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What does Family Therapy Look Like?

Family therapy has shown to be a very effective part of substance abuse treatment, but if the thought of it seems daunting, that’s understandable. It’s not unusual to feel nervous about something with which you may not be familiar. Let us demystify what family therapy is and help you and your family gain clarity on what to expect.

Why Family Therapy?

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are many reasons for family therapy, but the most basic is that it can help family members resolve conflicts and improve communication. Substance abuse generally involves challenges in both areas, and they tend to interact. 

As a conflict grows, it becomes harder to communicate without one or both parties becoming defensive, making it harder to really hear and understand each other. The lack of clear communication can then contribute to more conflict. Family therapy helps break the cycle.

A family therapy session is likely to last about an hour. It’s just a discussion in which the therapist will help your family identify its challenges and strengths. They’ll help you express what’s hard for you to say and serve as a sort of translator, allowing family members to grasp each other’s points of view and recognize what causes people to act the way they do.

The Recovery Research Institute lists common goals of family therapy in substance abuse treatment. These include an increased understanding of the nature of addiction and mental health issues, a recognition of family roles and dynamics, and a focus on rebuilding trust. Communication goals may include an improved ability to share feelings and express needs. Family members may also work on setting boundaries and practicing self-care.

Sometimes a therapist in a substance abuse treatment center will help a family develop a mission statement. To do that, they may ask you questions about things like what you enjoy doing together, what principles you want to base your family on, and how you’d like the future to look. Once you’ve identified your goals, you can then work on a plan to get there.

 

Types of Approaches

A publication on family therapy in addiction treatment notes that four therapy approaches are often used as the basis for treatment. 

  1. The family disease model – In this approach, substance abuse is seen as a disease that affects the entire family.
  2. The family systems model – This is based on the idea that families try to maintain balance by adapting to the behaviors caused by substance abuse.
  3. Cognitive-behavioral therapy – The focus of this approach is identifying what triggers drug and alcohol use. There’s also an emphasis on strengthening coping skills.
  4. Multidimensional family therapy (MDFT) – MDFT is based on the relationship between thoughts, emotions, behaviors and the environment.

Your therapist may combine approaches or use something entirely different depending on your family’s unique needs. You don’t need to know the approach. You only need to be open to the process and trust that your presence is helping your family member and is likely to help you in some way as well. 

Family therapy may seem intimidating, but it’s really just an honest conversation between people who ultimately all want the same thing.  It’s an ongoing discussion that creates understanding and helps build support.

The Right Step can help you and your family heal and become whole,

so call us today at 844.675.1628.

 

By Martha McLaughlin

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