January 18, 2021 Treatment

Family Involvement in Treatment

The importance of family involvement in addiction treatment cannot be overstated. Due to the insidious nature of addiction, education and family therapy are vital to the recovery of the person in treatment and the rest of the family.

Addiction affects all members of the family. Often, family members develop coping mechanisms that are not always helpful:

  • Ignoring the problem, or denial
  • Punishing or using “tough love” to control a loved one
  • Trying to control what their family member does, or has, in an effort to stop drug use
  • Disowning the family member or alienating them
  • Living in anger and resentment

Every family is different. Regardless of how you choose to participate, it’s crucial to understand the importance of family dynamics to the recovery process. Family therapy and family programs support and educate family members, helping them cope and find support for themselves.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) identifies two primary goals for family involvement in addiction treatment:

  • Provide helpful support for the individual in drug treatment. Family therapy decreases an individual’s chances of relapse and aids in developing and maintaining positive behavioral and attitude changes. It promotes the long-term recovery of the individual in substance abuse treatment.
  • Improve the emotional health of the family as a whole. Therapy helps family members establish trust and encourage forgiveness for past behaviors. It also can provide peace and resolve conflict or feelings of anger, frustration, and sadness. Additionally, family therapy extinguishes the sense of ongoing crisis and encourages participants to let go of negative emotions.

Decades of research demonstrate the positive impact family can have on a loved one’s recovery.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) highlights the benefits of family involvement:

  • Keeping your loved one engaged and motivated during treatment
  • Learning about addiction and its effects on the family as well as understanding how treatment works and what to expect when it’s complete
  • Enabling family members to voice feelings and concerns and ask questions about a loved one’s addiction
  • Offering a loved one a high level of appropriate support after treatment
  • Easing feelings of fear, anger, stress, and confusion related to the addiction
  • The chance for family members to develop skills and strategies to help a loved one stay on the path to recovery
  • Improvements in family communication skills
  • The opportunity to address any mental health issues within the family system, such as depression or anxiety, which can hamper family communication and contribute to relapse

Here are actionable steps to become involved right away in your loved one’s treatment:

  • Tour the facility with your loved one
  • Find out what they should bring and not bring, and offer support
  • Offer support that you feel comfortable with while they are in treatment
  • Send cards, letters, and care packages with items they can have in treatment
  • Encourage them to sign a release of information to allow you to participate while protecting their privacy with HIPAA.
  • Request phone numbers or contact information for the main office and primary therapist, and make contact within 24 hours of admission.

Perhaps the most essential part of family involvement in treatment is the care you give yourself.  Believe it or not, the recovering community includes family members, which means focusing on your health and well-being.  Seeking counseling, support, and developing a personal recovery plan are all good starting points. The following family supports are also available online and in your local area:

Al-Anon:  Al-anon is the sister program to Alcoholics Anonymous.  Al-anon is for family and friends.

Nar-Anon: Nar-anon is the sister program to Narcotics Anonymous and is available to family and friends as well.

Parents of Addicted Loved Ones (PAL):  PAL is a faith-based support network for parents of children battling addiction.