Family Addiction Counseling

family addiction counseling

Family Addiction Counseling

The family unit can be a centerpiece for communication and support for those struggling with addiction. There are many available options when it comes to treatment for addiction. Family therapy for addiction offers more promising results and opportunities for the family to grow through education.

What is Family Therapy, and How Can It Help You?

Family counseling or therapy is a form of treatment that focuses on the psychological effects of addiction present in a family unit. Family therapy can be used to address issues within the family such as depression, death, illness, divorce, and addiction. Addiction can be a powerful force that disrupts the lives of those struggling to heal and those who care for that individual. Families take on many shapes and identities, but their role can be an important tool for support.

Family therapy often highlights intimate connections in the family unit because of the effects addiction plays in their interactions. The psychological tug of war can be frustrating and heartbreaking for anyone involved. By focusing on these unique relationships, the inclusion of family therapy has shown additional benefits to the recovery of those in treatment for addiction. 

Generally, family therapy is designed to target solutions in an open environment and usually has a short-term timeline. A typical meeting is held once a week for less than one hour. The practice of family therapy for addiction is a relatively new but effective one for treatment. There is nothing more beautiful than when a family has the opportunity to heal together, especially in these challenging times.

What are Different Types of Family Therapy for Addiction?

  • Family-Based Behavioral Therapy – Best described as training the parents in child management and targets behavioral changes in the grand scheme.
  • Family-Based Behavioral Therapy (Parent Only) – Best described as when a parent figure adopts the positive practices needed for change. 
  • Functional Family Therapy – This is a way to drive family members to reduce negative interactions and focus on reducing problematic behaviors through communication.
  • Multidimensional Family Therapy – Recognizes that there are additional pieces that affect someone’s behavior and focuses on building healthy coping mechanisms.
  • Multisystemic Therapy – This is an evidence-based approach to address substance abuse and antisocial behaviors with a larger scope.

How Does Addiction Affect the Family?

Addiction can affect family unity in a variety of ways; however, these changes often come in a similar package. The psychological and physical effects of addiction in the family spread through their behaviors and interactions. Members of the family will often fall back on unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with the stress of watching a loved one struggle. 

The behaviors adopted from these circumstances could include:

  • Safety – Either through legal protection or otherwise, protecting the members of the family is a major priority.
  • Boundaries and communication – The needs of the individual or family members tend to be neglected. Communication is key to bridging the weakness in the family.
  • Denial – Parents with children abusing drugs tend to deny the use or are incapable of recognizing the signs of abuse.
  • Relationships – Isolation is often what happens when abusers spend more time with other abusers, pushing away family members. This usually leads to damaged relationships and could indicate a passing through generations.
  • Harmful Emotions – Consistent positive emotions are replaced by resentment, betrayal, fear, anxiety, and despair within the family unit.


Codependency is best described as excessive emotional or physical dependence on a partner or family member. A codependent relationship might look like a person giving their entire life to meet the needs of someone else, enabling them to feel useful but not meeting their own needs. Codependent people typically have trouble recognizing their feelings and lack trust in themselves.

A codependent person would project their anger at others or behave irrationally toward the topic of addiction. Another example of a codependent person is someone who bases their emotions on a loved one or lying about their addiction to protect themselves.


Enabling can be useful in certain situations; however, with addiction, these behaviors can have major consequences. This can take the form of repressing feelings or agreeing with the justifications for the family member’s abuse. Enabling can also take the form of preserving the family member’s image while they abuse, sometimes even using substances themselves to keep an eye on their loved one.

Children are more often susceptible to the effects of addiction in the family. These changes showcase the increased risk of affecting the child’s development; mainly in school or social settings.

How Does Addiction Affect Children?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 25% of children raised in the United States are in the presence of substance abuse. Childhood development is one of the most common risks of addiction in the family. This leaves children to be twice as likely to experience the effects of substance abuse. Family therapy could provide a great outlet for the child or children to express their thoughts and feelings in a safe environment.

The children in these environments might experience:

  • Poor performance in school or other social settings
  • The likelihood of becoming abusers themselves through experimentation
  • Reduced self-esteem
  • Other forms of abuse such as physical, sexual, or verbal

family therapy for addiction

When substance abuse is present in the household, children will often withdraw to protect themselves from the psychological pain. This could result in post-traumatic stress or disturbing nightmares that affect their sleep and ability to function. Children are influenced by their environment as much as anyone else.

Coping with Stress

Caretakers need to acknowledge their emotional needs and the needs of the children. When a member is struggling with addiction, the stress of these circumstances can lead to the loved ones developing substance use disorders themselves to cope. Parental figures or caretakers leading by example provide an opportunity to ease the weight of the negative experiences.

In addition to family therapy, a few strategies to adjust the emotional toll might include:

  • Breathing techniques and mindfulness
  • Proper sleep, with a minimum of seven hours
  • The acceptance of feelings, whether positive or negative. Suppression could have negative effects.
  • Communication by addressing the emotional needs and health of the family members. 

What Are the Goals of Family Therapy for Addiction?

Family therapy for addiction targets the emotional well-being of the family unit, which can take on many forms. From individual sessions to group counseling, the goal of family therapy is to enrich the communication between family members and searching for problem-solving techniques. The window of these sessions can be from a few weeks to longer (up to 12 weeks); however, these guidelines depend on each case.

Relapse and Family Involvement

If a family member does not wish to be a part of the process, it’s best to encourage them through education and support but it must be done on their terms. Addiction within the family can cause fear and anxiety due to the uncertainty. Family therapy for addiction is modeled to address the issues in the family and seek problem-solving but won’t fix every problem. Relapse is possible, however, it’s significant for the members to remain optimistic and to reevaluate their recovery plan.

What Are the Benefits of Family Therapy for Addiction?

Family therapy for addiction offers many benefits to those affected. These challenges offer opportunities to work on building understanding among family members and heal the connections that were damaged by the abuse. Every journey is going to require new sets of boundaries and behaviors that will rebuild the time lost due to addiction.

Treatment for addiction for an individual can pose different sets of obstacles. Family therapy for addiction requires at least one family member or any other close relationship to the individual seeking treatment. In general, learning about addiction offers a look into the triggers, physiology, and other behavior-based topics of this disorder.

Family therapy for addiction has additional benefits such as:

  • Improving communication among family members
  • Crafting engagement and familial support of the members, working through these issues as a team
  • Learning about treatment and options to better understand how the process works
  • Easing negative feelings that might impact the treatment process, such as resentment, fear, and anger
  • The opportunity to address other issues in a safe space, such as mental health and spirituality

Get Started with Family Therapy for Addiction

Here are a few ways you can start family therapy:

  • A referral from a primary care doctor, family, or friend is always a great step.
  • Using any search engine or directory for a local therapist or trained social worker.
  • Contacting your healthcare provider or American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.

Addiction is a disease that spreads from the individual to those close to them, but that does not mean there isn’t hope. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, Addiction Intervention can help. We are more than happy to direct you or your loved ones to a program that will fit your needs during these difficult times. Take the first step into the healing process for yourself and those who seek the same peace. Contact us today!