Enabling and co-dependence are unfortunate behaviors developed by the family unit and only prolong the vicious cycle of addiction. Families can be unaware the damage they inflict, or that they have any real effect on the outcome of recovery. Involving themselves in program-related activities such as intensive family therapy giveseveryone involved the knowledge needed to move beyond these destructive actions and work in conjunction with the treatment team.
For the past twenty-five years, addictions treatment has universally included a concentrated family therapy component. Today two primary formats exist; the family support group model and the family week model.
Outpatient and intensive outpatient programs most commonly use the weekly family support group. This activity is a combination of education about the disease of addiction and consciousness-raising about the family's roles in both addiction and in recovery, with multiple families sharing experience, strength and hope with each other.
The family week model is generally used in inpatient and residential treatment settings. This family week is usually a process that parallels the 12-Step process. It uses a communication format and focuses on the dynamic of family patterns, traumaand other contributing factors that may be core issues for addiction afflicted support systems.
In general terms, there are two goals for family therapy; one is to effect change in the functioning and day-to-day activities of the family, therefore supporting such change in an ongoing fashion. In outpatient settings therapy sessions may be briefer, involve single families, and work toward change in incremental steps. The second goal is to help the family build a foundation in which they have the ability to reflect and experience insightful shifts in their perceptions, values and emotions. This can open the door for the possibility of a more long-term and stable commitment to their and the addict's new way of life.
Another component to family therapy is incorporating the idea that families and loved ones must take back their own lives, refocusing on themselves and integrating self-care. Addiction deprives the support system of a healthy way of life. It is imperative that they (the families) recognize that not only does the "identified patient" need support in changing and healing, but the support system of those individuals needs such care and support as well.Incorporating family therapy techniques into substance abuse treatment along with introducing families to 12-step forums such as Al-Anon,Ala-teen (forums for the younger individuals in the affected family) CODA (Co-dependents Anonymous) and other 12-Step support groups also assist in process of recovery.
Salvaging relationships and family bonds that have been broken or utterly ravaged by the disease of addiction have the capacity to berehabilitated through the proper channels; family therapy can be the element that aids in that development. Family units that become educated about the disease of addiction allows for useful concepts that will help them work through the wreckage that addiction has created as well as acquire skills in order to respond to the challenges that addiction can present in the future.