A Family Matter
If someone in your family is struggling with a substance use disorder, there’s a good chance that each family member is dealing with the situation in different ways. Maybe one of you wants to cut off all contact with the person who is drinking or using drugs until they get sober. Maybe another family member makes excuses for the person—enabling the behavior even if that isn’t their intention. Maybe another person blames the addiction on the lack of a strong faith in God or the bad influence of questionable friends.
Meanwhile, the person who is in the grips of the substance use disorder isn’t getting the kind of help or support they need. Different family members treat them in different ways and no one—including the person using drugs or alcohol—really wants to deal with the problem head on. It can be very difficult to get everyone on the same page.
If that’s the situation in which you find yourself, you and your family may benefit from family therapy.
Family Therapy – What It Is and How It Works
Family therapy is just what it sounds like: therapy that involves some or all of the members of a family. Guided by a trained therapist, the family works to develop a shared understanding and a shared set of goals. Often this process takes place over a relatively short period of time, though length of therapy depends on the family.
According to the Mayo Clinic, family therapy offers a range of opportunities that can be beneficial to everyone involved. Those opportunities include:
- Examining the family’s existing ability to solve problems and to express thoughts and emotions in a productive manner
- Exploring the range of family roles, rules, and behavior patterns so as to identify issues contributing to conflict as well as ways to work through these issues
- Identifying the family’s strengths and weaknesses as a unit and as individuals
- Pinpointing the specific challenges a family faces—like addressing a substance use disorder—and considering how those challenges are currently being handled
- Learning better ways to interact with one another and to overcome ongoing unhealthy patterns of behavior
- Setting goals for each individual and for the family as a whole—and establishing ways to work toward them
In practice, this means that each family member will have the opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings. Honesty is absolutely essential. So is a shared commitment to improving the situation. Family therapy probably won’t be easy, but it can be deeply meaningful to everyone involved.
In a family in which one member has a substance use disorder, family therapy can help everyone come together to support the loved one as they seek help, get treatment, and start the recovery journey.
The Importance of Reasonable Expectations and Ongoing Grace
We want to be clear: participating in family therapy doesn’t automatically guarantee that all of the family’s troubles will vanish. Family members will feel strong emotions and struggle to overcome issues and ideas that are stumbling blocks for them. And, of course, the person struggling with the substance use disorder must absolutely seek treatment (or return to treatment if a relapse has occurred) or no amount of family therapy will help resolve the foundational issue.
That said, family therapy will help family members understand each other’s points of view, strengths and weakness, and hopes and fears. Armed with that understanding and a set of strategies for more productive interactions, a family can make true progress toward healthier relationships—and can learn to support their family member who is in recovery.
Will there still be difficult moments after family therapy comes to a close? Of course. But each member of the family may be better able to offer one another grace when conflicts arise. And you will have a shared strategy—developed together—for helping your loved one.
Providing Support for Families Is Part of the Plan at The Aviary
At The Aviary Recovery Center, we understand that substance use disorders don’t just impact the individual who is using drugs or alcohol. Whole families are affected and often need significant support in order to come to terms with the challenges they are facing. Our Family Wellness Program was designed as an educational and social support program for families of those with addictions. The program is offered once a week at our Fenton office and is free to the St. Louis area community.
The Aviary Recovery Center can also offer information and recommendations regarding formal family therapy services in the Greater Saint Louis area. We are committed to supporting families by providing access to resources while offering compassionate, personalized, and expert services for those in treatment and the people who love them.