Family Care

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Family therapy is a form of psychotherapy that can reduce conflict or distress in the family unit by improving family member interactions. When patients with substance use disorders seek treatment, the family holds the key to understanding how substance abuse develops, is maintained, and what can positively or negatively impact treatment.

At United Recovery CA, we are dedicated to providing compassionate, effective family care in a welcoming, safe environment as part of our residential treatment or extended treatment program.

The Role of Family for Addiction Treatment

The family is the primary source of nurturing, socialization, and attachment in society. Healthy relationships are profoundly beneficial for all family members because they form the foundation of how individuals relate to other people and the world around them.

Substance use disorders may cause physical damage to your body, but they also do similar damage to family relationships and dynamics. Rebuilding healthy relationships is essential for recovery because it can positively impact mental health. By contrast, toxic relationships can turn into triggers for relapse.

There is a strong association between social interactions and our brain chemistry. During social interactions, there is a notable change in the brain’s chemical composition. Healthy relationships can build healthy neurotransmitters and provide neurochemical rewards that positively impact health and well-being. Healthy relationships provide support, stability, reliability, encouragement, and a strong emphasis on health and wellness. They are characterized by love and affection and help family members to feel safe and cared for.

Some of the benefits of healthy, positive relationships include:

  • Developing trust and confidence
  • Lowering stress
  • Alleviating some mental disorder symptoms
  • Increasing life expectancy
  • Improving the quality of life

The Role of Addiction in the Family

The research shows that substance use occurs in one-third to two-thirds of child maltreatment cases, and a parent with a substance use disorder is three times more likely to physically or sexually abuse a child. Furthermore, these children are 50% more likely to be incarcerated as juveniles and 40% more likely to commit violent crimes. Within families where substance use is prevalent, children will internalize problems and experience anxiety, depression, substance use, aggression, impulsivity, and conduct problems such as lying and stealing. Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse has documented six roles that are commonly seen and taken on in an addicted family:

The addicted: The addicted person or people may be the primary care providers or an adolescent. With this role, the substance is the coping mechanism.
The enabler: This is often a spouse but may be the oldest child. The enabler makes excuses to smooth problems over in the family.
The hero tries to bring the family together and create a sense of normality. The oldest child often takes on this role. The hero is under tremendous pressure, which makes them highly anxious.

The scapegoat: The scapegoat is the person who is blamed for the family problems. The scapegoat will voice their anger but will shield the addicted.
The mascot: The mascot tries to defuse stress with humor. This role is usually taken on by the youngest member of the household, who is vulnerable and desperate for approval. Humor is used as a defense against pain and fear. The mascot will often grow up self-medicating.
The lost child: This role is usually adopted by the middle or youngest child, who doesn’t get much attention. They are ‘invisible.’ The lost child struggles with decision-making and relationships later in life. They use solitary activities as a coping mechanism.

Children of parents with substance use disorders are furthermore likely to

  • Have unmet developmental needs
  • Have impaired attachment
  • Experience economic hardship
  • Be in emotional distress
  • Have legal problems
  • Experience violence
  • Be at elevated risk of developing a substance use disorder themselves.

Do You Need Help?

We offer initial assessment and advice via phone or contact form.

Teenage Addiction

It is reported that 10.37% of teens in California aged 12-17 have used drugs and 8.85% consume alcohol. Of concern, 24.46% of California teenagers are more likely to have used drugs in the last month than the average American teen. Californians in the 18 to 25 age group are 18.24% more likely to use drugs than the average American in the same age group.

Opioid use disorders among teens have been categorized as a national public health emergency, with overdose deaths due to opioid use in the 15 to 24 year age group increasing by 500% since 1999.

Adolescents are more likely to have a lifelong substance use disorder if they do not get help early on.

The Science behind Family Therapy

According to the work of social worker Laney Cline King, there are four types of approaches to family therapy.

Bowenian: This approach works on the premise of two core concepts: triangulation and differentiation. Triangulation occurs when someone tries to divert conflict by involving a third party. Differentiation is the process of learning to be less emotionally reactive in family relationships.

Structural: This approach addresses the notion of hierarchy by ensuring that the parents (or adults) are in control and set boundaries for the children. The structural approach incorporates ‘joining,’ where the therapist joins the family discussion to ensure that no one or two people have too much power.

Systemic: This approach focuses on the meaning behind the behavior and suggests that communication occurs unconsciously. This means that power doesn’t belong to a single person but actually to the ‘unconscious’ game that family members are complicit in, to keep a problem alive.

Strategic: The strategic approach can deliver results in a short time frame. The therapist will set homework so that family members can change how they relate to the person with the perceived problem or ‘symptom.’

Re-Establishing Connections

Family members may absorb the impact of a loved one’s substance use; they may cover up, rationalize or make excuses. Some may find it difficult to talk about how substance use affects them, while others may withdraw from the person with the problem to avoid conflict, leaving many issues unresolved. Some members may blame themselves for the problem, or blame the addicted person for their behaviors, harboring resentment and mistrust.

Substance use disorders exacerbate pre-existing communication and emotional issues between family members, such as relationship dynamics, mental health issues, and domestic violence. Sometimes family dynamics like grief, cheating, or LGBTQ+ challenges can lead to substance use. The abuse of substances in the family leads to trauma for the other family members, leading to further substance problems.

When abused by a parent, it causes marital strain between parents affects relationship dynamics, mainly if infidelity and financial problems are prevalent. When an adolescent family member develops a substance problem, this will amplify the family’s values about substance use and addiction stigmas. Parents may feel anxious about their teenage child skipping school, getting low grades, and mixing with other users. Denial, anger, and communication breakdowns are common responses within a family and can compound an issue unless professional treatment is sought.

Group Therapy for Families

Within a group therapy environment that is non-judgmental and safe, family members can learn about addictions and develop the coping skills to help them:

  • Improve their quality of life
  • Experience less conflict with the addicted person
  • Lower stress levels
  • Experience better mental health

Group therapy also ensures that every family member is given the time and space to voice their challenges and emotions. Working with a professional can help to keep these discussions productive and constructive.

Group therapy for families may draw on some of these techniques to bring family members closer together:

The Role of Intervention in the Family

Family members can cover up and enable someone’s addiction, or they can take an active role in intervention, to help a fellow family member reach out for help. An intervention is a delicate process that should be planned and not spontaneous or reactive.
Some helpful questions to ask yourself before delving into an intervention could be:

  • Will it be possible to state my case without angering the other person?
  • Are other people in my loved one’s inner circle available to help me?
  • Can I follow through with this conversation, even if the outcome is negative?

If your loved one is prone to violent outbursts, suffers from a mental health condition, or has known suicidal tendencies, seeking the help of a professional interventionist might be a more sensitive way to handle the matter.

Family Therapy – The United Recovery California Approach

At United Recovery California, we prioritize the entire family unit and recognize how a thriving functioning family system offers unparalleled support for members in their recovery journey. Addicted behavior is a symptom, and at United Recovery California, we work closely with our patients and their families to delve into the contributing factors that enable it.

We understand that many socio-emotional issues between family members are intergenerational and that many dynamics take place unconsciously. By working closely with the entire family, we can address past traumas to prevent them from causing future problems. We value healthy relationships and the decisive role they play in recovery.

We believe that we can help you repair family relationships no matter the damage that has been done.

Meet Your Recovery Team

Our Recovery Teams have been structured to provide maximum support, Family Medicine, and medical care for patients who want to recover from substance use.
By starting your recovery journey with us, you can expect:

  • Evidence-based treatments
  • Customized treatment plans
  • Dual diagnosis and treatment for co-existing mental health conditions
  • A supportive, safe, and non-judgmental environment

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How does addiction affect family relationships?

Addiction is a chronic condition that affects family members in different ways. An addiction to an illicit drug or alcohol can cause emotional and behavioral problems for the other family members. It can cause strong emotions that lead to communication breakdowns and fragmented relationships. An addicted family should be treated holistically for the best long-term outcomes.

What is the role of the family in addiction recovery?

The family plays a significant role in the recovery journey and can hold vital information in a therapeutic environment for the development of a SUD, how it is maintained, and the factors that have positive and negative influences on the disorder. Relationships can be improved and rebuilt through family therapy, and the intergenerational factors that affect the family dynamic can be addressed.

What is the FMLA?

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides employees of designated employers with 12 weeks of unpaid but job-secured leave for medical and family reasons. FMLA is slightly different from sick leave because one of the conditions it is allowed is to care for a sick family member with a severe health condition.

Can the FMLA be used for rehab?

Yes, you can use the FMLA for rehab and the treatment of mental health disorders. Addiction is considered a complex disorder that impacts a person’s emotional, psychological, and physical well-being. The FMLA allows for time off for severe health conditions that require inpatient treatment or ongoing treatment from your healthcare provider.

Does therapy help my family or just me?

Family therapy is structured to be beneficial for all members of a family. It recognizes the complexity of family dynamics and ensures that everyone’s voice can be heard. Through therapy, families can develop and maintain boundaries, cultivate cohesion and communication, solve problems and reduce conflict. You can address the root of the addiction through family therapy rather than just the symptom.

How to find an interventionist?

Staging an intervention could be one of the most valuable things you can do for a family member suffering from an addiction. Generally, a person who is very close to the addicted person has a good chance of being heard, but sometimes professional intervention is the only way to break through. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us for additional information.

Do You Need Help?

If you’re looking for addiction help – our team of experts will help you find the needed support.
Call us now.

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Bryan Alzate
Written by:
Bryan Alzate serves as United Recovery Project Chief Executive Officer. Bryan has a vested passion in assisting those struggling with substance abuse. He is an active member of the recovery community with over 13 years substance abuse free. Bryan attended Florida Atlantic University before co-founding United Recovery Project. Bryan brings 10 years of substance abuse treatment experience to URP. It is his mission to provide a safe & healing environment where clients are given the tools necessary to achieve total health and wellness within their recovery journey.