Recovering from substance use disorder (SUD) is not only about the substance itself. To recover, you must seek to heal your past and your present. One way you can do this is through family therapy.

Family therapy can help people heal trauma from the past. It also increases understanding and support for the recovery process. Additionally, it can help people learn how to form healthy relationships, both within the family and without.

What Is Family Therapy?

Family therapy is a type of group therapy. It focuses on improving familial relationships and behavioral patterns of the family unit.

Improving your relationships with your loved ones is healthy for everyone involved. After all, many of our behavioral patterns are influenced by the important people in our lives. Being surrounded by unhealthy mindsets and habits can hinder you in your recovery. Therefore, it is essential to build healthy connections and invest in support systems for the health of the whole family.

However, you may be wondering what happens in family therapy. How does family therapy work? Or how can my loved ones and I really help each other?

How Does Family Therapy Work?

As noted by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), it can be difficult for families already dealing with unhealthy dynamics to adjust to a loved one in recovery. We get used to certain behaviors and patterns that impact our interactions and relationships. Patterns become habits, and it can be difficult to break them. It can also be hard to adjust to seeing a loved one breaking those unhealthy habits for themselves.

Family therapy allows your family to address unhealthy dynamics to heal and recover together. There are numerous approaches you can explore with your clinician to find what works best for your family.

Approaches to Care

There are multiple ways to approach family therapy. These include the following.

#1. Structural Family Therapy

This is a commonly used approach to care in family therapy. Structural family therapy is based on establishing and strengthening the roles within the family unit. The focus is on the overall relational network of the family rather than on the individuals.

In structural family therapy, value is placed on helping the family learn to care for each other.

#3. Strategic/Systemic Family Therapy

In this form of family therapy, the focus is placed on problem-solving within the family. The theory behind this therapy sees behavior as symptoms of the interpersonal context of the relationships within the family.

Its goal is to identify and apply interventions to produce behavioral changes. This means sessions are often brief and task-based.

#4. Postmodern/Narrative Family Therapy

This therapy focuses on dismantling normative thinking within the family. After all, certain beliefs within the family can become so ingrained that we see them as facts. However, that thinking can get in the way of healthy, authentic connections.

Through narrative family therapy, you discuss and challenge those traditions, beliefs, and norms.

#5. Behavioral/Cognitive-Behavioral Family Therapy

As with other forms of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), this approach focuses on identifying and confronting the source of unhealthy behaviors. It uses communication to examine and treat those behaviors.

Cognitive-behavioral family therapy helps families recognize their core beliefs. Next, it helps them realize how those beliefs are negatively impacting them and the family unit. Members of the family can then practice emotional regulation and learn how to restructure unproductive thinking patterns.

#6. Transgenerational Family Therapy

This therapy is less interested in the individual. Instead, it considers how family conflict patterns can develop throughout the generations. It looks to support more than two generations of a family.

Through transgenerational therapy, families can develop healthier relationships by understanding how certain behaviors impact them.

Goals of Family Therapy

Regardless of the type of family therapy you and your family participate in, there are two goals for family therapy. These are: (one) to support you in your recovery journey, and (two) to strengthen the emotional health of the whole family.

You may wonder how your family can achieve these goals. If unhealthy behaviors have been a part of your family for as long as you can remember, it can be difficult to imagine another way of existing. However, growth is possible with support from your clinician and your family’s commitment to taking this journey together.

Increasing Collaboration

Family therapy is a collaborative process between you, your family, and your clinician. Guided activities can strengthen your collaboration as a family unit. These may include:

Child-Focused Activities

These activities grab and maintain attention. They are great for young children and individuals with concentration difficulties.

Examples include:

  • Play therapy
  • Sandbox therapy
  • Art therapy

Family-Focused Activities

These activities teach members how to work as a unit. They help each member understand each other and their roles in the family. Additionally, they examine how the family operates with tasks and responsibilities.

Examples include:

  • Chores
  • Cooking
  • Laundry
  • Family outings

Some of the activities mentioned might seem like simple everyday things. However, this is not a bad thing! After all, daily life tasks make up most of our lives. How we process the stressors of life, from childcare to household responsibilities, is a part of the process of living. The tasks, responsibilities, goals, and activities of life will be there before and during your recovery journey.

Next Steps

It is important to build a foundation of respect and commitment within the family. This can support you as you create a healthier you with the people you love.

Family therapy will have its difficulties, but the outcome is worth it as the family learns together. The journey for long-term recovery is born out of a willingness to do the work. With family therapy, you can find your footing for that journey together.

Family therapy can support long-term recovery and healthy family relationships. Long-term recovery does not happen in isolation. It can be aided by a support network that believes in working together to build a healthier you. Here at Dream Recovery, we believe in the power of healthy relationships as a foundational piece of recovery. Your relationships impact the way you see yourself and how you engage with the world. Our staff is dedicated to working with you and your loved ones to help you find a path to recovery that supports healing for the whole family. To learn more about our programs and how family therapy can support you and your loved ones, call us today at (657) 216-7218.

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