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Family Therapy
family therapy about why your addicted to alcohol

Family Therapy

Family therapy can be extremely valuable in helping a loved one overcome addiction. The objective of family therapy is to educate family members on the nature of addiction, improving their understanding of the disease and how they can provide a stronger level of support for the recovering addict.

How Family Members Are Affected by Addiction

Many people often assume that the individual struggling with addiction is the only person in the family who needs therapy. However, addiction affects every member of the family unit differently.

Living with a spouse or loved one who struggles with drug or alcohol addiction can be particularly stressful for the non-addicted family members. Addiction places a vast amount of stress on family relationships and bonds, as the addicted person becomes increasingly focused on drug use, spending more time obtaining, using and recovering from the effects of drugs. A person in the grip of addiction may neglect work and family responsibilities, placing even more pressure on the family unit.

In the early stages of addiction, many family members will likely blame themselves for the addict’s behavior. They may believe they are at fault for the addicted person turning to drugs or alcohol, which can lead them to isolate themselves from social activities. Others may deny the problem or down-play the severity of it because they do not want to believe a family member could succumb to such an insidious disease.

Of course, a person struggling with drug or alcohol addiction may constantly lie about substance use, steal money, or otherwise hide the reality of the situation. Family members who are lied to on a daily basis, lose trust and begin to expect the worst of the addicted person at every turn.

Why Should Family Members Also Receive Treatment?

In 2011, the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services revealed that almost 16,000 people sought treatment for drug or alcohol abuse in Alabama (1). While most people associate drug addiction with illicit street drugs, such as heroin or cocaine, the reality is that Alabama leads the country with the highest rate of prescription medication abuse and addiction.

According to The National Institute on Drug Abuse, Family Behavior Therapy (FBT) can demonstrate positive results in treating substance abuse and addiction (2). The person struggling with addiction needs specialist rehab treatment, but it is also important that family members receive counseling to help them deal with the difficulties of supporting a recovering addict.

Family Roles in the Addict’s Addiction

Some family members will take on stereotypical roles within the family unit in an effort to deal with addiction in the best way they know. Some typical roles include:

Addict: the person in the grip of addiction becomes the center of a dysfunctional family unit, with everyone focused on their behavior, actions and attitudes. Other members within the family unconsciously take on other roles around the addict.

Hero: the hero personality tends to be overly-responsible and is often an over-achiever. They want the very best for the family and often conceal the problem to make the family unit more presentable to the outside world. The hero will sacrifice their own emotional condition in an effort to preserve the family unit.

Scapegoat: the scapegoat personality often acts out by exhibiting bad behavior in order to draw attention away from the addict. The family often focuses on the scapegoat’s actions and antics, giving them a perverse reason to overlook the addict’s behavior.

Mascot: the mascot personality regularly makes inappropriate jokes and attempts to inject humor into every situation in an effort to relieve some of the stress and dysfunction within the family unit.

Lost child: the lost child is the silent family member who never mentions addiction or recovery and works hard not to create problems by giving up their own needs, no matter how lonely, neglected or guilty they feel about it.

Caretaker/Enabler: the caretaker personality supports all the other family roles, including the addict. The enabler aims to keep everyone happy, makes excuses for behaviors and actions, and never mentions addiction or recovery.

What is involved in Couples and Family Therapy?

Family therapy focuses on counseling family members through their own problems and clarifying their roles within the family unit. Counseling concentrates on teaching loved ones how to help the addict seek assistance on their own for their problems, rather than making excuses for them or hindering their recovery process with other negative emotions.

The therapy process also works to build stronger family bonds, and loved ones learn the importance of taking care of themselves first so that they are better able to support the recovering addict in positive ways.

Family members are encouraged to apply the behavioral strategies that they are taught in counseling. They also learn new skills that can greatly improve the home environment and family dynamic. If the recovering addict is a parent, counseling also encompasses parenting behaviors and reinforces parental responsibilities.

Continued Care after Rehabilitation

When a recovering addict graduates from rehab, the journey to recovery is only just beginning. Addiction is a relapsing disease that requires ongoing maintenance and management.

Family therapy helps each family member to understand and appreciate the importance of continued therapy and care throughout the recovery process.

If you or a family member struggles with addiction, reach out to a substance abuse facility in Alabama to begin family therapy today.