therapy can participate in matters where they may not have much involvement.

As mentioned earlier, trauma and dysfunction are often at the heart of addiction. 

Those who do not feel safe enough to discuss important issues with close family members may drown out their feelings with alcohol or take drugs to numb any negative emotions.

Family therapy allows individuals to air and resolve long-standing issues that may lead to addiction or other mental health problems.

Some of the benefits of family therapy include the following:

Improved communication

In dysfunctional families, healthy communication either doesn’t exist or is the first thing to fly out the window when problems arise.

The common theme for maladaptive families is to become immersed (often unknowingly) in a culture of silence.

Here, issues are ignored or dismissed either implicitly or explicitly.

In addition, feelings may be turned inward, where each person functions under a veneer of oppression and silence.

Believe it or not, all this is relatively common; most families have their own “functional dysfunction” pattern where each person understands their place. 

Eventually, these habits become deeply embedded within the system.

While these patterns of long-term dysfunction might work for a while, perhaps even decades, eventually, one person in the family will likely collapse under the strain, either from physical illness, mental health issues, or addiction.

Fortunately, family therapy can help instill effective communication in families where it either never existed or wasn’t effectively practised. 

Understandably, people often shy away from breaking ingrained family traditions. 

After all, change can be tricky, but these (destructive) patterns should be fixed.

Studies show that by opening the lines of communication within a family, the addict won’t feel as isolated or “ganged up on” by other family members.

Family therapy encourages healthier lifestyle changes that can benefit a person’s relationships and overall living, leading to better communication and life choices.

Increased addiction awareness 

Awareness of the effects of addiction is often lacking (or missing) in many families.

Not everyone understands how addiction works, what causes the disease, or how to approach someone struggling with substance abuse.

Often, anger and resentment run deep in families where one (or more people) suffer from an addiction.

Therefore, educating families about addiction and how it can impact people differently is vital to supporting a loved one through recovery.

Those who have never experienced addiction may think that drinking or drug-taking is a choice, this might be the case for those without dependency issues, but for addicted individuals, it’s not as clear-cut as simply stopping something or quitting!

Family therapy teaches the various principles of addiction.

This allows family members to understand and accept how a loved one’s substance abuse has affected them and the addict, which may help repair any damage caused by a loved one’s long-term substance abuse issues.

The chance to address negative emotions brought up by addiction

crying couple in therapy

Family therapy encourages people to open up and discuss their feelings in a way that cultivates shared respect, understanding, and empathy.

When facilitated by a therapist, this can have a profoundly positive effect where each person gets to say how they feel without fear of shame, judgment, or ridicule.

Many often feel embarrassed or ashamed to speak to their family about deep-seated issues or concerns.

However, family therapy provides a safe, supportive environment for each person to be seen and heard, which can significantly benefit those who use unhealthy coping mechanisms such as alcohol or drugs to manage stress or unpleasant feelings.

Family therapy encourages forgiveness and emotional healing.

Another benefit of family therapy is how it encourages forgiveness and healing between families.

All this is particularly the case in long-term addiction, where a family member has struggled with substance abuse for many years.

Addiction often leads people to make bad choices that may profoundly impact those around them; perhaps a person used to hide their drinking or borrowed money from a family member or friend for drugs without returning the payment. 

People’s decision-making often becomes skewed when in the throes of addiction. 

Some of these actions or choices may cause a lot of damage to the person’s relationships.

Part of finding recovery is acknowledging the destruction caused by substance abuse and practicing self-forgiveness and compassion, which profoundly benefits families and addicts.

Finding recovery at Centres for Health and Healing

If you think you or a loved one might be struggling with an addiction, the Centres for Health and Healing team can help.

We specialize in treating various addictions and substance use disorders, including alcohol, drug use, and prescription drug addictions. In addition, we diagnose and treat behavioural addictions, such as gambling, work, sex addictions, and more.

Our multidisciplinary team provides comprehensive family therapy programs that offer a trauma-informed, holistic approach to addiction recovery.

The first step to recovery is reaching out to a Centres for Health and Healing specialist who can help you get the right treatment and live the life you deserve.

Please speak to one of our friendly team members today and learn more about our family therapy programs.

 Additional resources

  1. Recovery from Addiction, Psychology Today
  2. What Is Family Therapy? Verywell mind, Kendra Cherry, October 18, 2022
Call now
Ready to get help?
Call for treatment options
Need financing?
Payment plans available