When people think about substance use disorders (SUDs), they often focus on the individual who is abusing substances. It can be easy to forget that addiction involves more than just the person with the disorder. Addiction affects relationships and sometimes is a product of certain relationships. Nevertheless, it doesn’t help to place the blame on family members, friends, and romantic partners. In most cases, these people are also hurt by watching their loved one experience substance abuse. They also need healing.
While a person with SUD is going through recovery, family relationships can help and hurt the process. Supportive and uplifting family environments can play a positive part in recovery. On the flip side, unstable and difficult family environments can have the opposite effect. Family therapy is a treatment that can repair these severed or strained relationships and create a better family dynamic for all parties involved.
Relationships and Substance Use Disorder
When people are dealing with stressful times, they can end up saying things they don’t mean to the people they love. Arguments with loved ones may become heated for a person struggling with SUD. Strained relationships and harmful stigma from family members can isolate someone with SUD and derail recovery efforts.
In the United States, one in every eight children 17 and younger lives in a household where substance abuse is present. Children of a person with SUD often experience obstacles regarding their functioning and mental health. Child development in households where a parent is dealing with SUD can be turbulent and unpredictable.
Common behaviors and symptoms in children who live with one or both parents with SUD include:
- Blaming oneself for parental substance use
- Trying to control the substance use by performing school and household duties
- Withdrawing from the parent
- Stress-induced illnesses
- Depression and anxiety
- Difficulty focusing in school
- Trauma symptoms from physical or psychological abuse or neglect
Stigmas Regarding Substance Use Disorders
SUD is a disorder that can happen to anyone. Stigma toward individuals with substance abuse is typically misplaced and assumes that addiction is a choice. People may assume the person is fundamentally unfit for society. SUD is confusing for others and is often socially stigmatized. It is also wrongly perceived as solely a result of poor decision-making. In reality, SUD is a disorder, and many factors can affect a person’s predisposition. Finding ways to break these stigmas allows more people to come forward when they need help; it allows outsiders looking in to proceed with more empathy and understanding.
What is Family Therapy?
Family therapy is a therapy that focuses on building strong and healthy relationships on a familial level. Family therapy with a licensed professional can give all participants a safe space to share their feelings. This can look like having each member share their experience, role-playing, or creating structures the family can use to set and enforce boundaries. Getting help for familial issues can aid recovery. Family therapy also can make family life healthier for everyone involved.
Types of Family Therapy
Family therapy does not always look like a group of people sharing their relationship experiences with a therapist. However, that is one of the ways a session can be conducted. Family therapy can also take the form of the following:
- Structural therapy. This solution-based method is aimed at exploring methods of de-escalating conflict. Exposing and understanding some of the patterns in familial relationships makes it easier to view other perspectives and improve family dynamics.
- Intergenerational therapy. This therapy looks at how patterns can be passed from generation to generation. By being aware of where these patterns were formed, a person can understand how they have shaped them and how they continue to shape subsequent generations.
- Psychoeducation. This therapy aims to teach those with mental conditions and their family members about the effects of the condition. This therapy addresses stigmas regarding mental health conditions and provides family members with better support methods.
The Benefits of Family Therapy
As the family of someone going through recovery, knowing what steps to take to keep them on track is helpful. It is also important to let go of any resentment and pain the family member may feel from having a loved one trying to overcome substance use. Family therapy can help to build a foundation based on mutual respect while addressing communication issues and promoting conflict resolution.
There are many ways to support a person in recovery. When a person with SUD can turn to family for support and be received with openness and non-judgment, it can significantly reduce the chances of relapse. Family therapy builds empathy and allows family members to relate to one another and understand the reasons behind choices. Rather than remaining stuck, confused, and upset, seeking family treatment can bridge the misconceptions and ideas many sometimes place upon the people they love.
Substance use disorder (SUD) is harmful not only to the individual in recovery but also to the family members and friends. At Sober Life, we recognize these relationships’ importance and their effect on long-term recovery. Regardless of your recovery process, Sober Life can help to mend the bonds in your life that cause distress and impede recovery. Our treatment methods involve family therapy sessions for you and your loved ones. We also offer additional programs exclusive to family members of the client. Family relationships do not have to be sacrificed. We can help. Call us at (619) 542-9542 to learn what we can do to help you and your family heal and thrive.