At FHE Health, we strongly believe that an addict’s close loved ones also need love and support and can benefit from an invitation to be part of the recovery process. That’s because research has shown that addiction is not only an individual disease but a family disease, directly impacting those who care most about the addict in often profoundly dysfunctional ways.
While it may be true that anyone from a colleague or employer to next-door neighbor can experience the fallout of an addiction, usually those who suffer most are immediate family members: an addict’s parents, spouses, siblings, and children; they, too, often need help, guidance and encouragement on the path to healing and recovery; and, their recovery— and capacity to provide healthy forms of support— can be an important factor in their loved one’s success at achieving lasting freedom from drugs and alcohol. An abundance of research, in fact, speaks to how critical family involvement can be to positive recovery outcomes.
Who Is Eligible to Participate in Our Family Program?
With this in mind, we designed our signature Family Program for clients and family members who together want an extra layer of support and therapy to boost their prospects of long-term recovery. Our Family Program is a free, optional resource that we make available to family members:
- whose loved one has signed a consent form permitting them to participate
- whose loved one is currently enrolled in our drug and alcohol treatment programs
- who want to be more engaged in the therapeutic process, learning how they can better support their loved one and become emotionally healthier themselves
In this section, you’ll learn more about what makes our Family Program unique and, ideally, an integral and important part of our patients’ plan of treatment. You’ll also learn about how it can support you while also boosting your loved one’s recovery.
Why We Strive to Include Family Members in Treatment
Research has shown that even the involvement of just one actively engaged family member can dramatically improve recovery outcomes for someone with a substance addiction. When a patient in treatment has the healthy support of one or more family members, their motivation for recovery goes up. So does their retention in treatment— and greater retention in treatment is associated with lower rates of relapse and other positive recovery outcomes. Wherever we can, then, recognizing there are sometimes limitations— patients can refuse to give their consent to their family’s participation and can even leave treatment “against medical advice”—we strive to include family in all aspects of an addict’s treatment program.
Inclusion of family can begin as early as before a patient enters treatment and/or before a family feels fully ready to take on the responsibility of supporting their loved one’s recovery— in which case family would be best served by participating in one or more of our regular educational sessions regarding the disease of addiction. Our counselors can prepare families for what to expect when their loved one is confronted with the real possibility that they must learn to live without drugs or alcohol. Families also learn about codependency and common enabling behaviors to avoid when encouraging their loved one to get help— the aim being to enable and empower their loved one’s recovery, not their addiction.
Support for Families Affected by Addiction
Our family addiction program emphasizes support for families of addicts for another reason, too. Far too often, the needs of families get overlooked when the spotlight is on the addict and on keeping the addict alive— making sure they’re safe, answering calls from first responders, dealing with legal troubles, and so on. That reality means family members are often in survival mode, too. They’re often so busy attending to the needs of their loved one, that they are mentally, emotionally and physically drained. Nevertheless, getting their loved one out of harm’s way and into rehab often remains the center of their concern, at the expense of other priorities including their own self-care.
The strong, pervasive stigma of addiction also means that many family members suffer silently with their loved one’s disease. They may go so far as to keep it secret, feeling compelled—out of concern for how they and their loved one will be perceived—to hide the full truth from the outside world. This can cause families to feel very helpless and very alone. That helplessness and loneliness only further exacerbate the incredible pain and suffering of living with and/or caring for an addict.
FHE Health understands this immense burden that falls on the shoulders of families affected by addiction. Our Family Program is here to assure you that you are not alone, that you have our support, and that recovery is possible for both you and your loved one.
Family Dynamics of Addiction
One of the ways that we support you is by introducing you to the family dynamics of addiction and their role in your loved one’s treatment and recovery. Our caring and experienced counselors meet with families as a group and individually to provide therapeutic insight into what addiction dynamics may be at play in your specific context. Often family members take on different “survival” roles in an effort to cope with their loved one’s disease. Enablers, heroes, scapegoats, the lost child and the mascot are common examples of the dysfunctional ways in which various members of a family system will compensate for and adapt to active addiction in their midst.
Through ongoing weekly therapy sessions, families learn to identify dysfunctional role playing and ways of relating to one another. Our therapists treat the family unit as the “patient” needing treatment, with a view to guiding that patient through key stages of addiction and recovery. In that process, which is meant to be inclusive and collaborative, families together with their loved one develop invaluable recovery tools that strengthen their relationship and their recovery.
What Is Enabling?
In many cases, addicts grow accustomed to the enabling patterns of well-meaning loved ones, who give them money (which is then used to buy drugs) or offer them a free place to stay without expecting anything in return. Some codependent loved ones will even go so far as to drive the addict to their drug dealer. Such gestures only succeed in worsening a loved one’s addiction.
Enabling is one of the most common pitfalls that families face. An enabler is typically a parent, grandparent or spouse who believe they are helping the addict by showing concern and loyalty for someone who seems to be a “victim.” Enablers desperately want to avoid confrontation and will deliberately avoid confronting the addict, by giving in to the addict’s demands. In addition, enablers think that by preventing (avoiding) conflict, the problem will eventually solve itself.
Enabling is any form of positive reinforcement that encourages negative behavior in a drug addict. If an addict’s family member always give in to an addict’s demands for money, transportation, food, and shelter, they are positively reinforcing (essentially rewarding) the addict’s behaviors.
How Family Involvement Can Address Enabling and Other Unhealthy Behaviors
Our therapists use evidence-based, psychotherapeutic techniques when working with patients, these are skills we encourage families to become involved in as well and strive to provide them resources to address. In ourtherapeutic process, families learn about:
- the differences between enabling addiction and enabling recovery
- practicing loving detachment from a loved one in active addiction
- the most effective ways to support their loved one in rehab and after rehab
- setting healthy boundaries and avoiding common codependent behaviors
- healthy communication and interpersonal skills
- how to cope with a co-occurring mental illness that may be contributing to their loved one’s substance abuse
- how to allow a loved one to experience the consequences of their addiction (without stepping in to rescue them)
- what to expect during the first year of a loved one’s recovery, including how to help them plan for aftercare and manage relapse triggers
How Family Therapy Supports Long-term Recovery
At the core of psychotherapy is the fundamental idea that individuals suffering from addiction and/or a co-occurring mental health problem will benefit from talking about their concerns and fears with an objective yet compassionate psychotherapist. Psychotherapy has successfully helped millions of people deal with addictions or addicted loved ones by placing them in a safe environment with a professional therapist to “talk out” their innermost thoughts, feelings, disappointments, and desires.
Counselors skilled in psychotherapeutic techniques gently but firmly position people for effective conflict resolution, the processing of painful and/or traumatic events, and/or the exploration of self-esteem, self-identity and unfulfilled desires.
A common form of psychotherapy used by counselors at FHE Health is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT emphasizes the connection between thoughts, emotions and behaviors— and, in particular, the fact that how you perceive an event can directly influence your mood, emotion and attitude. CBT teaches people ways to correct faulty patterns of thinking that tend to distort the reality of a situation.
Our therapists also apply principles of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), an offshoot of CBT that shows people how to take control of their emotions and thought processes by identifying certain “triggers.” Triggers lead to overly reactive behaviors caused by negative thoughts that ultimately lead to the person making irrational decisions. Through DBT, our counselors teach family members and their loved ones how to apply appropriate coping skills to avoid acting on unproductive thoughts and emotions.
Instead of promoting the view of the therapist as an authoritative figure, DBT encourages acceptance of counselors by family members as allies instead of adversaries. Accordingly, DBT therapists refrain from critiquing a person’s assertions, and instead aim to validate and accept a person’s feelings or thoughts at any given time. However, therapists trained in DBT will not hesitate to inform clients that some of their decisions, behaviors or emotions are maladaptive, and will show them through DBT that there are better, more rational decision alternatives.
About Our Family Dynamics Classes
FHE Health also offers several educational classes for outpatient/residential patients. These classes address the inter-relational dynamics of a healthy family and what families can do to change beliefs that may be obstacles to healing.
If you are the parent or grandparent of an addict, our Family Dynamics Class is essential for helping you get through the pain, confusion, and sense of hopelessness you may feel about failed past attempts to get help for your child or grandchild. The Family Dynamics Class provides the support, encouragement, and education you need to be there for your child/grandchild when they need you the most, without resorting to enabling behaviors or anger.
Brothers and sisters of addicts have also benefited from participating in our Family Dynamics Class. When the disease of addiction impacts a family, siblings often feel as if the trust and deep love they felt for their brother or sister is irrevocably broken. We can help restore that trust and love by teaching siblings why addiction is a disease and not a behavior problem, what to expect from a recovering addict, and how to help a sibling recover from their addiction.
We also encourage our patients in substance abuse treatment to take our Family Dynamics Class, because of the lessons it imparts regarding the family dynamics of addiction and tools for repairing family relationships and letting go of the past.
The Importance of Healthy Interpersonal Skills in Recovery
One big point of emphasis in the Family Program is the need for healthy interpersonal and communication skills within families. Addiction only really thrives when lying, manipulation and dishonesty are the default mode of communication. Recovering addicts therefore need to learn a whole new way of being in relationship with their family, which takes new, healthier interpersonal skills. We believe that it is vital that people in early recovery learn how to express their thoughts and emotions in socially acceptable ways and achieve healthier relationships with friends and family. Strong and healthy communication skills are an important coping tool and life skill for anyone, but most especially those in recovery. Our Family Program creates and facilitates plenty of these therapeutic learning opportunities within the context of family therapy— all with the ultimate aim of strengthening your family relationships and your recovery.
During their time in treatment, patients are equipped with a set of tools for long-term recovery. A factor that they have little influence on, though, is their environment. By providing support for the families of addicts we are able to equip everyone who is a part of the recovery with the necessary skills to improve long-term outcomes. Addiction is an insidious and truly devastating disease. There is no shame in seeking support for yourself, and doing so will improve the outcome for the addict in your life.
Contact Us Today for More Information About Our Family Programs