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Effects of Alcohol Problems on the Family

Hello all, this is my first time blogging.  I am very excited and hope you enjoy my blog.

 I am wrapping up my Chemical Dependency Specialty and continue to learn more about the effects alcohol has on the family unit.  Some interesting facts I recently learned include how clients can use therapy as a way of staying in the denial process.  Therapy can be harmful to a couple battling addiction if the therapist does not specialize in addiction.  I have witnessed an addict attempt to rationalize behavior in an attempt to reach a  compromise to continue his addictive behavior.  When the therapist heard the clients perspective she joined the client and attempted to find a compromise for his behavior.  This compromise resulted in regressing the couples progress back many steps.  Addicts need clear boundaries and compromises result in the behavior continuing down a destructive path. Co-dependents need to learn to make requests and define and claim their own boundaries.  What is the co-dependent willing and unwilling to accept?

At times individuals may seek help from clergy, who usually do not have training on the disease of addiction and tend to focus on the religious values and the sanctity of marriage not knowing what harmful ways addiction as well as enabling behavior compromise the marriage.  Some religions may hold the belief that individuals need to stay in the marriage and work out difficulties.  At what cost?  

I have also witnessed colleagues who have not had effective training on the disease of addiction and attempt to use the model of harm reduction.  Harm reduction is not a model used to arrest addiction only a means to reduce harm to the using addict.  For example, distributing clean needles to using heroine addicts is one way of reducing harm.  I have trouble accepting this model as I agree with the National Institute of Drugs and Alcohol's definition of addiction as a chronic relapsing brain disease (NIDA). I work with clients in supporting abstinence through recovery, one day at a time.  I work with the family unit as the disease of addiction is a disease affecting how the entire family operates.  

I also learned how lack of emotional support effects the pregnant mother.  A mother with anxiety certainly can effect the labor and delivery of the unborn infant.  For example, a pregnant mother who is struggling during her pregnancy as her husband is out drinking and partying.  The husband's behavior is inconsistent and unpredictable.  This behavioral pattern sets up a system of anxiety in the mother, therefore the added possibility, her unborn fetus.  This anxiety may result in a difficult delivery.  After the couple are slated to bring their new bundle of joy home and the addiction is still in progression the husband may not be available for his wife and newborn. Or, the husband is not available for his new role of daddy the way his wife would like him to be. This anxiety continues to keep the couples homeostasis on course.  The wife's enabling behavior also continues to contribute to the disease.  

Any questions?  Happy to answer anything that comes to mind. Definitely would love to hear your thoughts, comments, questions and responses.

Signing off for now.  Looking forward to my next follow up blog.  All the best - Chris


Chris Massman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. Chris' training includes Family Systems Theory along with numerous other theories. She believes therapy is an art and chooses the theory she feels will most benefit the individual sitting in front of her. Her specialty lies is in the field of Chemical Dependency and Addictions. Chris is currently seeing individuals, couples and families. Chris is a Clinical member of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists as well as the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. Chris has two locations including Tarzana and Agoura Hills, CA.