Family Therapy & Recovery
For most of us, the concept of family is fluid. Few people have the typical close-knit unit as depicted in the media, while others might be estranged from their family because of destructive behaviors. So when someone enters an addiction treatment program or mental health facility and their continuum of care plan outlines family therapy or aftercare, they might not understand why. Let’s take a closer look.
Face the Facts of History
All too often, we don’t want to poke whatever hurts. Best to leave it alone—maybe it’ll go away, or not be as obvious; at the very least, we can simply try to ignore it. But deep down, a wound like this festers and eventually creates more problems. Some problems appear on the surface while others stay buried.
Family issues are frequently like this. You might even know the term “dysfunctional family.” According to the McGraw-Hill Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine, the definition describes “a family with multiple ‘internal’ conflicts, e.g. sibling rivalries, parent-child conflicts, domestic violence, mental illness, and single parenthood; and/or ‘external’ conflicts, e.g. alcohol or drug abuse, extramarital affairs, gambling, and unemployment: influences that affect the basic needs of the family unit.”
If even one of these characteristics is true of your family, you can understand why facing and resolving complicated aspects of family history can prompt numerous negative feelings. But that’s not all. Elements of family dysfunction largely contribute to substance use disorder (SUD), alcohol use disorder (AUD), and mental health disorders. In a 2005 study released by the Department of Justice, researchers noted that “the primary victims of substance abuse are children, and the strongest influence over children’s substance use is families.” The circle of family influence is a closed loop. So why on earth include “those people” in the recovery process? We’ll touch on that in a moment.
Conversely, some individuals can have other risk factors for addiction that have nothing to do at all with their family members. They might have always had strong support and consideration from loved ones, but other influences, such as mental health issues, peers, work and life pressures, or particularly addictive drugs such as opiates, cocaine, heroin, and other substances, caused a cascade effect of conflict that even the closest relatives can’t prevent.
In both scenarios, progressive healing is paramount to an individual’s recovery—and members of the family, too.
Shed Light on the Truth
When someone is in the early stages of recovery, their treatment plan frequently includes addressing key issues in a family therapy program. This might involve turning over some proverbial rocks and revealing some uncomfortable truths.
The benefits of doing this in a guided, moderated setting is that there are professionals present to keep circumstances from unraveling to the point of no resolution. There are also ample opportunities for education, communication training, and shared family support. Honest discussion can be challenging at first, but it’s necessary.
Some aspects of family therapy might be a few days or a weeklong event at a facility, while others could be ongoing. However, the goal is the same: to help individuals within the unit begin to heal, with all parties involved learning the power of transformation.
A maple tree sapling doesn’t grow 20 ft. high in a year. So the same patience is required to straighten out family matters. For example, if you or someone you love suffered multiple adverse childhood experiences, it will take considerable time to identify and address these issues.
Additionally, if you have a family member who’s used maladaptive behavior to get through life, those fences won’t be mended overnight. Talking with them about recovery and clearing the air still matters, as long as boundaries are respected.
Another hard truth to face is some aspects of family togetherness may never be attained. It can be heartbreaking to realize that you’re in a toxic relationship with a relative, and the only way to fully recover is to end it. Rather than hide from this responsibility, take time to make peace with it so you can move forward in life. The Greater Good Science Center offers some steps that help you through this difficult transition.
Know that choosing acceptance and forgiveness really matters—primarily for your health. This is a form of transformation that moves you forward.
Cottonwood’s Family Program
We believe that at the center of conflict is calm, and with our family program, we aim to help you and your loved ones find it. When you learn to detach from the pain, it’s possible to find a better understanding of each individual in your family. Our program focuses on interpersonal change that can be sustained after treatment, as well as internalizing new ways of interacting. Are you ready for this? Please call us with any questions.