One of the biggest misconceptions about substance use is that the person with the addiction is the only person who needs help. Anyone who has used substances or lived with someone while they were using substances knows that addiction is a family disease. Everyone is impacted by the behaviors and actions of someone using substances, and that impact can create other issues or change the family dynamics exponentially. Addiction affects the entire family system. Does that mean my family needs therapy?
Healing for All
Families, significant others, and anyone else living with someone who was in active addiction also need the chance to heal. Family therapy that is simultaneous to our own treatment is very important. When only one person heals and returns to the pre-existing family and their accompanying dynamics, it can make it difficult for us to maintain our recovery. The healing that can occur in family therapy for both ourselves and our close family members helps everyone.
Family members and others show their support by being willing to step into therapy. Particularly when they might consider that they are not the “problem,” it can be a leap of faith to be willing to be vulnerable. Families who come to therapy to support us can open up to healing and possibly even forgiveness. The support received then in turn helps the person in treatment to heal, which creates a circle of healing for all.
One of the really helpful aspects of family therapy is that it gives us the opportunity to make amends to our family members. Some things cannot be undone, but making restitution in any way that we can, even heartfelt and sincere apologies, opens up the dialogue for healing. For many families, this may be the first time we have even openly discussed what has occurred due to our substance use.
Making amends within a therapeutic environment helps everyone to engage in open, honest communication. It is powerful to have this opportunity for everyone to share perhaps some of the most painful of experiences in a safe environment, facilitated by a clinical psychologist. Family therapy is a safe place to communicate, cry, express anger, express pain, express gratitude or forgiveness. Family therapy is a place for healing to begin.
Many families do not know a lot about substance use, how it impacts our brains and our bodies, or about treatment and recovery. They may know firsthand what it is like to live with someone in active addiction, but now they are going to be living with someone in active recovery. There is so much for them to learn. Education is so helpful for all of us.
When our families learn the difference between stigma and reality, when their ignorance is replaced by knowledge, they are then given the opportunity to make informed choices about whether or not to support us and how to support us in our treatment and recovery. Giving families more information empowers everyone.
Unfortunately, we are not all born with healthy communication skills. Each family has their own dynamics, and there is a good chance that some of those dynamics may have inspired our original substance use. We are learning important therapeutic and communication skills within our own treatment, but our families are still the same as they were. This is where family therapy is invaluable. Even one single session with a clinical psychologist can help our family members acquire some basic communication skills that will improve future communications about recovery or anything else.
Our families get a chance to see the type of work that we have been doing to heal our own selves. Perhaps they have never even been to therapy before, and this is an opportunity for them to learn more about what therapy is and what it can do for our families as a whole. Even if they have experience with therapy, experiencing therapy as a family while we are in treatment is an opportunity for growth in each family member as well as the entire family unit.
Ideally, behind every one of us who is in recovery is one or more family members offering us support. We also have the support of our treatment facility, as well as potentially longer-term support such as therapists and more. But who gives support to the family?
Family therapy opens the door of the facility to those we love and introduces them to the benefits of therapy, as well as offering them support at this crucial time. Meeting with a therapist teaches them the value of therapy, helps them learn about both substance use and recovery, but it also provides them access to support for them throughout this process.
Whether or not your family needs therapy is ultimately up to you and your family. There is a reason it is offered, even encouraged at the best of treatment facilities. Because family therapy allows healing in that part of our life that connects you, your family. You can offer education and support to those who will be supporting you most. The question is not actually that of family and therapy, it is more about how much support and healing you are willing ask for from those who love you most.
Invite your family to heal with you. Complete the circle of healing. Call AToN Center at (888) 535-1516 and let your family learn how to support you in your recovery.