Welcome back to our 3-part series about the family in addiction and recovery. In our first post, we explored some ways that addiction is damaging to family members and the family unit as a whole. Then we looked at Karpman’s Triangle to identify and explore some habitual patterns that can get in the way of a sustained and healthy recovery for all members. Today, we have 4 pathways to help individual family members and family units in their recovery process.
- #1 Family Therapy – There are licensed counselors, psychologists, and clinical social workers who specialize in family work. If you decide to seek professional help for your whole family, keep in mind that not all licensed mental health practitioners work with families and not all practitioners who do work with families will understand addiction. When you start searching, here are 2 things to look for and ask about:
- Consider looking for someone with LMFT after their name. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists have put in thousands of hours of education, internship time, and post-licensure training specifically to help couples and families. Other licensed professionals are also well-trained in this area, so if you don’t see those 4 letters, don’t despair; look in the therapist’s biography or summary for words like “family systems”, “family dynamics”, and “family therapy”, but don’t stop there. If you decide to contact a specific therapist, ask them directly if and how they work with family units and members.
- No matter what type of licensed practitioner you consider, look for those with education, training, and clinical experience working in the field of substance use disorders. You can look for the letters LCDC in many states. That stands for Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor. Depending on your location, you might see CSAC, CDAC, or CAC. Each of these are professional certifications in the field. If you find someone you think might be good to work with, and you don’t see any letters indicating a license or certification in addictions, just ask about their training and experience. Many don’t carry an extra license or certification but have the training and experience you’re looking for.
- #2 Individual Therapy – There might be reasons that the whole family, as a unit, is unable or unwilling to engage in therapy or counseling. That doesn’t mean that individuals within the family can’t pursue professional help. Therapists trained in family systems and family dynamics and those trained in substance use disorders can be really beneficial even for an individual family member seeking therapy. No matter what professional you choose to work with, be up front about the role that substance use has played in your family and in your life.
- #3 Family Programs Offered Through Addiction Treatment Programs – These days, many inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment programs offer family support in one form or another. Some programs offer family counseling sessions, others provide education, and still others offer some combination of the two and other special programs. These services may be offered by appointment, on a specific day or evening during the week, over the course of a full weekend, or in other formats.
These services are not available to everyone; only current patients’ family members are generally invited to participate. Further, the patient determines which family members are invited to engage in the program. In most inpatient and outpatient treatment programs, family participation is strongly encouraged, but individual adult clients can refuse to include family members in the treatment process. If you are able to participate in these treatment offerings, take advantage of the opportunity. The education and help is well worth it.
- #4 Peer Support Groups -The truth about addiction is that it is often secret. As we discussed early on, family members often isolate, and the family unit can become insular and cut off. Connection is a very important aspect of recovery, and peer support groups can be the place to start. Peer support groups like Al-Anon, Alateen, Adult Children of Alcoholics, and Nar-Anon combine the connection that comes from shared experience with a program for recovery based on the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. These groups are free, and most cities and towns offer at least 1 or 2 options; larger cities will have more. Online meetings are also available.
While 12-step based groups are not the only form of peer support, they have longevity and availability in their favor. Consider contacting a local treatment center for other ideas close to home, and individual faith-based groups, meditation centers, and community and medical centers are also worth exploring. Remember, the key, when it comes to peer support groups, is connection through shared experience.
We hope that you’ve enjoyed the last 3 posts about the family and addiction and that you’ve found some helpful information. If you or a family member is struggling with substance use, please don’t hesitate to reach out for help.
For assistance finding substance use and addiction treatment: Use SAMHSA’s Treatment Finder.
For assistance finding family and individual therapy, contact your insurance provider if appropriate, and also consider using the Psychology Today Therapy Finder. Providers who use this service often create detailed biographies and also list their education, qualifications, and specialties.
You are also welcome to contact us here at Luna Recovery by calling 1-888-448-LUNA or using the chat function on any page.
Dr. Allaire received his Bachelors of Science in Biology from the University of Houston, as Valedictorian of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and his Medical Doctorate from Baylor College of Medicine, where he served as Chief Resident. He is the medical monitor for the Physician Counseling Committee of the Harris County Medical Society and the Medical Director of Serenity House Detox. Dr. Allaire specializes in medically assisted detox cases, treating patients in recovery from addiction or other mental health disorders, the medical assessment and monitoring of patients with addictive disorders, medical care related to eating disorders and the medical treatment of patients with mental health conditions.