Today, most clinicians that handle cases of substance use disorder (SUD) agree that familial support is an important predictor of positive outcomes. Some studies confirm this idea, and it’s become common for drug and alcohol rehab facilities in Dallas to include family counseling as a central part of the approach.
Unfortunately, in wider American culture, the role of the family is one that’s often overlooked when it comes to the treatment of illnesses. Family and friends can, and should, have a role to play in an individual’s recovery from any disease, especially psychiatric disorders like substance use disorder.
If they choose, family members and close friends can be a critical part of a recovering person’s healing process, regardless of the illness involved. However, familial support can be especially important for people with mental illnesses like SUD.
Most serious cases of psychiatric illness come with feelings of isolation, as the patient may justifiably feel that few could relate to what they are going through. This is especially acute with substance use disorder, since the patient will also have to deal with a serious social stigma.
Feeling isolated can be especially problematic in the early phase of recovery, because it may make the individual question their motives for getting better. At worst, these feelings can result in depression and anxiety, which may further fuel a desire to consume drugs and alcohol.
Having the support of family and friends, whether through regular visits or, more importantly, through regular participation in family therapy sessions, can go a long way into helping a patient feel less isolated and more interested in staying clean.
How does participating in family therapy help people with SUD?
Aside from showing support for the affected individual, family therapy can also help recovery in other ways. Here are just some of the other ways you should consider participating in family therapy sessions with a recovering loved one:
1.) It can contextualize the SUD for everyone
While major progress has been made in how the public perceives SUD and other mental illnesses, we still have a long way to go into developing a true societal understanding of these issues.
Joining family therapy sessions can help those close to the patient have a better understanding of the disease, which may aid in their long-term recovery.
After all, family members and close friends are expected to have a basic understanding of what people with lifetime health conditions like diabetes and food allergies go through. The same applies to people recovering from a serious mental illness like SUD.
2.) It may help resolve deep-seated issues
Family therapy with the help of an impartial therapist or counselor can help everyone address relationship problems in a constructive way. Many people who have serious substance use issues also have strained relationships with family and close friends. The strain may be both a cause and result of substance use, which makes it critical to look into the role of the family in the illness.
At the very least, family therapy may help everyone confront issues that have remained unresolved. Doing this will almost always help the patient’s long-term recovery, regardless of the family’s contributory role in the illness.
3.) The attending therapist can have a better idea of how to approach treatment.
For substance rehab to be effective, it has to be personalized to address the unique circumstances of each patient. Seeing how the patient, their family, and other close relations interact with each other can give the therapist a better idea of what approaches may be more appropriate for a given situation.
For centuries, “addiction” to substances has been seen as an individual moral failing, and even a cause for shame and censure from the wider group to which an individual belonged. Disowning or distancing oneself from family members who had problems with drugs and alcohol was, and mostly still is, considered to be a reasonable thing to do.
However, as the scientific understanding of the mind and body improved, it became understood that the compulsive act of using substances has its roots in brain chemistry, genetics, and other factors that might not be in a person’s control.
Additionally, there is a better recognition of how social and economic factors, as well as public policies, make some groups of people more vulnerable to drug and alcohol use than others.
In other words, substance use disorders may not entirely be the individual’s fault, even if they bear much of the responsibility, regardless.
What a lot of laymen don’t always understand about psychiatric illnesses like SUD is that people close to the person with the disease are likely to exhibit signs of trauma. Seeing someone lose their spark and control over themselves can be very distressing, especially if it’s someone you’re close to.
To put it differently, family and close friends can also be patients themselves. Most are likely to benefit from some kind of therapy as much as the individual with the disease.
While it’s important that family and friends with trauma also get treated separately from the person recovering from SUD, therapy sessions together with the affected individual can be an excellent way to address previously unresolved issues. These kinds of therapeutic sessions together can be beneficial for everyone involved, even long after the individual has left rehab.
As the cliche goes, no man is an island. As a species, we are not meant to function without others of our kind, and the same applies even to people as proud of their individuality as Texans. If you have a loved one who is undergoing substance rehab, the level of involvement you have in their rehabilitation can very well be the factor that ensures their permanent recovery. Good luck, and be well!