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The Role of Family Therapy in Substance Abuse Treatment

The Role of Family Therapy in Substance Abuse Treatment

Family therapy recognizes that the dynamics of a family need to be addressed when one of its members is in need of treatment, such as for mental illness or substance abuse – or both.

Family therapy may also be called couple and family therapy, marriage and family therapy, family systems therapy, and family counseling. It’s an approach to psychotherapy that works with families and couples in order to nurture change and development in those relationships.

Family therapy views the family as a system and approaches change in terms of the interactions among family members. It also emphasizes the importance of family relationships as a factor in psychological health of the individual who struggles as well as of each of the family members.

At first, the family therapy branch of psychotherapy was very narrowly-defined, with many of its clinicians focusing on the traditional idea of ‘family,’ which usually only included parents and children. Over time, as the field has evolved, the concept of family has become more broadly defined to include all those who play strongly supportive, long-term roles in relationship to one another, therefore including people who may not necessarily be related by blood or marriage, alone.

Family therapy takes the approach that, regardless of the origin of the issue or problem and regardless of whether the clients think it’s an individual or family issue, the greatest benefit to the client or clients derives from involving the entire family in solutions. In order to accomplish this, all concerned family members – again not necessarily blood- or marriage-related – have direct participation in the therapy session(s).

Therefore, the family therapist needs to be skilled in the ability to influence conversations in a way that encourages the strengths, wisdom, and support of the wider family system.

Techniques Used in Family Therapy:

Family therapy uses a range of counseling and other techniques including:

  • Structural therapy – identifies and re-orders the organization of the family system
  • Strategic therapy – looks at patterns of interactions between family members
  • Systemic/Milan therapy – looks at belief systems
  • Narrative Therapy – emphasizes context and separating the problem from the person
  • Transgenerational Therapy – looks at the transmission of unhelpful patterns of belief and behavior from generation to generation

According to the National Institutes of Health, the role of family therapy in substance abuse treatment is essential to addressing underlying issues related to the substance abuse disorder. According to the National Institutes of Health, the role of family therapy in substance abuse treatment is essential to addressing underlying issues related to the substance abuse disorder. Family work has become a strong and continuing theme of many treatment approaches, but family therapy is not always used to its greatest capacity in traditional substance abuse treatment. One of the main reasons for this is that not all programs have embraced the idea of expanding treatment to include the family, rather than simply focusing on the individual who is seeking help.

Substance abuse and addiction treatment is most effective when it employs several therapeutic modes and approaches. At the Orchid Recovery Center, we have a strong Family Program that offers support to the family members of our clients as well as encourages their involvement in their loved one’s treatment and rehabilitation. Please call toll-free 1-800-777-9588 to speak directly with an Addiction Specialist, day or night.

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