Family Therapy

When it comes to addiction, it’s imperative to realize that it has a multi-level effect. It’s definitely true that substance abuse affects the individual who suffers from it. Drug and alcohol use directly impacts a person’s mental, emotional, and physical health. But, the addicted individual is not the only person who suffers from the effects of his or her substance use disorder. Along with the struggling individual, his or her family members also feel the impact of addiction. This makes family therapy extremely essential.

While it is irrefutably true that individuals who suffer from addiction need therapy, it is also true that their family members also need professional guidance. Individuals need therapy as they recover from addiction. Likewise, their loved ones will need guidance throughout this process. This is where family counseling comes in. Learning more about this type of therapy can help individuals and families who have been affected by substance use disorders.

What is Family Therapy?

Family therapy is a type of counseling that addresses the emotional and mental needs of a family unit. As it relates to addiction, family therapy works to provide support and guidance for a family that has been affected by an individual’s substance use problem.

If an individual suffers from alcohol abuse or drug misuse, his or her substance use disorder will undoubtedly impact the family. In these cases, family therapy can help to bring healing to the family members of the struggling individual. 

Family counseling helps to reveal any underlying issues within the family. It also gives families the tools they need in order to work through these issues. Therapy can also equip family members with the necessary skills to support, encourage, and understand their recovering loved ones.

Families that are experiencing the impact of an individual’s addiction may be impacted by various negative emotions. Fears and concerns typically become everyday occurrences. Anxiety, depression, and even trauma can occur. Counseling helps families to work through these obstacles, facilitating peace and healing.

How Does Addiction Affect an Individual’s Family?

When a person suffers from addiction, his or her family members will likely feel a direct impact. In most cases, the spouses, children, parents, and even siblings of the addicted individual will experience hardship. Substance abuse can come between relationships and cause challenges to arise in the home. 

Families often struggle to understand what their addicted loved ones are facing. Addiction is a disorder that causes individuals to misuse substances, even if they don’t necessarily want to do so. When people from substance use disorders, their bodies begin to depend on alcohol or drugs. This means that they feel that they cannot function normally without using these substances. Their bodies go into a state of withdrawal when they are unable to use alcohol or drugs.

This is often when people who struggle with addiction become irritable or agitated. It can also lead to major behavioral, emotional, and mental changes. Physical health complications will also occur after continued substance use. All of these changes can make it very difficult for those who are close to a person who is struggling with addiction.

Spouses of Struggling Individuals

Unfortunately, many individuals find that their partners are dealing with addiction problems. Wives recognize substance abuse in their husbands and vise versa. Every year, another couple encounters the challenges that come with the presence of addiction. Sadly, substance abuse has an innumerable amount of negative effects on the people who witness and experience it.

A person whose spouse is struggling with substance dependence may find that addiction brings about quite a few changes. The person’s spouse may become irritable, agitated, anxious, and even violent. These behavioral changes are often uncharacteristic and they cause spouses to worry quite a bit. 

If you are married to someone who struggles with addiction, you might experience many challenges. It can be difficult to know what to do when your spouse is suffering from addiction. Many spouses of addicts stand by, helplessly watching their loved ones suffer because they simply don’t know how to help. The truth of the matter is, no matter how much you beg and plead with your spouse, he or she will continue to use alcohol or drugs because, as we mentioned earlier, addiction is not your loved one’s choice.

Since substance dependence isn’t a choice, asking your spouse to stop using drugs or alcohol will not prove to be helpful. Even if the individual wants to end substance use, he or she may not be physically able to do so. This can make your marriage very difficult and lead to serious problems in the relationship. 

Many times, the spouse of an addict has to tend to most of the responsibilities in the home. This might include things such as keeping the home clean, taking care of the children, and even paying all of the bills. Sometimes, addiction can cause financial problems as people may spend most of their money in order to obtain drugs or alcohol. This can make things even more strenuous in the home.

Children of Struggling Individuals

Unfortunately, children often get caught in the web of a parent’s addiction. Whether a parent has young or adult children, his or her addiction will affect those children in a very serious way. Young children may not understand much about substance abuse and how it can affect those who suffer from it. Some children who grow up in homes where alcoholism or drug abuse is present actually go on to develop addictions later in life. In these instances, the addiction of a parent has a direct impact on the future of that individual’s children.

Sometimes, adult children of addicts may struggle with guilt. They may feel as though they are to blame for their parents’ battle with addiction. Even if they don’t believe that they are at fault, they may begin to feel as though they are responsible for their parents’ wellbeing. This might lead them to take on a “caretaker” role, even if their parents would be capable of caring for themselves if substance dependence wasn’t involved. 

This same situation can occur in the lives of young children. They may begin to take on a “parent” role, taking care of their younger siblings or tending to the home (i.e. cooking, cleaning, and so forth). They may also care for their parents when they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

On the other hand, addiction can cause children, both minors and adults, to become distant from their struggling parents. They may experience much hurt or discomfort because of the behavioral and emotional changes their parents have shown as a result of addiction.

Parents of Struggling Individuals

Individuals who have children that are suffering from addiction may experience similar emotions to that of children of addicts. These parents may feel as though they are to blame for their child’s addiction. They might feel as though they could have done something to stop it, even in instances where the signs of a developing addiction were somewhat undetectable. 

Parents of teens or young adults who are struggling with addiction may suffer from anxiety and severe concern because of their children’s battle with substance abuse. They may experience high levels of stress. Some parents may even suffer from financial problems while trying to help support their addicted children. Although they may not give money directly to their children, they may take on some of their child’s financial responsibilities (bills, food, etc.).

Why is Family Counseling Important?

Again, family counseling can bring healing and peace to the families of those who suffer from addiction. This type of therapy can help, even if the suffering individual isn’t in recovery yet. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to encourage an addicted loved one to get treatment. But, families can still benefit from family therapy by learning more about their loved one’s addiction. They can also develop a better understanding of how they may be helping or hurting the suffering individual throughout this time.

Addressing Enabling Behaviors

During family counseling, therapists can help families to recognize and identify any enabling behaviors in their lives. Enabling behaviors may be subtle and well-meaning actions. Still, they may actually be doing more harm than good.

Siblings may give their struggling sibling money from time to time. The individual may use this money to support an addiction and acquire more drugs and alcohol. Or, a parent may continue to house an adult child who is suffering from addiction. A spouse may “cover” for his or her partner, being dishonest with friends or making excuses for the individual’s behaviors. 

These actions may not be considered wrong. However, they can certainly make substance use more accessible for the suffering individual. So, it’s important for families to learn more about these enabling behaviors and how to avoid them.

Encouraging Supportive Behaviors

Even after going through treatment for addiction, individuals need support. They need encouragement and accountability. Often, having this support can help to prevent addiction relapses from occurring.

Often, family members may not be aware of the best ways to help individuals who are in recovery. They might be unsure about how to be there for their loved ones. But, family therapy can help to equip people with the tools they need in order to properly support individuals who are working to overcome addiction.

Contact Us Today for More Information

If you or someone you love can use some help overcoming addiction, please contact us here at North Jersey Recovery Center today. Our compassionate and understanding team is here to help you and your family find healing through recovery. 

We understand that everyone is different. As a result of these differences, addiction affects people in varying ways. Please know that, when you come to NJRC for help, you will receive addiction treatment with a personalized approach. This means that we will take your personal and unique needs into account.

Our staff members are here to help you determine the best course of action for you when it comes to addiction rehab. We are determined to provide you with the best possible care. We also want you to know that you are not alone; our team will walk with you every step of the way.

No matter how difficult addiction has made your life, freedom is available to you. Simply reach out for help today and begin moving forward, leaving addiction in your past!

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brian Ostertag

brian-ostertag-150x150Brian Ostertag, BA, MA, LCADC, CCS, is the Clinical Director for North Jersey Recovery Center. Brian is a compassionate leader with a desire to see others exceed, and who believes that people want to work hard at something they find meaningful and believe in. He is a strong addiction services professional with degrees in Psychology Addiction Studies, and Pastoral Counseling.