When a person has a substance use disorder, it doesn’t just affect them. Their loved ones are greatly affected as well. In order for an addict to recover, their family environment needs to change. It’s necessary to implement support systems that help prevent relapse. It’s also necessary to mend old hurts and foster a loving, positive environment. The best way to do this is through family therapy, but how will family therapy programs work in inpatient addiction rehab?
Most inpatient rehab centers will offer family therapy for an addict and their loved ones. The definition of “family” can vary. It generally refers to the addict and the people closest to them, whether this is their significant other, biological family, or close friends. The exact structure of family therapy will vary depending on the dynamics at play, but the core goal remains the same: Help heal and strengthen the familial unit.
The Purpose of Family Therapy in Addiction Treatment
Addiction is a mental illness. Most people become addicted to substances because they’re self-medicating other emotional issues. This disease changes the way their brain responds to the world around them and causes them to lose control over their life. This can, in turn, lead to pain and damaged relationships with family members. Family therapy addresses the pain caused by addiction and any responsibility the addict needs to take.
In the same vein, environmental factors often influence addiction. Stresses and other factors in the home environment can cause relapse or increased substance use. It’s important to identify these factors while in inpatient rehab. Inpatient rehab removes an addict from their typical home environment, which can provide clarity about any unhealthy dynamics there. When an addict understands their potential relapse triggers, family members can work together to eliminate them. Family therapy helps educate loved ones about how to create a healthy environment and strong support systems.
Mending Past Hurts
A family therapist will approach the treatment with the idea that the family is one cohesive unit. Each individual is one part of that unit. Addiction can damage the way the family unit functions by harming individual relationships. The goal of therapy is to identify these points of damage and address them in a healing way.
There are two main types of past hurts that will generally be addressed. The first is damage caused by the addict’s addiction and actions toward their family members. The second is pain that family members have caused the addict, which can be one of the underlying factors in their substance use.
Addressing the pain caused by addiction is fairly straightforward. The addict and their loved ones will need to discuss unresolved pain and conflict. The addict will then need to take responsibility for their actions and commit to making amends in the future. It’s helpful to explore this in a family therapy environment, as the therapist can mediate the discussion to make sure it remains positive rather than harmful.
Addressing the pain the addict is holding onto can be more difficult. In many cases, family members will have trouble taking responsibility for their part in the addict’s illness. It is true that addicts are solely responsible for their disease, but it’s also true that negative environmental factors can increase the chances of relapse.
The family needs to accept that part of supporting the addict is taking responsibility for any pain they’ve caused in the past. When all family members are accountable for their part in the damage, it’s much easier to take the necessary steps to heal.
Fostering Strong Connections
There’s more to family therapy than merely repairing old damage. Another goal of the process is to foster strong connections between each member of the family. It’s important to affirm the love, trust, and care among every individual.
This might involve more potentially painful confrontations. People will need to examine their relationships to each other and voice where they’re struggling. This exploration of weak points will then let the family members identify concrete strategies for fixing those weak points. It’s similar to fortifying a castle wall to protect against attack.
Mediation is an essential component of these discussions. The family therapist is an expert in familial dynamics. They can help direct the conversation to discovering weak points, even when family members may not be aware they exist. Once the issues are established, they can foster a positive conversation about hands-on changes that can be made.
This aspect of family therapy can help all families, but it’s especially important for addicts in inpatient rehab. It’s essential that the addict know that they have loved ones who will care about them after they leave treatment.
Making Environmental Changes
An addict’s environment can have a huge impact on their addiction. Addiction is often tied to other mental illnesses, like depression or PTSD. When environmental factors trigger those mental illnesses, they also trigger the addiction as a form of self-medication.
The people surrounding the addict have the most impact on their environment. Typically, this will include significant others, children, parents, close friends, roommates, or anyone else with a pronounced presence in the addict’s life.
One of the most common environmental triggers is stress. Built-up stress and anxiety can lead to the desire to use drugs to forget about the negative feelings. In family therapy, family members can explore common sources of stress in their home environment. They’ll then make concrete plans for how to mitigate the stress.
If the stress can’t be eliminated, they’ll create support systems. For example, if an addict feels like they need to use after a stressful day at work, they may be able to ask a family member to distract them.
The biggest, most important thing is the support system. An addict should be confident that, after they leave inpatient treatment, they’ll have people to turn to when they struggle with their mental health. Family therapy helps create and maintain that support system.
For more information about inpatient rehab and family therapy, you can call our trained counselors at 866-754-9113.