If you’ve ever had a family member approach you and recommend therapy, it can be a shocking experience. Therapy can feel like a serious matter, and it can easily be met with hostility, frustration or denial. Often, though, these conversations are a sign that there is dysfunction in a family, even if it seems to impact some individuals more than others.
Family therapy, especially in cases of addiction or mental health, can initially be a source of tension but can be a major factor in recovery when all parties participate. Strong family bonds are a significant protective factor against substance use and mental health disorders, and restoring familial security and functionality can bring healing to individuals, each relationship within a family and the family unit as a whole.
Family therapy is a useful tool in recovery and in this article, we’ll dispel common myths about therapy as well as explore the benefits of different family therapy techniques.
The basics of family therapy
Family therapy is often utilized as complementary therapy to formal treatment for substance use and mental health conditions. Generally, interventions for families are done via talk therapy or psychotherapy, involving a single clinician who guides family sessions.
While family therapy can be beneficial for anyone, it is designed to assist those who are experiencing exacerbated symptoms due to conflict or discord within a family system or household. Family therapy can benefit siblings, parents and their children, spouses, intergenerational homes and both biological and adoptive relationships.
A therapist will work to establish healthy communication to encourage problem-solving, conflict resolution and compromise. Family therapy programs are administered by a licensed psychologist, social worker or therapist.
While some attend therapy for years, family therapy tends to run on a set number of sessions, typically less than 10.
Myths about therapy
There are many misconceptions regarding facts about therapy for families. Here are some commonly misunderstood aspects of family therapy programs:
Myth #1: Only nuclear, and biological families go to family therapy
Families of all sorts can attend family therapy, and there are no strict rules governing who can participate. When it comes to addiction and mental health, it’s likely that all those closely associated with a person are affected. It may be pertinent to invite extended family, elected family or friends to partake.
Myth #2: Family therapy is only for really dysfunctional families
Healthy and happy families can benefit from engaging in therapy, too. Family therapy techniques can specialize to address specific issues like adjusting after an adoption, moving to a new state, or adapting to a loss or a chronic illness.
Myth #3: My family won’t open up
For families who struggle with open or contentious communication, it can be hard to imagine sitting through a therapy session together. You may worry that a shouting match or complete silence will ensue. Rest assured, therapists are trained to mediate conversations so that everyone will have a chance to share. Questions from your therapist will help the discussion flow with ease.
Myth #4: My loved one won’t change
If you have a loved one who struggles with an addiction or a mental illness, it can feel difficult to put hope in family therapy. You may worry that nothing will change and the frustration may even trigger worsening patterns of behavior.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, family therapy has shown to be an effective treatment for a variety of conditions such as addiction and mental health disorders like depression. In addition to assisting in recovery, family therapy has also been proven to family relationships and interpersonal communication.
Moreover, the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Administration states that family intervention can support recovery, prevent relapse and promote a healthy lifestyle for the person struggling with addiction and his or her family.
Myth #5: My family isn’t like other families and won’t benefit
Different family therapy techniques can be applied in different settings to address unique family circumstances. For example, your family may want to include someone who is deployed and virtual sessions may be implemented. Your family may have individuals with impaired cognitive abilities, and finding a therapist who specializes in this area can greatly aid your unique situation and needs.
The benefits of family therapy programs
There are many facts about therapy that demonstrate its effectiveness. Family therapy specifically can offer benefits in the following ways.
- Improved communication: families who partake in therapy together are not only guided in resolving specific conflicts but taught how to effectively communicate their needs and experiences. This is a life-long skill that can be applied daily and greatly improve a family’s interactions in all areas of life
- Helps families stay intact: family therapy can decrease the likelihood of a family experiencing a divorce, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, demonstrating higher effectiveness than individual therapy for those with alcohol addictions
- Create healthy boundaries: an objective perspective from a therapist can help clarify unhealthy boundaries, such as co-dependent relationships or enabling behaviors. Often, this means both the individual with a substance use disorder and family members will be required to make personal changes for the benefit of the whole family
- Build stronger bonds: family therapy techniques can help your family look at a problem not as a collection of individuals, but as a cohesive unit, working to solve an issue together. Members aren’t isolated by family therapy but are encouraged to take responsibility and support each other
Family therapy can be a useful tool in fighting an addiction. If you have a loved one who is struggling to overcome substance use or a mental health disorder, check out Silvermist Recovery. Evidence-based and personalized programming will give your loved one the support he or she deserves.