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Treat the Family, Not Just the Addict

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Written by Carey Ferren, LCDC
Assistant Clinical Director, Burning Tree Ranch

When one considers addiction treatment, treating and supporting the family as a supplement is imperative.

Addiction is a family disease where each member experiences negative coping mechanisms to deal with the stress addiction causes.

In my eleven years as an addiction counselor, higher success rates have been achieved due to the incorporation of treating the family unit.

Regardless of the outcome of the individual in treatment, the enabling system of the addict/alcoholic must begin to change and/or begin to do something different in order for the change to be sustainable.

Parents, spouses, children, and siblings often develop unhealthy strategies in order to attempt to keep order within the household.

These can include enabling, denial, blame, minimal boundaries, isolation, and codependency.

All of these behaviors result in damaged relationships and continued addiction. By treating the entire family as well as the addict, the therapist can instill positive reactions to the addict that will better equip him to remain in recovery and heal the family system.

While the addict is suffering from their own issues, family members can experience low self-esteem, misguided anger, and constant worry.

They often neglect their own well-being in order to keep the peace in the household. The results are so damaging that the addict continues his use while the family constantly makes excuses and minimizes the devastation of his behavior.

The most negatively affected members of the family are the children. They often blame themselves and thus either strive for perfection or withdraw completely.

Their lack of understanding of addiction at a crucial developmental stage in their lives can lead to nightmares, insomnia, anxiety, poor academic performance, and a lifetime of mental health issues.

While the addict is in treatment, family therapy/treatment/Alanon must be added to the therapeutic modalities.

The family needs to develop positive changes within themselves in order to achieve their own healing as well as learning to support the addict on his new journey in recovery.

The benefits of family involvement are so vast that almost every rehabilitation center requires it as part of the treatment process.

Families can work through their debilitating weaknesses and therefore be open to learning about addiction and what to expect as the addict faces life in recovery.

This includes addiction education, positive support techniques, healthy boundaries, and communication skills. 

CREATING A LIFE OF EXCELLENCE BEYOND SOBRIETY

- SINCE 1999 -

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Dual diagnosis is a term that many families may have heard but don’t fully understand. Put simply, dual diagnosis refers to the co-occurrence of a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder in the same individual. As a LCDC, I can assure you that dual diagnoses are fairly common and understanding the nature of the diagnosis is the first step for families seeking help for their loved ones.

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