People say that addiction is a family disease — and with good reason. The illness brings about changes in the sufferer that get progressively worse and become increasingly difficult for them to hide. They often put an emotional and financial strain on themselves as well as the people they love the most.
Substance abuse disorders aren’t a choice. They leave the individual feeling guilty, ashamed and unable to change their behavior. Family therapy for addiction is integral because it educates every person involved in the best ways to help the addict and avoid relapse.
1. Understand Addiction
The way addiction affects the brain is incredibly complex and differs significantly from the old-fashioned understanding many people still have. Family therapy includes the people closest to the sufferer to ensure everyone is on the same page in understanding the nature of the condition. Learning how to separate the person from the disease can be incredibly liberating for loved ones.
While a family member can be justified in any emotional response they have to the addiction and the effect it’s had on the person they love, they often need help learning how to avoid blaming them.
2. Discover How to Avoid Codependency and Enabling
Codependency is a little different from the way most people perceive it, and it tends to affect spouses and parents who have adapted to a dysfunctional family situation. A codependent person neglects their own needs in favor of obsessing over the actions, behavior and problems of a loved one. They tend to base their own emotions on those of the person with the addiction.
Enabling is when a person removes consequences for the addict as a result of fear or love. They may go out of their way to make everything appear normal to everyone else, accept phony justifications for drug or alcohol abuse or use substances as well.
Family therapy helps to identify these patterns of behavior and work towards changing the dynamic to one that’s healthy and robust.
3. Rebuild Trust and Focus on the Positive
Recovery signals time to draw a line in the sand and make a fresh start. Family therapy allows attendees to have an outlet for their feelings in a safe, constructive setting. The counselor will then focus on rebuilding trust and framing future plans with a positive mindset.
Communication is crucial when it comes to family, and addiction can severely hamper the way you communicate with the people you love the most. Often, when we don’t say how we feel, it’s out of fear of hurting the other person’s feelings. Family therapy will help you to learn how to express your emotions in a way that makes you all more likely to listen to each other.
5. Restore Healthy Boundaries
Boundaries are guidelines about expectations, behavior and responsibilities that are reasonable, clear and consistent. They help each family member to distinguish their unique identity from one another and prevent manipulation and exploitation. To get your family unit back on track, a family therapist will help you establish boundaries or re-establish boundaries that may have broken down.