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Family Addiction Counseling: Family Therapy in SUD Treatment

When someone misuses a substance, whether it is drugs or alcohol, it can affect their entire family.1 Family therapy for addiction is often a solution for those involved in addiction within a family. Research indicates that the use of evidence-based family drug addiction counseling will have a positive result.1 Since family relations are often impacted by addiction, everyone can benefit from family therapy in addiction treatment. Whether you are the loved one of someone addicted to a substance or are the one with substance misuse problem, family support plays a role in the healing process.1

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How Addiction Can Impact the Family

Addiction in the family can harm everyone involved in different ways. Of course, no two families are alike. So, your experiences may be somewhat different than someone else’s. Ways that addiction can harm a family include the following:2

  • Breaking trust.
  • Placing a strain on relationships.
  • Harming children in the family.
  • Damaging relationships and bonding attachments within the family.
  • Evoking misplaced anger.
  • Leading to a lack of emotional connection between family members.

Research indicates that approximately 8 million children live with a family member who has a substance use disorder (SUD). This disorder can lead to “an environment of secrecy, loss, conflict, violence or abuse, emotional chaos, role reversal, and fear.” 1

What Is Family Addiction Counseling?

Family addiction counseling helps relatives recover and heal from the effects of substance misuse within the unit.3 Through a family therapy for SUDs program, the family can move towards positive changes.3 Family addiction counseling assists the person in recovery with behavioral changes and helps the family heal from any trauma that results due to mental illness and addiction.3 Through family drug addiction counseling, family members learn the unhealthy patterns that may be impacting the family.3

During family therapy for addiction, the therapist will build on the family’s strengths while addressing the problem of substance misuse.2 They will develop a psychoeducational program that teaches the family about substance abuse, negative behaviors, and any consequences of use.2

How Family Counseling in Addiction Treatment Works

How family addiction counseling works varies. In most instances, a person with a substance use disorder will begin addiction therapy in a rehab treatment program on their own and begin the recovery process before a family therapy program is implemented.3 The exact time family members can be introduced into the recovery process depends on the person with the substance misuse.3 It’s vital that the affected person is completely committed to recovery before beginning family therapy in addiction treatment.3

The specific goals of a family therapy program are unique to each family, but the overarching objectives include supporting the family member in addiction treatment and improving the family’s well-being.3

During the family therapy for addiction sessions, family members will meet with a licensed clinician or psychologist.3 The therapist will direct the sessions with open-ended questions to solicit communication between the members. This helps the therapist assess the behaviors, strengths, and weaknesses of the family.3

The Benefits of Family Therapy in Addiction Treatment

The person in addiction recovery and their relatives benefit from family therapy because it:3

  • Brings about positive changes in the family dynamic.
  • Reduces the stress on family members.
  • Helps minimize other family members from getting involved in substance misuse.
  • Strengthens relationships between couples.
  • Helps children behave.
  • Brings more peace to the family relationship.
  • Develops social connections in the community.

Other Ways To Help a Family Member During Treatment

Support from the family during and after treatment is important for recovery. However, healing can take time, and it’s vital for everyone involved to work on rebuilding the relationship. During this time, family members can help their loved one in substance misuse treatment by:

  • Calling them over the phone to encourage them.
  • Preparing care packages for them.
  • Writing letters with supportive statements, affirmations, and words of love.

Even after rehab is completed, family members must still be prepared to offer support to their loved one.


  1. Lander, L., Howsare, J., & Byrne, M. (2013). The impact of substance use disorders on families and children: from theory to practice. Social work in public health, 28(3-4), 194–205.
  2. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Substance abuse treatment and family therapy. Treatment improvement protocol (TIP) series, no. 39. DHHS Publication No. (SMA) 05-4006. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2004.
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2013). Family therapy can help: for people in recovery from mental illness or addiction: HHS publication no. (SMA) 13-4784.

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