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Family Therapy

 Why Is Family Therapy Necessary?

Addiction wreaks havoc not just on the addict, but on the people who care for them. Family, loved ones and friends often get caught up in their downward spiral. Dealing with a loved ones addiction can be a trying, even a traumatizing experience for those who are close to them. Family members, spouses and significant others can often need counseling for their experiences and help with strategies to deal with both their emotions and the behavior of the addict.

But though the emotional and mental health needs of the addict’s family and loved ones are important, that is not the sole focus of family therapy. Quite often, dynamics in the family relationship can unwittingly support and contribute to the addiction. Family therapy focuses on uncovering these dynamics and teaching all parties involved how to recognize and change these behaviors to better support the addict’s recovery process.

If you’re in need of family or couples therapy, there are many certified facilities in Massachusetts that provide this service. Read on to find out if family therapy is appropriate for your circumstances, and what you should look for when seeking counseling.

Struggles That Families Face

Families are usually not prepared for addiction when it strikes one of their members, and have no idea what to do about it.

The natural response is to look at it as an individual failing, something the addicted family member has to choose to fix on their own. Unfortunately, it is often family dynamics that have a big part in causing or contributing to the addiction.  If the dynamics never change, the addiction gets worse, and eventually the family may cut the addict off until they “clean up their act.” However, forcing social isolation on an addict almost inevitably worsens the state of their addiction.

Families may also not understand that serious addiction can take years of recovery to beat and is a long-term ongoing process. With the most addictive drugs, such as meth and heroin, statistics say that relapse at some point is almost inevitable. Families have to prepare themselves for a long battle that can have setbacks.


Denial is also a common reaction for families that have never dealt with addiction before. They may refuse to mentally frame the substance use as addiction. Not only does this hurt the addict, but it prevents the family members from getting the vital support and education they need.


The Components of Couples & Family Therapy

The specifics of each of these programs may vary between the providers based in Massachusetts, but family or couples therapy usually begins shortly after the patient enters rehab. Families will meet regularly with a licensed therapist. The therapist often initiates treatment by having the addicted member sign a “sobriety contract” that promises they will not drink or use drugs for at least the 24 hours in which the therapy meeting takes place.

If the patient has a spouse or someone who lives with them, this person may be assigned to visually ensure that the patient takes any regular medications they are required to (like Antabuse). Families also may be asked to agree to keep discussions about the addiction to the therapy sessions, as talking about it at home in an unmoderated environment can trigger a relapse.

Sessions usually consist of discussions combined with regular activities. Group members may be assigned to do things outside of therapy, such as shared activities.

There is no “one size fits all” solution to family and couples therapy, and these approaches may vary somewhat depending on individual circumstances. Your local Massachusetts therapist will analyze the situation and determine what the best course of action is.

Continued Care after Rehabilitation

As mentioned previously, families need to be prepared for recovery to be a years-long process, potentially one that lasts for life. Relapse statistics are initially dismaying, but if the patient can make it four years without using substances, they stand a very good chance of never using again. Families should also recognize that the occurrence of a relapse does not mean the patient will never get clean. Relapse is very likely at some point with the most addictive drugs and with addictions that have gone on for a long time.

Intensive inpatient treatments will eventually end, but the addicted member will likely continue to attend regular group meetings (such as AA and NA) for emotional support. These groups often have a meeting for family members of the patient that aid in supporting the recovery process. The patient may also need to continue taking a medication used to control symptoms of addiction, and family members who live with them can play a vital role in ensuring they keep on track with this.