When someone is in treatment for a substance use disorder (SUD) they will probably welcome all of the support they can get. Family members can play an important role in their loved one’s recovery journey by engaging in family support group sessions. Family-focused group sessions provide a safe space for family members to improve relationships, gain fresh insights, and show support for the affected loved one.
While the focus of a treatment program will be on the individual with the SUD, it is also a well-known observation that addiction is a family disease. For this reason, due to unhealthy family dynamics that might be factors, family involvement in the treatment and recovery process is highly encouraged.
According to a SAMHSA publication titled “Substance Abuse Treatment and Family Therapy,” integrating family therapy into SUD treatment provides an additional layer of therapeutic programming. Family therapy often leads to important breakthroughs, offering a new awareness of how the SUD impacted the family system as a whole. Through these sessions, family members can identify problem areas and make positive changes.
Family Support Groups in SUD Treatment Programs
The powerful emotional ties that family members possess can become a significant source of support for someone in SUD treatment. Even in those families with a troubled history, the family bond can play a pivotal role in the recovery process. The common ties and shared history with family members provide a caring foundation upon which to construct a new life in recovery.
During family support group sessions, family members may be engaged in various assignments or activities. Some of these will involve sharing feelings, either verbally or written. Other activities will involve participating in group therapy exercises. The level of cooperation and participation among the family members greatly determines how beneficial the sessions will be.
5 Benefits of Family Support Groups
Improving the overall health of the family system is the goal of family-focused therapy in SUD treatment settings. Any interpersonal struggles within the family can be discussed and processed, allowing healing to begin. Some of the benefits of including family therapy in the treatment programming include:
- Learning about unhealthy relating patterns in the family. During active substance use, it is quite common for codependent or enabling behaviors to take root. Family members will learn how to recognize those tendencies in themselves, and how to make the appropriate corrections moving forward.
- Improving communication and listening skills. Family groups provide a setting where new communication skills can be learned and practiced. Practicing better listening and communication skills is essential for a healthy family dynamic.
- Resolving painful events from the past. The assignments and exercises the family members participate in are often vehicles for expressing difficult emotions, such as anger, guilt, or fear. By addressing past events that have contributed to these residual feelings, family members can work through the issues and move toward resolution and healing.
- Learning how to set healthy boundaries. The setting and honoring of boundaries is a two-way street in SUD recovery. Family therapy helps family members learn how to set healthy boundaries to protect themselves, as well as how to honor the boundaries set by the loved one in recovery.
- Strengthening connections within the family. Substance use can tear a family apart. By engaging in family support group sessions, family members gain new perspectives and also increase feelings of empathy toward the loved one. This can result in closer family bonds in recovery.
Involving the whole family unit in the treatment process can enhance recovery success. When the whole family system is healthier, everyone benefits.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders and is accredited by The Joint Commission. We offer holistic care that encompasses the mind, body and spirit through inpatient and outpatient treatment, provide drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s unique needs. Our driving principle – “everything for recovery” – reinforces our mission to transform and save lives through the science of medicine, the art of therapy and the compassion of spirituality, and is complemented by our philosophy of healing with respect and dignity. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.