What is Family Therapy?

Family therapy is a type of psychological counseling (psychotherapy) that helps family members improve communication and resolve conflicts. It’s designed to address specific issues that affect the psychological health of the family, and may either be used as the primary mode of treatment or as a complementary approach. Family therapy programs have been proven to be highly effective when an addict is at the point in their recovery where they need to make amends to those that they’ve negatively impacted during their active addiction.

Families can benefit from this type of therapy when they experience any major transitional life event that may strain relationships, such as financial hardship, divorce, or the death of a loved one. Most importantly, it can be effective in treating mental health concerns that impact the family as a whole, such as depression, substance abuse, chronic illness, and food issues.

It is well understood in the fields of psychology and counseling that individuals’ emotional or behavioral difficulties are often related to dynamics within their family relationships. Families are viewed as “systems,” with each family member plays certain roles in which they affect and/or are affected by the functioning of the entire system.

How does family therapy work?

An important concept in family therapy is the notion of homeostasis, or balance, which counseling helps to create and foster. The concept of boundaries is also important, which refers to the closeness or distance between family members, as well as hierarchies and subsystems within the family.

Family counseling aims to promote understanding and collaboration among family members in order to solve the problems of one or more individuals. As the family uncovers the source of the problem, they can learn to support and work proactively on minimizing or altering the conditions that contribute to the unwanted behavior.

As a more complex matter, family therapy can play an important and central role in substance abuse treatment or in the case of addiction. Family-based approaches to treating substance abuse highlight the need to engage the family, including parents, siblings, and sometimes peers, in the person’s treatment.

Family-based approaches generally address a wide array of problems in addition to the 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 effective; some studies even suggest they are superior to other individual and group treatment approaches. Typically offered in outpatient settings, family treatments have also been tested successfully in higher-intensity settings such as residential and intensive outpatient programs.

It’s important to recognize that family therapy in addiction treatment is successful because the effects of the particular addiction aren’t just limited to the person suffering it. In fact, family issues can contribute to and perpetuate the illness of addiction. Because of this, addiction is sometimes referred to as a “family disease”.

Benefits of Family Therapy

Some of the benefits of family therapy for substance abuse and family therapy in addiction treatments are:

  • Better understanding of the nature of addiction and how it affects behavior: This is accomplished through education. Just as the person has been assessed, the family has an opportunity for self-assessment and insight from a therapist.
  • Becoming aware of family dynamics: Maladaptive family patterns will contribute to continued substance use. Everyone in the system should be treated to obtain the most positive outcome.
  • Improving communication: In a system where there may have been no communication or limited emotional involvement, improved communication is essential and will require an investment by those interested in the most successful recovery outcomes.
  • Regaining trust: Dishonesty and substance abuse sometimes go hand in hand. Family members may not want to open their hearts (or their wallets) to help a loved one who has betrayed their trust. Improved communication, honest interaction and witnessing positive changes can help mend this breach.
  • Sharing feelings: During active addiction, bridges can be burned. Family members may be angry but unable to express it, they may fear relapse or they may be excited at the possibility of reconciliation. It takes time to learn how to recognize, balance and express these feelings.
  • Setting boundaries: This applies to everyone involved. Clarifying boundaries is not easy. But it is a necessary step toward healthy recovery for the family. This may include detaching from any friend or family member who is in active addiction.
  • Learning self-care: In addiction treatment, the focus is on the person with the addiction. During family therapy, a parent or spouse may learn that they need help, too. They may be directed to try Al-Anon, Nar-Anon or other mutual help groups in addition to finding an individual therapist.

Why can family therapy be a good choice for me?

In order to address the matter correctly and make family therapy effective both in cases of substance abuse and with addiction problems, it’s important to identify which type of therapy is better suited for each particular case.

Some of the available family therapy treatment types are:

  • Brief Strategic Family Therapy (BSFT)
  • Family Behavior Therapy (FBT)
  • Functional Family Therapy (FFT)
  • Multidimensional Family Therapy (MDFT)
  • Multi-systemic Therapy (MST)

Family therapy for substance abuse, and family therapy for addiction problems, are both available in residential/inpatient treatment and outpatient treatment.

Each family is different, and the best way to approach family involvement with addiction therapy will differ with every person.

Our counselors at are highly experienced in working with drug and alcohol addicted individuals and their families. Though while they can be useful to mediate the intervention process, the family may decide to have a private, non-confrontational and honest talk with the addict to implore them to seek treatment.

Whichever is taken, it is important to understand that family therapy in substance abuse and addiction is incredibly powerful, and that addressing an unhealthy imbalance in communication is the first step in moving toward recovery. Find out more about Tampa Drug Treatment Center family programs by calling us at 1-877-640-7820 today.