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Reasons to Include Family Therapy in Your Recovery

It’s not uncommon that contributing to reasoning why you’re drinking or using drugs are issues related to family. Perhaps it was the relationship with your parents, siblings, or cousins growing up. Or maybe it’s that your parents fought in front of you. Or it might be that your parents did not entirely meet your emotional or psychological needs. Whatever the reason, your upbringing and early family life might have been the contributors to the patterns of addiction and a desire to get drunk or high in the first place.

Interestingly, although you might want family out of your life, or at least at a safe distance, it’s actually beneficial to include family in your recovery. The most significant way and likely the most healing is to participate in family therapy. Family therapy is a process where all of you are in a room together and each member of the family discusses concerns they may still be facing.

Family therapy aims to change the relationship within families in order to help them better manage the specific problems they might be facing. This form of therapy is based on two principles:

·         Many mental illnesses, including addiction, are made worse by the dysfunctions present in families.

·         Close family members are often the supports that an individual suffering from mental illness has and are therefore extremely important in treatment.

Based on these principles, family therapy aims to change the way family members interact, improve the functioning of the family as a unit, and improve the functioning of individuals within the family.

During this type of therapy there might also be an exploration of each of the family roles, as well as the system that the family seems to be in. Sometimes a family system is closed, meaning that there is very little communication, solid boundaries, and not very much affection.  It is not uncommon for addicts or alcoholics to come from closed family systems.  For other families, their systems are more open with loose boundaries, sharing too much information, and perhaps too much or excessive physical contact. It is not uncommon for incest and sexual abuse to occur in open family systems.  And of course, there are families that lie on this continuum of two extremes.

Another topic that family therapy might explore is the role you play in your family. For instance, if you are seen by your family as being a provider, protector, or loving parent, then admitting your addiction might jeopardize the way that your children or spouse see you. The role one plays in their family might become an obstacle in moving forward in recovery, which is another reason to explore the ways that your family is both supporting you and limiting you.

Another critical reason to include family therapy in your recovery is to repair any relationships that might have suffered as a result of addiction. Recovery is an essential time for rebuilding relationships and restoring what might have been lost while an addiction was strong. Often, during addiction, there are many aspects of life that are destroyed, including family relationships, career, finances, and more. Yet, the benefit of recovery is the opportunity to repair these parts of life.

Family therapy can be a way to repair not only your life but also the life of your family. 

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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.