Addiction Treatment Should Include Family Therapy

Family-Based Approaches | National Institute on Drug Abuse

Addiction Treatment Should Include Family Therapy

Family-based approaches to treating adolescent substance abuse highlight the need to engage the family, including parents, siblings, and sometimes peers, in the adolescent’s treatment. Involving the family can be particularly important, as the adolescent will often be living with at least one parent and be subject to the parent’s controls, rules, and/or supports.

Family-based approaches generally address a wide array of problems in addition to the young person’s substance problems, including family communication and conflict; other co-occurring behavioral, mental health, and learning disorders; problems with school or work attendance; and peer networks.

Research shows that family-based treatments are highly efficacious; some studies even suggest they are superior to other individual and group treatment approaches.59 Typically offered in outpatient settings, family treatments have also been tested successfully in higher-intensity settings such as residential and intensive outpatient programs.

Below are specific types of family-based treatments shown to be effective in treating adolescent substance abuse.

Brief Strategic Family Therapy (BSFT)

BSFT is a family systems approach to treatment, in which one member’s problem behaviors are seen to stem from unhealthy family interactions. Over the course of 12–16 sessions, the BSFT counselor establishes a relationship with each family member, observes how the members behave with one another, and assists the family in changing negative interaction patterns.

BSFT can be adapted to a broad range of family situations in various settings (mental health clinics, drug abuse treatment programs, social service settings, families’ homes) and treatment modalities (as a primary outpatient intervention, in combination with residential or day treatment, or as an aftercare/continuing-care service following residential treatment).


Family Behavior Therapy (T)

T, which has demonstrated positive results in both adults and adolescents, combines behavioral contracting with contingency management to address not only substance abuse but other behavioral problems as well. The adolescent and at least one parent participate in treatment planning and choose specific interventions from a menu of evidence-based treatment options.

Therapists encourage family members to use behavioral strategies taught in sessions and apply their new skills to improve the home environment. They set behavioral goals for preventing substance use and reducing risk behaviors for sexually transmitted diseases HIV, which are reinforced through a contingency management (CM) system.

Goals are reviewed and rewards provided at each session.61

Functional Family Therapy (FFT)

FFT combines a family systems view of family functioning (which asserts that unhealthy family interactions underlie problem behaviors) with behavioral techniques to improve communication, problem-solving, conflict resolution, and parenting skills.

Principal treatment strategies include (1) engaging families in the treatment process and enhancing their motivation for change and (2) modifying family members’ behavior using CM techniques, communication and problem solving, behavioral contracts, and other methods.62

Multidimensional Family Therapy (MDFT)

MDFT is a comprehensive family- and community-based treatment for substance-abusing adolescents and those at high risk for behavior problems such as conduct disorder and delinquency. The aim is to foster family competency and collaboration with other systems school or juvenile justice.

Sessions may take place in a variety of locations, including in the home, at a clinic, at school, at family court, or in other community locations.

MDFT has been shown to be effective even with more severe substance use disorders and can facilitate the reintegration of substance abusing juvenile detainees into the community.63

Multisystemic Therapy (MST)

MST is a comprehensive and intensive family- and community-based treatment that has been shown to be effective even with adolescents whose substance abuse problems are severe and with those who engage in delinquent and/or violent behavior. In MST, the adolescent’s substance abuse is viewed in terms of characteristics of the adolescent (e.g.

, favorable attitudes toward drug use) and those of his or her family (e.g., poor discipline, conflict, parental drug abuse), peers (e.g., positive attitudes toward drug use), school (e.g., dropout, poor performance), and neighborhood (e.g., criminal subculture).

The therapist may work with the family as a whole but will also conduct sessions with just the caregivers or the adolescent alone.64

NIDA. 2020, June 2. Family-Based Approaches. Retrieved from

NIDA. «Family-Based Approaches.» National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2 Jun. 2020,

NIDA. Family-Based Approaches. National Institute on Drug Abuse website. June 2, 2020


Family Therapy

Addiction Treatment Should Include Family Therapy

Psychotherapy has become an important tool to address the dysfunction that mental health conditions and addiction can create. Family therapy is an important type of psychotherapy that helps address how dysfunction affects an entire family unit.  Family therapy programs can help the family develop a new framework for productive communication.

What Is Family Therapy?

Mental health conditions and addiction affect not only the individual, but also their families and loved ones. For families to work through these issues, they may need to seek outside help through family counseling. So what is family therapy, and how can it provide such help?

One definition of family therapy describes it as a type of psychotherapy which helps family members resolve conflicts, improve communication and develop healthier habits.

This type of therapy can be conducted in individual therapist practices or as part of family therapy programs in larger treatment settings.

When it comes to family therapy, the word “family” refers to anyone who has an established and supportive role in another individual’s life, regardless of whether they are related by blood.

While therapists and clients can benefit from having multiple family members present for sessions, this is not the primary goal of the treatment.

In family therapy, problems that arise in one or more family members are thought of as part of a larger system. By having family members present, the participants and the therapist can avoid placing blame with any one individual.

This framework lets the therapist focus on helping families create healthier patterns to resolve conflicts and improve well-being.

Many difficult situations are ideally suited for family therapy work. Reasons for participation in  family therapy include:

  • Addiction in a family member
  • A mental health condition in a family member (depression, panic attacks, eating disorders, etc.)
  • School-related problems (declining grades, truancy, etc.)
  • Unexpected loss (disaster, financial losses, etc.)
  • Major life changes (deaths, births, relocations, marriages, adoptions, etc.)
  • Generational conflict
  • Parenting discrepancies
  • Intimate partner violence (domestic violence)

What to Expect in Family Therapy

So how does family therapy work? Family therapy is usually conducted by a marriage and family therapist, a clinical psychologist or a licensed clinical social worker. Marriage and family therapists are required to train in family therapy. Clinical psychologists and social workers often pursue additional family therapy training during school or an internship.

Referrals to family therapy can come from a variety of sources:

  • Your primary care provider
  • Friend or family member
  • A treatment program
  • Employee assistance program
  • Insurance referral
  • Clergy

As with any therapy, it is important to establish what to expect in family therapy when treatment is conducted. This helps you determine whether or not your therapist will be a good match for your family. It is helpful to interview your therapist and ask questions about:

  • Background (expertise, experience, education)
  • Rates (fees per hour, insurance coverage)
  • Treatment frame (length of each session, total length of treatment)
  • Logistics (location of office, emergency availability)

Although multiple family members often attend family therapy, it is not a requirement. Many times, only one family member works with the family therapist.

Sessions in family therapy can last from 50 minutes to 90 minutes, depending on the therapist and program.

Family therapy can be short-term, lasting just a few weeks or it can be long-term in some instances, depending on your family’s needs, access and treatment goals.

Types of Family Therapy

There is no one correct way to conduct family therapy. Several psychotherapists have developed models which are effective in particular situations. These types of family therapy include:

  • Structural therapy helps identify and address family members’ power dynamics. In this type of therapy, the therapist must understand the family hierarchy and the roles family members take when they act. As these dynamics are identified, the therapist can help parents establish a healthy sense of authority with their children. They can also help adult members of a family create even power balances with each other.
  • Systemic family therapy focuses on the unconscious communication between family members. From an outside perspective, therapists can help a family point out specific patterns of behavior to better understand its origins. Systemic family therapy has some similarities to psychodynamic psychotherapy.
  • Strategic family therapy helps provide families with a brief and direct strategy for increasing healthy communication. This type of therapy works well if there is a person within the family with an identified disorder or condition. In strategic therapy, therapists help the other family members interact more productively with the family member who has the “problem.”
  • Bowenian therapy, named after psychiatrist Murray Bowen, is most helpful for those who wish to utilize family therapy without involving other family members. Clients learn how to become less emotionally reactive to other family members and how to speak up when they are asked to split loyalties within their families.

Benefits of Family Therapy

Family therapy can help improve relationships between parents and children, partners, siblings and other family roles. It is a versatile type of therapy that can address specific problems or generalized patterns. The many specific benefits of family therapy include:

  • Providing ways for family members to productively express their emotions
  • Deepening understanding of family dynamics and the internal motives of individuals
  • Increasing problem-solving skills
  • Reducing communication obstacles
  • Experiencing a deeper understanding of the needs of other family members
  • Constructively resolving family differences

Goals of Family Therapy

The central goal of family therapy is to increase honest and productive communication between family members. Specific goals of family therapy may include:

  • Strengthening bonds between family members and promoting family identity
  • Fostering an environment of mutual respect and cooperation between family members
  • Learning effective problem-solving strategies
  • Identifying and reducing power struggles
  • Creating and fostering healthier reactions and behavioral patterns in family members

Family Therapy in Addiction and Mental Health Treatment

Family therapy is particularly well suited to help address the dysfunction caused by addiction or a mental health condition. Even if the family member with the condition is not in treatment, family members can still seek therapy to cope with how these conditions impact them.

When the person with the condition is actively seeking treatment, family therapy is an important parallel treatment to individual therapy and can be done simultaneously.

Family therapy for addiction and family therapy for mental health conditions may take place as part of a structured treatment program. They can also be done in conjunction with the program.

In this instance, it is important that the therapist and program be informed about each other so that they can maximize communication and optimize their treatment plans.

Addiction, mental health conditions and family dynamics almost always have an impact on each other. In family therapy, the relationship between these factors must be understood so that the patterns they create do not cause unnecessary suffering.

With family therapy, clients can better manage the stress, anger, grief or loss experienced from the presence of an addiction or mental health condition. As a result, they can experience happier and more productive relationships with their loved ones.

If addiction or a co-occurring mental health condition has created dysfunction in your family, The Recovery Village can connect you with helpful resources.

Many of our highly experienced clinical staff members have specialized training in family therapy, and they are ready to help you improve communication and resolve conflicts with your loved ones.

Contact us today to learn about our family program find help that works for your situation.

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Family Therapy For Addiction Treatment

Addiction Treatment Should Include Family Therapy

Addiction affects the entire family. It can be difficult to watch a loved one repeatedly put themselves in danger, and people who have an addicted family member often feel a mixture of fear and frustration.

The emotional stress of addiction often leaves family members feeling helpless. In these situations, it can be beneficial to try a family therapy program. Vertava Health’ treatment centers provide family counseling that helps the person suffering from addiction, alongside their family members.

Addiction is a disease that affects more than just the person who has it. Working with a trained professional can ease the burden that family members often carry alone.

How Is Family Therapy Integrated Into Treatment Programs?

Once a person is enrolled in treatment, family therapy services include personalized counseling sessions for parents, spouses, siblings, or children. These sessions may cover topics such as family history, communication techniques, and self-care techniques.

The goal of family therapy is to address the interconnected nature of family connections. Trained mental health professionals help families identify areas where growth is needed, and participants learn how to foster more supportive relationships. By intervening in these complex relational patterns, therapists help to nurture healing change throughout the entire family.

Our counselors work with families to help them build skills such as:

  • learning the family system
  • understanding addiction as a medical disease
  • repairing the emotional damage caused by addiction
  • re-establishing trust
  • extending forgiveness
  • managing expectations
  • teaching accountability
  • identifying strategies for family success
  • practicing coping strategies

Benefits Of Family Therapy In Drug And Alcohol Rehab Programs

Families play a complex role in substance abuse treatment. In addition to being troubled by their loved one’s addiction, family members may also struggle with their own emotional difficulties.

The purpose of family therapy is to understand the group’s unique strengths, and to utilize those strengths to help the entire family recover. To do this, the emotional effects of the person’s substance abuse must be addressed.

Many times, there is deep resentment from the family members who don’t have substance abuse issues. They may not understand why their family member continues to use drugs or drink, despite all the consequences. Similarly, the person who struggles with addiction may feel misunderstood, and that their privacy has been violated.

Family therapy allows these frustrations to be aired in a supportive environment. A trained counselor mediates, and helps the family stay on track with their purpose. When the whole family is treated, the overall addiction treatment becomes more effective. Family therapy has additional benefits that include:

Setting Clear Treatment Goals

Families struggling with addiction may become so overwhelmed by stress it becomes difficult to see the main problem. Their focus is placed on the substance, as it seems to represent the most glaring issue. However, for many families, substances are simply a symptom of a deeper issue.

Family therapy explores the root causes that often fuel addiction. Early on in the therapy sessions, trained counselors help families to identify personal and collective goals. When emotions run high, therapists can guide the family back to their original purpose.

Improved Communication

It’s common for people in addiction treatment to experience a range of emotions. Family members may be feeling concerned and manipulated. If a family intervention was staged, people suffering from addiction may feel angry or betrayed. These delicate situations can make it challenging to navigate family relationships during addiction treatment.

With the help of a family therapist, professionals are able to assess the family’s communication habits. Therapists may introduce customized tools and exercises. These gentle approaches help to highlight any patterns that may be problematic.

The purpose of family therapy is always to bring the family back in line with their identified goal. Often, these goals include recovery for the person who has an addiction, and emotional healing for the family as a whole.

Personal And Family Wellness

Addiction affects the entire family, and can leave painful emotional scars in its wake. Family therapy sessions are structured to attend to the needs of each member of the family system. Emotional needs may arise such as the desire to forgive, accept, or move on.

As family members begin exploring how to voice their personal needs, much of the guesswork is taken the equation. As each person builds their own emotional wellness, the overall health of the family is improved. This can greatly ease the recovery journey for the person with a substance use disorder, as well as for their loved ones.

Finding An Addiction Treatment Clinic to get the Right Therapy for Your Family

At Vertava Health, our goal is to empower the individual and their family to heal from the disease of addiction. Family therapy aims to bring the family back into a cohesive unit, and is an excellent addition to more traditional therapies behavioral counseling.

At our treatment centers, we offer a comprehensive blend of therapies including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), medication-assisted treatment, wilderness therapy, and addiction education classes. By involving the family in the recovery process, the entire unit is equipped to integrate recovery principles into their daily lives.

For more information on using family therapy for addiction treatment, or to find an Vertava Health location near you, contact one of our specialists today.


Family Therapy for Substance Abuse

Addiction Treatment Should Include Family Therapy

When a loved one is abusing drugs and alcohol, it affects the entire family.

It’s harrowing to watch a family member constantly put their health and life at risk, and the regular arguing and emotional challenges are frustrating and draining.

Family therapy is critical to repair the emotional wounds of addiction and develop more productive, respectful ways of communicating with each other.

Why Is Family Therapy Important?

You can help your loved one recover from substance abuse by participating in family therapy. It’s a critical component of a comprehensive addiction treatment program for two major reasons:

  1. Family involvement in addiction treatment and recovery shows your loved one that you care for them and can help prevent relapse.
  2. Family therapy helps you rebuild trust and open the lines of communication. Addiction is a chronic brain disease, but it’s also been called a “family disease.” Without intervention, the effects of substance abuse are progressive and spread to every aspect of the family system.

Addiction breaks down the family system and reveals vulnerabilities. It’s important to let a mental health professional help you navigate the minefield created by substance abuse and repair your relationships. A family therapist will create a safe space for families and people struggling with addiction to have difficult conversations.

Keeping family relationships healthy takes work, especially when dealing with addiction.

Family addiction counseling helps people:

  • Overcome resistance to change.
  • Break down barriers of communication.
  • Interact positively.
  • Understand family strengths and use them to help everyone recover together.
  • Address frustrations and strong feelings in a safe space in a way that doesn’t blame or shame.

A mental health counselor can mediate and help your family stay on track to getting the addicted person and your family unit the help to move forward.

Family therapy for substance abuse has multiple benefits, such as:

Families dealing with addiction are stressed. Emotions run high, and they probably have for a long time. It’s easy to lose sight of the main issue. Although the focus is on substance abuse, getting back to how it all started is crucial.

Substance abuse is a symptom of a deeper problem. In family therapy, you’ll explore the root causes of substance use. You’ll identify collective and personal goals. Your family therapist will keep you on track to reaching those goals.

Improving Communication

Your family therapist will teach and model how to talk respectfully to each other. Just changing the language you use can go a long way toward getting your message across to your loved one.

Addiction can cause you to sacrifice self-care and easily leaves emotional wounds. Family therapy is structured to address the needs of each family member. Some emotional needs may come about, such as the desire to accept, forgive, or to move on. As each family member builds their emotional wellness, the overall health of the family can improve.

What Is Family Addiction Counseling ?

If you’ve never been in counseling before, you may feel apprehensive about family therapy for substance abuse. Many people have fears of being blamed or having to reveal more than they want.

The truth is, family addiction counseling is as much for you as your addicted loved one. A family therapist can help you express how your loved one’s addiction has impacted your life.

They’ll help you sort through any anger, guilt, sadness, or grief you’re feeling.

Family therapy for substance abuse typically includes:

  • Addiction education – You’ll learn that addiction is a disease and why your loved one can’t “just quit.” You’ll also hear about the underlying reasons behind addiction, mental health issues, trauma, and attachment styles.
  • Conflict resolution – As the name implies, you’ll learn respectful, productive ways to resolve disagreements.
  • Coping skills – Your family therapist will teach you new, healthy strategies to deal with stressful situations between family members.
  • Codependency education – You’ll learn how you and other family members are enabling your addicted loved one, and how to change that.
  • Family dynamics – Family members often fall into predictable roles, especially around addiction. You’ll learn to identify these roles and pay attention to any negative feelings and behaviors tied to them.
  • Self-care – Taking care of yourself can fall by the wayside when you’re focused on an addicted loved one. You’ll learn about the importance of self-care and how it helps both you and your loved one.

Inpatient Treatment

Residential treatment centers usually have family programs. The type of programming offered varies but may include some or all of the following:

  • Individual counseling sessions with family members
  • Family therapy sessions for substance abuse with all participating family members
  • Family weekends with education classes for loved ones, as well as family addiction counseling sessions
  • Family addiction groups with loved ones of other clients at the treatment center
  • Couples counseling

Intensive Outpatient Treatment

Many outpatient rehab centers offer some of the options above. Others focus on group sessions with all the clients’ family members coming together with a facilitator. These groups primarily educate families about addiction while providing insight into areas family members can work with an individual therapist more deeply on.

Who Can Attend Family Therapy?

There are no set rules about who should be involved in family addiction counseling and who shouldn’t. Traditionally, the immediate family attends, but “family” has lots of different meanings these days. In SAMHA’s guide to family therapy for people with addiction, family is defined as “a group of two or more people with close and enduring emotional ties.”

How to Make the Most of Family Therapy

Family therapy can be a turning point for your relationship with your addicted loved one, as well as other family members. A family therapist is specially trained to help you identify issues that have always been there but that addiction has brought to the surface.

Family therapy can be emotionally uncomfortable, but that’s where the work gets done. If you devote yourself to the process and open yourself to learning new ways of functioning as an individual and family, you can have more fulfilling relationships with your loved ones.

Prepare for family therapy by making a list of questions to ask the family therapist so you understand their style and what you can expect in sessions.

You may also consider journaling or making a list of:

  • The way your loved one’s addiction has impacted you
  • What you’d your relationship with your loved ones to look
  • Boundaries you’d to set with your loved one
  • What goals you’d to accomplish in family therapy

These types of topics will naturally arise in family therapy, but gathering your thoughts about them ahead of time can give you a good starting point and help you communicate to the therapist what you’d to focus on.

Participating in individual therapy can also help you in family therapy. An individual therapist will help you further process the emotions that come up in family therapy. They can also help you determine what issues you should bring to family therapy or discuss issues you’re not yet ready to bring to those sessions.

Get Help Today

If your loved one is struggling with addiction, we can help. We’re committed to supporting our clients as they heal from substance abuse. True healing often involves their loved ones as well. Reach out today to see how we can help.



The Benefits of Family Therapy in Addiction Treatment — The Blackberry Center of Central Florida

Addiction Treatment Should Include Family Therapy

Many people have labelled addiction a “family disease.” That means that people’s alcoholism and/or drug abuse is most ly affected by their family. It also means that people’s substance use disorder can affect their family in negative ways.

Their acts may even cause what appears to be a permanent break, where the family is permanently separated or altered in some way. Thankfully, addiction treatment and long term sobriety can often repair even those breaks.

We’ve identified the benefits of family therapy in addiction treatment.

How Families Affect Addiction and Addiction Affects Family

Families do not cause addictive disorders. However, they can be one factor among many affecting the development of addiction. Some of the ways this happens are more obvious than others.

For instance, in families where one or more parent abuses alcohol or other drugs, the children are more ly to do so as well. The types of addictive substances found in the house are ly to be the substances children will use.

If parents say drug use or drinking is OK, children are also more ly to start using.

There is research showing a genetic factor involved in alcoholism, so addiction may quite literally be inherited. But a parent’s addiction also affects a child’s environment in negative ways. Addicted parents are more ly to abuse their children physically, psychologically, and/or sexually.

They are more ly to not have money or time to provide their children with a safe, secure, and supportive home. Additionally, interactions among family members in such conditions are more ly to be chaotic.

All of these factors make it more ly that the children from families with parental addiction will end up with addictions themselves.

If people have addictive disorders, their families can affect how those disorders develop. The family can either contribute to the problem by ignoring it, or help by motivating a family member to try to enter treatment and get sober. Interventions to get someone to enter treatment that include family members can help in the process of getting someone sober.

Who Are Family Therapists and What Do They Do?

Family therapists are different from the substance abuse treatment counselors that usually provide care in treatment programs.

They will have more education specifically related to helping families and, in most states, have taken exams to get a license to practice family therapy.

Families can help treatment in a number of ways, but not all family involvement will require a family therapist. For example, most interventions to help people enter treatment do not involve family therapists.

In family therapy, the therapist looks at the family as a unit or “family system,” which is the object of treatment. This usually means that the therapist will bring family members into a program for family sessions with a client in substance abuse treatment.

But family therapy can be practiced even when only one member of the family is present. In that case, the family therapist will still focus on how that person interacts with their family.

Sometimes this involves the therapist acting in the role of another family member.

The family therapist strives to be neutral and create a space where all family members feel free to share their thoughts and feelings.

This is a reason that family therapy is one of the most effective approaches for children and teens in substance abuse treatment.

One of the extra benefits of family therapy in addiction treatment is that it has been found to work with a variety of cultures and family dynamics.

Conducting family therapy without a trained therapist is not recommended, as improper therapy can cause more problems than it solves.

What Are the Benefits of Family Therapy in Addiction Treatment?

Family therapy can help people in substance abuse treatment and their families in many ways. The two main ways family therapy can help are by (1) teaching the client to use the family’s strengths and resources to support recovery. There is also (2) reducing the effects of addiction on the client and family.

The main goal in terms of reducing the effects of substance abuse on families is to prevent the continuation of substance abuse among family members.

For people in treatment, family therapy can also help repair relationships. It can improve communication and understanding among family members (not just between the client and others).

This enables the family to have a more positive effect on clients and to support their treatment and recovery.

In terms of supporting recovery, family therapy can be used at various stages. It can help motivate a family to get a family member into treatment and stay for the whole treatment.

It can also teach the family to be a part of the person’s long-term recovery. Many relapse prevention plans will include family as an important support.

This is very important since family relationships often play a part in relapse.

Reach Out For Help Today

You may be struggling with an undiagnosed mental health condition. Or you may be fighting an addiction. You may also be apprehensive when it comes to the myths about rehab. We can meet you where you are in your fight for sobriety.

We welcome you to our treatment center. From support groups to individual therapy treatment options, we are here to fight the battle with you.

Reach out to us online today. You can also call us at 888-512-9802.

Nestled in a tranquil setting just outside of Orlando, in Central Florida, our mental health facility provides patients with a safe place to reflect, reset and heal.


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