Addiction and Family Recovery
Although individual counseling is commonly used to treat substance use disorders, it’s also important to involve family members in the rehabilitation process. When a family member develops a substance use disorder, their behavior can damage relationships, create heightened levels of tension in the home and put the emotional well-being of other family members at risk. A comprehensive family recovery program addresses these issues and helps the entire family learn how to recover from the loved one’s disorder.
Family Therapy and Trauma
Participating in a family recovery program can help individuals with substance use disorders understand how dysfunction within the family may have contributed to their addiction. Many people with substance use disorders have a history of trauma; in many cases, this trauma occurred in the home environment. For example, an individual with an active addiction may have been physically abused as a child or lived in an environment that wasn’t safe for children. These traumatic experiences increase the risk of addiction in adulthood. Family therapy can help the individual work through traumatic experiences and start to rebuild relationships with family members.
When an individual is actively abusing alcohol or drugs, it can be difficult to have a productive conversation that solves problems rather than creating new ones. In a family recovery program, participants learn how to resolve conflict without resorting to aggression or violence. Participants also have the opportunity to improve their coping skills, giving them the tools they need to remain calm when discussing difficult subjects.
Within a family, each member tends to take on a specific role. This is especially true in families with at least one member who has a substance use disorder. For example, the spouse of an addict may take on the role of enabler. Enablers make excuses for the addiction and refuse to believe that alcohol or drug use is the problem. The scapegoat is the family member who gets blamed for everything going wrong in the family. Even when a problem is the direct result of the addict’s behavior, it’s the scapegoat who accepts the blame. Some families also have a hero, an overachiever who tries to keep everything together and make it seem as if nothing is wrong. Participating in a family recovery program can help uncover the role of each family member, making it easier to identify sources of conflict and work through difficult issues.
Family Strengths and Weaknesses
When someone has an active addiction, it’s difficult to focus on what is going right rather than what’s going wrong. A family recovery program can help families identify their strengths and learn how to use those strengths to support each other. It can also help families uncover their weaknesses — such as poor communication skills — and learn how to overcome them.
Recovery Works Canada offers individual, group and family therapy at an affordable cost. If you need help recovering from a substance use disorder, contact the treatment centre at 778-430-1212 or visit the Recovery Works website.