Treatment programs aimed at those with alcohol and drug problems can achieve better results if the perpetrator’s family or close associates are also involved in the process.
If the family is not involved in learning about substance abuse and the role it can play in family dynamics, it can actually hinder the alcoholic’s or addict’s recovery if family members continue their dysfunctional or empowering behavior.
Treatment professionals recommend that substance abuse counselors include family therapy techniques in their treatment protocol.
To this end, the Drug Abuse and Mental Health Agency has published a manual entitled “Treatment of Substance Abuse and Family Therapy,” which serves as a guide for both substance abuse counselors and family therapists.
The guide provides the family therapist with basic information about drug abuse treatment models and the role of 12-step self-help programs in the treatment of drug addicts and their families.
The guide includes a discussion of treatment models that incorporate substance abuse treatment and family therapy. These models can serve as a guide for treating the addict and their family, as well as other people with close emotional ties, together.
Family therapy can help
“Family therapy in substance abuse treatment can help by harnessing the family’s strengths and resources to find ways how the person who uses alcohol or drugs can live free of the substance of abuse and the effects of chemical addiction on both the patient and the patient On the family can improve at SAMHSA: “Family therapy can help families become aware of their own needs and achieve the goal of preventing substance abuse from passing from one generation to the next.”
The SAMSHA Guide warns substance abuse counselors that they must always be aware that family counseling techniques should not be used when a batterier is putting a client or child at risk. The first priority is protecting all parties.
The guide also warns that family therapy for women with substance use disorders is not appropriate for cases of persistent partner abuse. Women who have lost custody of their children may be highly motivated to overcome their substance abuse as they often work to get their children back.
Substance abuse affects families
SAMHSA’s Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) No. 39 identifies the following family structures and how substance abuse can affect these families:
- A customer who lives alone or with a partner – Both partners need help in this situation. When one is chemically dependent and the other is not, code dependency problems arise.
- Customers living with a spouse or partner and minor children Most of the data available suggest that one parent’s drinking problem is often detrimental to children. The spouse of the substance abuser is likely to protect the children and take over the parenting responsibilities of substance abusing parents. The effects on children are worse when both parents abuse alcohol or drugs.
- A customer who is part of a mixed family Stepfamilies pose particular challenges and substance abuse can hinder the integration and stability of a stepfamily.
- An elderly customer with grown children Additional family resources may be needed to manage the older adult’s substance use disorder. There may be problems with elderly abuse that must be reported to local authorities.
- A teenage drug addict living with his or her family of origin – With siblings in the family, their needs and concerns may be ignored while their parents respond to the ongoing crises of the adolescent who uses alcohol or drugs. If there is a parent who is also substance abusing, it can set off a combination of physical and emotional problems that can be very dangerous.
Sometimes substance abuse is overlooked
The SAMHSA guide also suggests that family therapists often do not look for substance abuse because the therapists are unfamiliar with the questions to be asked or the guidance provided by their clients.
It also stresses that substance abuse counselors should not practice family therapy without proper training and licensing, but should learn enough to determine when a referral is appropriate.