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People with a substance use disorder frequently believe their condition only affects them. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Family members and friends are equally affected, and supporting their loved one can cause constant hurt. Because of this, family therapy for addiction is a crucial component of addiction recovery.

Here we will examine how drug and alcohol addiction impacts loved ones and the different roles in the substance abuser’s life. Family therapy for addiction implements programs like family addiction counseling throughout the recovery process.

Ways Substance Addiction Impacts Families Partners and Spouses of Substance Abusers

Substance abuse will take an enormous toll on partners and spouses. When vows are taken, a promise is made to be with each other for better or worse. When the “worse” part becomes an addiction, though, this can be extremely difficult.

If your partner is abusing drugs or alcohol, you might find that they’re moody, irritable, and secretive, even violent at times. This can be both frustrating and risky, and you probably don’t know what to do in these circumstances. Many people believe that someone with substance abuse can stop at any time they want, but that is not the case. You can plead and beg with your loved one to stop, but chances are they’ll continue using because addiction isn’t a choice.

Because of this, asking your partner to quit won’t work, and it could also lead to additional problems. You might start taking over many household responsibilities like bills, childcare, or cleaning if your loved one is deep in their addiction. This adds stress and pressure on not only you but the rest of your family. Your loved one may even be stealing money to support their addiction, causing even more stress.

Children of Substance Abusers

Sadly, 1 in 5 children grows up with a parent or guardian who suffers from substance abuse. Children are greatly affected by a loved one’s substance addiction; most grow up abusing drugs and developing mental problems. They also become three times more likely to experience physical or sexual abuse and neglect. They can even experience a lag in learning and development.

Young children and toddlers won’t understand substance abuse and how it affects the family. However, it usually impacts their entire lives, making them vulnerable to external behaviors and imitate what their parent does. If they constantly observe their parents fighting, they may develop aggressive and violent behavior.

The child might feel obligated to become the caretaker if a parent becomes unable to perform their regular responsibilities. This puts enormous stress on them, causing feelings of extreme guilt and self-blame and for the parent’s abuse.

Parents of Substance Abusers

Witnessing their children struggle with substance addiction can be frustrating for parents. Teenage addiction is common across the U.S., where peer pressure and finding yourself is the norm as a young adult. If your child is drinking or using drugs, you could notice that their mood has changed or their school grades drop.

Family Roles in Substance Abuse

All family members play their dysfunctional roles when a sibling or child has a substance use disorder, and they might not comprehend it. This is their way of coping with their loved one’s disease. Listed below is a version of each role and how it plays out for family members.

The Hero

The family’s Hero overachieves and excels at compensating for the shame surrounding their loved one’s illness. They also try to cover up the helplessness and emptiness they feel. They don’t cause trouble and have never let the family down. Sometimes they may even cover for someone to look good to the rest of the family. They’re usually in denial about the illness and overlook significant problems.

The Scapegoat

This is the person who is most frequently blamed in the family. The Scapegoat causes problems and concerns to distract the family from focusing on the substance abuser. They’re quite skilled at taking the family’s attention away from their loved one’s condition.

The Lost Child

This is the one who hides out physically and emotionally, bottling up emotions and avoiding conflict. Although they don’t drain the emotional support of the family, they’re suffering on the inside.

The Enabler

The Enabler constantly excuses the substance abuser’s behavior. They continuously smooth things over and never hold them accountable for their actions. Therefore, the substance abuser doesn’t face any logical consequences for their risky behavior. The Enabler does this to avoid shame and embarrassment. While they believe they’re helping their loved ones, they’re hurting them and keeping them from getting help.

The Mascot

This role is the family comedian using humor primarily targeted toward the substance abuser. They crack jokes to minimize the seriousness of the addiction, but this eventually becomes an unhealthy coping mechanism. 

Family Therapy for Addiction

Family therapy for addiction is best described as education for the whole family. Sessions are set in a therapeutic approach that uses the family’s strengths and resources to help quit their substance abuse for good. 

Other subjects discussed in family therapy for addiction include:

  • Abuse
  • Depression
  • Family conflict
  • Parenting skills
  • Unemployment

During a family therapy session, members will unlearn their unhealthy roles previously taken while learning how to play healthier roles that support and encourage their recovery. Healthy behaviors coupled with these roles include holding your family member accountable for poor behavior and rewarding them for good behavior.

The Family Systems Model

As of late, the family systems model has become quite prevalent in family therapy for addiction. This family addiction counseling acts as a result of dysfunction in the family. You will be taught that family is a system, and each member affects how the others operate. When one member is experiencing dysfunction, the family system also experiences the same. Other members may see that they also demonstrate dysfunctional behavior because of efforts to support the family systems model.

How Does Family Therapy for Addiction Work?

During the initial family therapy counseling session, the therapist will determine who participates in treatment, like parents, children, spouses, extended family members, or close friends. The therapist will receive input from each member involved. 

Family therapy for addiction is usually offered in an outpatient treatment setting or a private office. Depending on how severe the substance addiction is, the sessions could meet for several weeks. If the therapy is conducted in a traditional rehab program, it’ll usually be shorter sessions and more fun leisure activities coupled with group therapy sessions.

Some exercises practiced in family therapy for addiction include:

  • Dialing in on ways to improve communication and rebuild trust
  • Discovering ways to communicate with family while still respecting boundaries
  • Discussing various family roles
  • Distinguishing what helps and what’s harmful

Family therapy for addiction is also presented in support groups. Both inpatient and outpatient facilities offer these resources to help patients connect with peers who can relate. Support groups can help focus on families with relatives with substance addiction while sharing experiences with others going through the same difficulties.

Benefits of Family Therapy for Addiction

Some benefits members can gain from family therapy for addiction include:

  • Being conscious of family dynamics: Poor family models will cause substance abuse. Treating someone suffering from addiction will ensure they’ve got the best possible chances of recovery. 
  • Sharing ideas and opinions: Bridges can be burned when a family member is suffering from substance addiction. The family might become concerned about a possible relapse, and it’s ok to express that. In family addiction counseling, you’ll discover how to express and balance these emotions.
  • Setting boundaries: It isn’t easy to set boundaries for your loved one, but the family needs to recover. For example, you could need to cut a family member with substance use disorder off for your safety and health.
  • Understanding how addiction changes behavior: The therapist will give family insight and knowledge on substance addiction by learning how to evaluate it themselves. 
  • Discovering how to take care of yourself: Even if a family member is suffering from substance addiction, you must practice self-care and nurture your personal needs. Support groups can help with this.
  • Rebuilding trust: Chances are you lost some trust and confidence in your loved one during their substance addiction. In family therapy for addiction, you’ll discover how to interact honestly and communicate better.
  • Increasing communication: This is key for rebuilding trust. Communication has probably been nonexistent during your loved one’s substance addiction, and you’ll need to invest yourself in efficiently communicating with them.

The Importance of Family Addiction Counseling

Family addiction counseling teaches people how to encourage supportive behaviors while also discussing how to enable behaviors. By discovering how to keep your loved ones accountable for their behavior, you’re helping them start their journey to sobriety. Family addiction counseling is also crucial for rebuilding relationships. Those with family support and people in their corner have a much better chance of a full recovery.

Rock Recovery Center Can Help!

Family addiction counseling can help family members heal from their member’s substance addiction. A precise approach will bring family members closer together and strengthen the bond stripped due to addiction.

Our staff at Rock Recovery Center provides patients with quality care in West Palm Beach. Don’t let substance addiction take over any more time in your life. Contact us today for an addiction treatment consultation.

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