Family Systems Therapy
Family systems therapy helps individuals resolve their problems in the context of their family units. Each family member works together to better understand their group dynamic and how their individual actions affect each other and the family unit as a whole.
Historically, someone suffering from addiction would receive treatment independently. However there have been recent studies that show a more integrated approach to treatment, that not only focuses on the individual but their family environment as well, offers a more positive outcome.
The effects of addiction aren’t limited to the addicted person, and the causes of substance abuse can be varied and complex Addiction is sometimes referred to as a “family disease”, as family issues can contribute to and perpetuate the illness of addiction. Therefore successful treatment often incorporates the family of the person struggling with addiction.
Family Systems Therapy is based on the notion that families share a connection, and by modifying one component of the system, you can affect the other components. This means the health of a family can play a major role in the success of recovery.
Participation of the family in the treatment process, by assuming a supportive role, can be an asset in terms of preventing relapse, extending clean time, and solving conflicts that can contribute to the abuse of alcohol or substances.
Because the family is such an important part of a person’s social support network, family therapy can be crucial for families in which there is substance abuse. One of the most important premises of family systems therapy is that what happens to one member of a family happens to everyone in the family.
Benefits gained through Family Systems Therapy are:
- Better understanding of the nature of addiction and how it affects behavior:
This is accomplished through education. Just as the person has been assessed, the family has an opportunity for self-assessment and insight from a therapist.
- Becoming aware of family dynamics:
Maladaptive family patterns will contribute to continued substance use. Everyone in the system should be treated to obtain the most positive outcome.
- Improving communication:
In a system where there may have been minimal communication or emotional involvement, improved communication is essential and will require an investment by those interested in the most successful recovery outcomes.
- Regaining trust:
Dishonesty and substance abuse sometimes go hand in hand. Family members may not want to open their hearts (or their wallets) to help a loved one who has betrayed their trust. Improved communication, honest interaction and witnessing positive changes can help mend this breach.
- Sharing feelings:
During active addiction, bridges can be burned. Family members may be angry but unable to express it, they may fear relapse or they may be excited at the possibility of reconciliation. It takes time to learn how to recognize, balance and express these feelings.
- Setting boundaries:
This applies to everyone involved. Clarifying boundaries is not easy. But it is a necessary step toward healthy recovery for the family. This may include detaching from any family member is in active addiction.
- Learning self-care:
In addiction treatment, the focus is on the person with the addiction. During family therapy, a parent or spouse may learn that they need help, too. They may be directed to try Al-Anon, Nar-Anon or other mutual help groups in addition to finding an individual therapist.