New parents devote a lot of time to planning for the optimal ways to take care of their new child. Typical subjects like nutrition, socializing, and educational goals rank high among things moms and dads think about. What often comes as a surprise involves an adolescent who develops an addiction to alcohol or drugs. Most parents find themselves unprepared for this development.
Adding Family to the Therapy Equation
Parents who have a child struggling with a substance abuse disorder often seek out myriad ways to help them. The parents may utilize approaches like a detox program, residential treatment, and outpatient resources. These treatment plans can offer a significant impact on a child’s recovery. One thing these programs have in common is how they rely solely on the young person to do the hard work to change.
If you have an adolescent or young adult client who has not yet tried family therapy, this therapeutic intervention may be a key component missing in their recovery. Consult with the parents and explain to them the benefits of coming together as a family during therapy sessions.
Some parents initially have a chilly reaction to this idea. They mistake family therapy for being a way to blame them for their child’s problems. An initial session with just the parents may help calm their fears. Your client may express initial concerns that the sessions will focus on blaming them for everything. You can also talk privately to your client to ensure they understand that family therapy helps everyone.
Helping Parents Understand the Value of Family Therapy
Sometimes a therapist feels concerned that introducing the idea of family therapy to a client or their family might not be favorably received. However, explaining some basic concepts to both the young client and their parents can help everyone see the benefits of family therapy and get on board with trying it.
Family therapy can involve parents, step-parents, other adults in the family, and age-appropriate younger family members. Talk to everyone about how a family contains interconnected individuals by their relationships with each other. For example, each family member holds a certain amount of influence or ability to be influenced by other members.
Family therapy helps identify relationship patterns and how people communicate with each other. This therapy benefits individuals and the family unit as a whole to become aware of any unhealthy dynamics taking place. Each person involved in the sessions can have a chance to discuss their feelings and the impact they feel related to how the family currently works. This open discussion allows everyone a potentially eye-opening view of ways to change for the benefit of the child and the entire family.
Adolescents and young adults who experience a healthy shift in the dynamic of their family relationships often find this spills over into their recovery. When communication skills improve and old patterns get replaced with healthier ones, everyone wins. For your patient, this “new normal” in the family unit may help ease their desire to use drugs or alcohol as a coping skill.
Other benefits of family therapy include:
- Bringing topics often not discussed out into the open in a safe environment
- Learning to establish and respect boundaries with each other
- Improving the ability to problem-solve promptly
- Fostering good communication skills
- Defining roles and related expectations for everyone
- Offering family members concrete ways to support the child while also holding them responsible for their part in recovering
Common Objections Some Parents Have to Family Therapy
If a parent or other family member offers initial reluctance to the idea of family therapy, ask them to talk about their concerns. Many people fear change of any kind, even if it might prove to be positive. Parents may feel uneasy discussing specific topics in front of the entire family. You can guide them as to how to approach this. The family members may feel a lack of confidence in attending therapy together. Explaining the goals can help them get on board.
Some parents and other family members may simply be exhausted from dealing with the family member who struggles. Help them understand that ignoring the issue will only prolong it. Coming together as a family looking to improve all relationships can help move the child’s recovery along, taking it out of the spotlight as time goes on.
No matter how well you explain things, a family member may still state they are unwilling to attend family therapy. In this case, let them know that others will be joining the sessions without them. Let the hesitant person know they are free to participate if they change their minds. If the family members begin to see progress made when others attend family sessions, they may feel inspired to become a part of the process.
Therapists who treat adolescents and young adults with substance use disorders often find solo sessions with their clients are not enough. Introducing the concept of family therapy sessions may leave both their client and the family unsure of what to expect. Explaining how family therapy works and the many benefits of it can help everyone come together with two goals: helping the child stay in recovery and allowing the family to function with healthier dynamics. Sustain Recovery believes in treating their clients while they are in a residential program, as well as giving them and their families the skills to build healthier relationships. We teach our clients to develop empathy for themselves as well as understand how they fit into their particular family. If you have a young client with a substance abuse disorder, call us today at (949) 407-9052 to discuss our long-term programs that help them choose recovery.