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The Transition House, Inc.

Coping with substance abuse in the family

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Substance abuse, alcohol use disorder, and addiction can have a negative impact on families. Families that are coping with a loved one’s substance abuse disorder can experience things such as domestic violence, physical or emotional abuse, co-occurring mental health disorders, and socioeconomic difficulty as individuals struggling with addiction may have a hard time finding or keeping a job.  It can disrupt a healthy family dynamic by breaking down trust, adding significant stress, and preventing healthy boundaries from forming.

Find help for your loved one struggling with addiction. Download our free resources:

Download Addiction Resources for Families

Did you know...

In a study published in 2005 by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, it was reported that 23.8% of children in America live in a household where an adult or parent is a heavy or binge drinker.

Addiction doesn’t just affect one person - it can affect anyone who provides support or has an emotional bond to the individual struggling with addiction. While family structures and the issues that arise when dealing with substance abuse or addiction can vary significantly, family therapy along with residential care or medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can be helpful.

How does family therapy help treat substance abuse?

Family therapy itself is not a treatment for substance abuse. Individuals struggling with addiction often require more intensive care, like a residential care program or medication-assisted treatment, coupled with individual or group therapy.

However, family therapy can be a supplement to more intensive treatment. In family therapy, the support system - whether that is parents, siblings, partners, or friends - can be made aware of the needs of their loved one struggling with addiction and the needs of the family in coping with that addiction. Family therapy can help improve communication among all involved and give guidance on the interpersonal, intrapersonal, and environmental changes needed to support recovery.

Family therapy can:

  • Identify strengths and resources that can support recovery
  • Help the family cope with the process of detoxification
  • Improve communication among family members and the individual struggling with substance abuse
  • Provide support for parents who are reuniting with their children after losing custody due to substance abuse

It’s important to note that families who are dealing with physical or emotional abuse - common for families where substance abuse is present -  must treat the abuse first, since the safety of all members of the family must be considered before beginning family therapy.

Read more about family therapy:

4 things you'll learn when attending family counseling
Attending counseling as a family is a great step in the right direction. No matter the issues that brought you to counseling, seeking help is the first step towards creating a better family dynamic.

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