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Family Therapy And The Addiction Recovery Process

Family Therapy in Addiction Recovery: Strengthening Bonds and Healing Together


More often than not, families play a significant role in their loved one’s recovery process. Since drug or alcohol users have a hard time recognizing that they have a problem, family members often step in. This is usually called an “intervention,” which is a meeting set up between the family, the person struggling with addiction, and a professional.

But after the intervention and inpatient treatment, there are oftentimes a lot of pieces to put back together. Marriage and family therapy can be central components of the recovery process for both the person struggling with addiction and their family members.

What Is Family Therapy?

Marriage and family therapies are important factors that contribute to the rehabilitation process. It provides support for all parties and can be beneficial at any stage of the recovery process.

Instead of seeing the person struggling with addiction as an isolated individual, couples and family therapy sees the family as a unit and addresses every member involved. The goal of these therapies is to strengthen the relationships between family members by helping them to understand and forgive each other.

  • A family therapist is first and foremost an observer. During the initial sessions, they should be able to identify how substance addiction has affected the mental and emotional health of each family member.
  • They take into account each person’s personality (parents and siblings) to formulate a therapy plan in order to improve overall family relationality and communication. After this, the family gets to practice these principles during the sessions together and discover a new way of relating to one another.
  • Eventually, the number of sessions will decrease, and the therapist provides an assessment of the family’s progress and outstanding issues. By the time the sessions are concluded, each family member should feel more confident in their healthy coping mechanisms and have a better understanding of themselves and the family at large.

What Happens During A Family Therapy Session?

In many recovery programs, some type of family or marriage therapy is involved. During these therapy sessions, each member of the family has the opportunity to discuss how their relationships have changed as a result of the substance abuse and addiction.

The mediator or therapist of these therapy sessions should be licensed with an MFT or similar, such as a mental health specialist with additional training in family systems and development. These skills allow the therapist to address emotional and behavioral problems within a family dynamic and offer solutions and strategies for each family member to work with.

During the therapy sessions themselves, there may be a variety of topics that arise. Examples of such topics can include:

  • Problems or responses associated with substance abuse
  • Ways that the relationship has changed with the addiction cycle
  • Achievable goals that the family envisions for the future
  • Plans made by their loved one while the other is in treatment
  • Family topics such as finances, employment, children, and individual responsibilities
  • Family trauma that arose from the addiction, such as abuses and manipulation
  • Rebuilding trust and healthy communication
  • Addressing co-dependencies and patterns of enabling
  • Or any other topic that may come up

Since addiction can be complicated, it is essential to have the support and encouragement of loved ones. Not only can it help improve the results of the treatment, but the family approach is holistic and focused on the long-term balance and health of the family.

How Long Does Family Therapy Last?

The frequency and duration of family therapy sessions depend on each person and their situation. Family therapy is not a “one-size-fits-all” model. Instead, its primary task is to identify and solve problems and provide strategies for long-term wholeness and family health.

For many people, family therapy treats behavior problems more directly and can correct the triggers of addiction and enabling. But these are not overnight fixes. For some, the healing process is shorter and lasts for a while, whereas for others, it may take dedication over time to chip away at bad habits and behavioral programming. In short, there is no magic formula for how family and marriage therapies work—it depends on the person, their family members, and the unique situations they bring to the table.

Does Family Therapy Really Work?

By itself, family and marriage therapy is usually not enough to overcome an addiction. But it is still a key component of the recovery process—not just for the individual but for the whole family unit. This is one of the most promising treatments that leads to substantial progress in long-term recovery.

Despite the fact that substance abuse and addiction can be difficult to treat, alternative therapies, such as outdoor treatment programs or psychological counseling, can help improve the chances of success. Other approaches, such as multidimensional family therapy, have shown excellent results among teens struggling with substance abuse. Taking the family and its interpersonal relationships into account can help to provide a fuller picture of the person’s struggle. Moreover, involving the family as a supportive network can improve the stability of the recovery process and lower the risks of relapse over time.

Varieties of Therapies, Varieties of Results

To achieve long-term success with the recovery process, each person must carefully select what types of integrative and complementary therapies work best for them—financially, mentally, emotionally, and that address their own unique issues. Specific factors need to be taken into consideration when looking for a therapist or a suitable program. These factors might include accreditation, clinical experience, and program features.

In addition to family therapy, many people in recovery choose some type of spiritual counseling to identify and practice a philosophy that suits their lifestyle and beliefs. This can also be a way to help the family unite under a common goal and language that suits their collective needs. But in general, the goal is a unified front of healthy communication and care—a recovery process that includes everyone.


Supporting a loved one during their treatment is an essential part of their recovery. Furthermore, addressing and learning how to overcome the consequences of addiction can be very empowering and healing for everyone involved.

To learn more about how to start your healing journey at Impact Recovery, get in touch with a member of our team here.