Addiction is a serious illness that affects everyone around you, including family and friends. The involvement of family members in addiction treatment, along with a strong support network, is a key component of successful recovery. It’s important that family members understand addiction, and how to offer the right kind of support. Family members themselves often benefit substantially from participating in and receiving therapy during the recovery journey. 

Why is Family Therapy Effective?

Strained or problematic familial relationships can often contribute to, or exacerbate the development of addiction. A person may not recognise the true impact of their addiction through therapy alone, which is why family therapy can be a great way to help someone understand how their illness has affected others. It will also give the therapist a clearer understanding of the family dynamics and environment. 

The aim of family therapy, otherwise known as system therapy, is to create a setting in which an honest and open dialogue between family members can begin to take place. This allows the individual to comprehend and come to terms with the effects their addiction has had on others, and hopefully strengthen the support network of the family.

Goals of Family Therapy

The strength of friends, family and colleagues is vital for a successful recovery, but the same network can simultaneously feel traumatised by the addiction and need support themselves. Family therapy aims to provide an environment that allows members to have open and frank discussions. The more the family knows about the addiction and knows how to offer the right support, the better the outcome for the patient. Family therapy helps patients and families to connect and share their feelings of shame, hurt, and anger. The goals of family therapy include:

  • To help the system communicate in a healthy and productive way
  • To rebuild damaged relationships from a new place
  • Educating family about the disease of addiction
  • Helping the family to understand the behaviours of the addict
  • Guiding the family to cope with their individual issues
  • To support and assist family members in rebuilding their own lives

Types of Family Therapy

Group therapy is a very popular form of therapy offered by most rehab clinics. It’s very commonly used because it allows people to get support from others who understand what they are going through.

Family therapy is similar to group therapy in the sense that it involves multiple people, however instead of a group of peers, it involves a group of family members or loved ones who need help 

Family Behavioural Therapy: Family behavioural therapy is the most well-known form of family therapy. It can be used for both adults and teens struggling with addiction and co-occurring disorders such as depression and PTSD.

Multisystemic Therapy: This combines traditional family therapy with one-to-one therapy and group therapy. During this kind of treatment, your therapist will try to look for the underlying cause of the addiction. 

Multidimensional Family Therapy: Multidimensional family therapy is mostly used in outpatient programmes for young adults. The family is encouraged to look at which behaviours may have led their child into addiction. 

Brief Strategic Family Therapy: Brief strategic family therapy aims to address specific relationships within the family, and understand how these interactions may have caused a child to engage in compulsive behaviour such as substance abuse. 

What Happens During Family Therapy?

Family therapy typically takes place in a group environment involving family members of the person in treatment. Some sessions may be offered to family members without the individual being present, and certain models so system therapy include individual sessions with the person alone. In these individual sessions, family members are encouraged to explore their relationships with and feelings for other family members and how these relate to themselves. 

Your therapist will be responsible for guiding the conversation to ensure all parties remain calm and encourage a positive environment in which an honest conversation can take place. Family therapy is designed to improve communication and bring significant issues to the forefront without exacerbating existing difficulties. 

Depending on your therapist’s approach, these family therapy sessions may seek to address family power dynamics and analyse communication, both conscious and unconscious, between family members. Family therapy also aims to develop communal coping mechanisms and identify and remediate problematic behaviours and coping strategies. 

Intra-familial challenges typically arise from generations of learning how to relate to one another and so they will likely take time to address and repair. Family therapy should not be seen as a cure for addiction, and it’s unrealistic to expect all issues to be resolved after one session, as it’s certainly not a quick fix. It can, however, help build the foundations of stronger relationships and greater understanding between family members. Family therapy can also help in creating a loving framework within which people feel supported through recovery whilst working to ensure they do not further damage their relationships with loved ones.

A Therapist’s Role in Family Therapy

A therapist’s role during family therapy is to find ways of bringing family members together and explore the relationships in the context of their loved one’s addiction. They can use various methods, such as those mentioned above, to do so. Family therapists often act as informed moderators during these discussions, guiding the conversation through issues that may have in the past impeded any fruitful conversations. 

When to go for family therapy

Each family of course differs from the next. There is no single roadmap for addiction treatment that can be applied to every case, and what is right for one family may be considered extremely unsuitable for others. The professional/s in charge of the treatment is typically the one who will determine whether or not family members should be involved in an individual’s treatment at all. 

The professional may feel that the patient will respond poorly to family involvement and may even abandon treatment altogether. If family members feel that they could benefit from therapy, they should liaise with the relevant professionals to investigate whether that therapy could and should form part of the treatment plan; if not, separate therapy is likely to be advised and more often than not, hugely beneficial.

Re-Building and Re-connecting as a Family

At CATCH Recovery, we provide family therapy to support family members during their loved one’s treatment process. Our family therapy programme is designed to help families communicate in a healthy way and helps rebuild ruptured relationships. 

Our clinic is based in South West London, which is accessible from anywhere in the UK. However, if you need additional support but don’t live in the South East of England, you may benefit from some of the outpatient services we offer. If you require residential rehab and are unable to travel to London, we also provide referrals to rehabs in other areas in the UK and Ireland.