Family Therapy

Addiction is something that affects the struggling individual, as well as everyone around them. It can be painful to see a loved one struggle and change for the worse. Having a supportive and open family environment is crucial to long term recovery. This is where family therapy for addiction can sometimes be necessary.

Family addiction counseling can be extremely beneficial when it comes to addiction therapy. Studies have shown that treatment that implements family therapy is more effective than when it’s not. Addiction is something that can affect home and family life for the addict and the household. It’s never too late to get the help you deserve, for yourself and for your loved ones.

Addiction is a Family Disease: The Impact of Substance Abuse on the Family Unit

It is said that addiction is a family disease. It immensely affects those who use substances and everyone around them as well. It can be a crippling situation for everyone involved. Living with someone who is abusing drugs can be unpredictable, unsettling, stressful, disruptive, and sometimes even scary. This can cause a lot of issues for siblings, parents, and spouses.

To cope with the situation, family members may adopt destructive behavior while trying to deal with the situation. The entire family can become dysfunctional and fragile during the entire process. This sort of environment only helps fuel substance abuse and addiction.

Children are most affected by addiction in siblings and parents. Substance abuse can cause disruption in a child’s regular development. Which can lead to a higher risk of mental, physical, and emotional problems down the line. These stresses and disruptions can result in poor performance in school and can lead to learning disabilities and problems with authority (skipping school, suspensions, etc.). Alarmingly, children are almost four times more likely to become addicted when living in a home with someone suffering from addiction.

Family Issues As a Result of Addiction

There are a number of negative effects and issues addiction can have on an entire household. It is not a normal environment to live or grow up in. This not only affects the household in the present but in the future as well (especially if children are involved). Household life is negatively affected in the following ways:

  • Responsibilities – Some members of the family may begin to take on a number of new responsibilities because of a person’s substance use. This can be quite overwhelming and stressful, especially for children of addicts.
  • Denial – Parents may deny that their children struggling with addiction have a problem. They may not want to face the problem or the consequences head-on.
  • Emotions – Anger, anxiety, guilt, embarrassment, resentment, and sadness are all emotions that may arise as a son or sibling of an addict.
  • Relationships – Substance abuse can cause a number of negative issues in a relationship (for both parties). Drug users may isolate themselves from family members and loved ones. They will also turn to drug-using friends as well.
  • Communication – When someone is struggling with addiction, many of the positive interactions are decreased to a minimum (if any). There will be tension and negative interactions. Additionally, needs and concerns may be completely ignored or overlooked.
  • Safety – In some intense cases, family members may fear for their safety. Sometimes, behaviors may be unpredictable and dangerous, they may feel they need legal protection because of this.

Unhealthy Behaviors to Avoid

Families will often fall into certain unhealthy and enabling behaviors. These only continue the vicious cycle of addiction and stress. Looking out for these before and after family addiction counseling can make a world of difference.


Codependency happens when someone has to adapt to a dysfunctional family lifestyle. What tends to happen is, family members will put the addict’s needs and desires first. Family members may set aside their goals and lifestyle to fully focus on the individual struggling with addiction.

Signs of possible codependency include:

  • Projecting anger onto pets and children
  • Mood based on how your loved one is doing
  • Lying to others and yourself about a loved one’s drug use
  • Constant worry about your loved one’s addiction and health
  • Overall denial of the situation and constantly making excuses
  • Violent or irrational behavior towards addiction-related events
  • Unhealthy habits like over-shopping, obsessive internet usage, and over-eating
  • Lowered self -esteem and putting your own desires and emotions to the side for your loved one


Enabling behaviors can be extremely unproductive and dangerous for addicts. Enabling occurs when you remove the consequences of drug use for a loved one. Some people may be trying to help but are actually enabling further drug use. It’s important to be aware of the signs and make sure you are not enabling a loved one and their drug use.

Behaviors that enable family members include:

  • Using substances with a loved one to keep the situation under control
  • Hiding your feelings so you can keep the peace between you and your loved one
  • Making excuses on behalf of your loved one and minimizing the consequences of drug use
  • Taking extra steps to make sure everything appears okay in the household (when this is not the case)
  • Accepting and not questioning your loved one’s excuses for their addiction and substance abuse
  • A feeling of guilt for failing to stop the consequences of addiction from affecting a loved one (from their drug use)

These behaviors, even though may seem helpful, actually encourage drug use. By getting rid of the consequences, a loved one has no reason to stop using drugs and alcohol. This is where family therapy for addiction can make a difference.

Family Therapy for Addiction

Family therapy can make a world of difference in a treatment setting. Family therapy for addiction allows the members of a family to heal and recover as a group. After all, drug addiction is something that affects everyone in the family. Family therapy provides a safe and open environment that allows for productive and emotional healing. This is not a confrontational approach but rather a positive exchange with each family member.

Family therapy usually has a substance abuser and a family member (usually one) during the therapy session. This is usually a spouse, sibling, or a close family member. This is to ensure a safe and open environment for change. Regardless of who it might be, there is always room for change and recovery from the chains of addiction.

The Many Benefits of Family Addiction Counseling

There are a lot of different studies that show family therapy as a great option for helping a loved one recover from drug addiction. Talking about the problem and confronting addiction head-on in a positive manner can be the key to long term recovery. The benefits of family therapy for addiction treatment include:

  • Great for staying motivated and encouraging change in a loved one
  • An open space for all family members to speak freely about addiction and the effects it’s had on them as a unit
  • A place to ask questions and voice concerns about the addiction
  • The opportunity to learn about addiction and the different treatment options and choices
  • Offers great support before and after treatment
  • Dispels feelings of anger, stress, confusion, and fear about addiction
  • Improves how the family communicates and talks to each other
  • An open floor to talk about personal mental health struggles (depression, anxiety, depression) caused by a loved one’s addiction
  • A chance to talk about strategies and paths towards recovery in the future.
  • What to Expect During Family Therapy for Addiction

    Family therapy utilizes a number of techniques and a positive mindset to work towards recovery. By healing and working as a family, each member can come to terms with the situation and actively help the person overcome their addiction. Let’s take a look at some of the things that are included in family therapy for addiction:

    • Family involvement: As substance abuse treatment begins, at least one other family member will be there to help. This can happen anywhere from a couple of weeks to a few months into the treatment process.
    • Behavioral changes: Contingency management is often utilized during family therapy to develop goals and encourage a clean, sober lifestyle. This can help pinpoint the root of the problem while rebuilding tarnished relationships in the process.
    • Life Skills: Family members are able to learn new skills that can help improve the environment. This includes communicating calmly and effectively among the family.
    • Setting Goals: Setting goals is part of almost every type of addiction treatment. Setting goals for siblings, parents or other family members can be beneficial. Oftentimes, a reward can be introduced for incentive throughout the recovery process.

    These tools and skills can make a huge difference for the addict and the family as a whole. Family therapy is also useful in treating cases of co-occurring disorders. Co-occurring disorders are cases where a person is struggling with an addiction and a mental illness at the same time. These cases can be intense and extremely stressful for all parties involved. Family therapy can be beneficial during the process (where both the disorder and addiction are treated separately).

    Get Help Today

    At Create Recovery, we are passionate about our role in your life. We know addiction can be hard and we know the effects it can have on a family. Family therapy for addiction may just be the key to long-term sobriety (along with other treatment options). Contact us today to learn more about our treatment options and addiction resources.