Family Dynamics in Early Recovery

family in early recoveryFamily dynamics play a substantial role in a person’s substance use history and recovery. A family history of substance misuse can cause trauma and issues with family dynamics and boundaries. However, family therapy offers an effective way to bring the entire family into the recovery process, heal issues from the past, and develop a plan for the family to provide healthy support for the person’s early recovery.

Family healing can take a lot of work when substance misuse has caused pain or caused a person to overstep family members’ boundaries. A family therapist will guide the person and their family through techniques like setting and maintaining boundaries, assertive communication to get needs met, and listening skills.

Family Dynamics and Substance Use

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) developed a report in 2004 called “Substance Abuse Treatment And Family Therapy,” otherwise known as TIP (treatment improvement protocol) 39. This report reviews the types of family situations and dynamics that a family therapist might encounter, including:

  • A client who lives alone or with a partner, leading to possible codependency issues
  • A client who lives with a partner and minor children, creating increased risks for the children
  • A client who belongs to a blended family, with potential boundary issues
  • A client who has adult children or is an elder

In any of these situations, substance use disorder may have created negative, even hostile feelings and dynamics in the family. A substance use disorder can throw a family into chaos, but successful family therapy during early recovery can help start the process of rebuilding.

Importance of Family Therapy

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has found that family therapy improves recovery outcomes and must be included in any complete recovery treatment program. SMART Recovery notes that the family is a system, and when one person in that system makes a dramatic change, such as becoming sober, it affects the dynamics of the whole system.

A family relationship may have issues including:

  • Codependency: When a person fixates their identity on the care of a loved one with substance use disorder and neglects their own needs, they may neglect themselves or allow themselves to be taken advantage of. When two people in a relationship experience codependency, each person usually has a negative effect on the other.
  • Enabling: Sometimes, loved ones try to keep a person from suffering the consequences of their substance use disorder. They may make excuses for the person, work hard to make everything look as normal as possible, or even help the person obtain substances. Because enabling often comes from a place of love, it can be hard to see the damage it does.
  • Avoidance: Some family members may avoid as much of the situation and the person as possible. Avoidance behaviors can cause disruption in the family and emotional trauma for the person trying to avoid the problems happening around them.

How Family Therapy Works

In family therapy, the therapist and family will explore the history of what brought the family to this point and how each member currently feels. The therapist will also help the family discover how the interactions between them may be fueling negative family dynamics. The family reaches for the goal of healthy and well-balanced dynamics.

While different forms of family therapy exist, The Partnership to End Addiction has narrowed down four key aspects necessary to family therapy in general:

  • Family Engagement: During this stage, the therapist gets to know each family member and finds ways to engage them in treatment. Some people may not want to participate until they understand how the therapy will affect them and why their participation matters.
  • Relational Reframing: In this stage, the therapist helps the family take apart individual problems and see the family interconnections between them. The therapist works with the family to discover any negative or false perceptions or labels the family members hold toward each other.
  • Family Behavior Change: Families must learn tools to deal with each other in healthier, more productive ways. Behavior changes will be different for each family member and might include communicating their needs assertively, holding others accountable for inappropriate actions, and setting clear boundaries.
  • Family Restructuring: Often, a family’s unwritten rules and expectations resist change. However, these long-term patterns can maintain the same problem behaviors, so the therapist helps the family develop new rules and understand family roles.

The family therapist’s job involves guiding people in recovery and their families through the journey of learning to function as a healthy family unit supporting the person’s recovery and the happiness of all family members. At Lakehouse Recovery Center, each individual has their own family therapist to work with them and their family.

Substance use disorder affects whole families, not just individuals. These families need help to rebalance and restructure themselves to act as strong support for a person in recovery. People stay in recovery longer when they have the support of a healthy family dynamic. At Lakehouse Recovery Center, a person’s team includes a case manager, a primary therapist, and a family therapist for total holistic support. Family members play a crucial role in treatment, and we help them learn to play a critical role in recovery. Family support helps people recover from substance misuse. At Lakehouse, we provide a wide variety of support services to make sure each person has the best chance to remain sober and healthy, and we want their families to feel balanced and healthy as well. Call us today to learn more and recover your family’s balance at (877) 762-3707. Our family therapy program can help you rebuild your family’s relationships.