Updated on March 21, 2024
6 min read

What Every Family Should Know About Addiction and Recovery

Family Therapy for Addiction - Types & Benefits

Types of Family Therapy

There are several types of family therapy. For example:

Behavioral Couples Therapy (BCT)

This type of therapy is used for married or cohabiting couples dealing with substance abuse issues. The approach rewards abstinence using a “Recovery Contract.” The addicted person expresses their intent not to use alcohol or drugs, and their partner supports this intention. Other issues addressed in this approach include stress reduction and healthly communication.

Family Behavior Therapy (FBT)

This model takes an a la carte approach to therapy. Families choose from a menu of evidence-based treatment options. The goal is to teach everyone how to improve their home environment. It focuses on how a person’s behavior affects the family.

Brief Strategic Family Therapy (BSFT)

This approach is often used in families with adolescents struggling with SUD. For three or four months, it focuses on family interactions. BSFT is based on the theory that unhealthy family dynamics cause adolescent SUD.

Functional Family Therapy (FFT)

This approach focuses on improving family interactions. The foundation of FFT is the belief that unhealthy dynamics lead to SUD. Participants learn a variety of strategies, including:

  • Effective communication techniques
  • Problem-solving
  • Conflict resolution
  • Improved parenting skills
  • Behavioral contracts

Solution-focused Brief Therapy

Solution-focused Brief Therapy is used when someone has co-occurring disorders. This approach is forward-focused and seeks solutions to specific family issues.

Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT)

The CRAFT approach uses a structured system to help families deal with substance abuse. It uses positive reinforcement to help the person with SUD change their behavior.

Multisystemic Therapy (MST)

This approach is used with adolescents with substance use issues accompanied by violent behavior and/or criminal issues. It encourages change through family strengthening and goal-oriented techniques.

Multidimensional Family Therapy (MDFT)

This approach is for adolescents with severe substance use issues. It helps families and improves their functioning using a comprehensive program that includes the child’s school, legal system, and community members.

Family Recovery Support Groups

These groups are for family members with a loved one in recovery. These groups provide access to support services, including education and resources.

Benefits of Family Therapy for Addiction

Family therapy offers many benefits, including:

  • Improved treatment retention
  • Increased family support
  • Improved understanding of addiction and its effects on a family
  • Increased awareness of relapses
  • A clearer understanding of treatment and recovery expectations
  • Ability to change harmful patterns within the family

Family therapy addresses not only the addicted person but everyone within the family affected by the addiction. One of the goals of family therapy is to help each member understand how important it is to take responsibility for their physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

Many people with SUD find their attempts at sobriety are more successful with family therapy. This approach also prevents other family members from developing substance abuse issues. It may even promote generational healing. This approach helps many families break generational patterns and improve family dynamics.

How Effective Is Family Therapy for Addiction?

Research indicates that people with SUD who have family support recover more successfully. 

They’re more likely to stay in treatment and stop abusing substances. This improved success applies to all types of families, including couples, parents, and children.1

As helpful as family therapy is for many people, it’s not for everyone. 

Sometimes, family members are too emotionally drained to participate in therapy. Others are uncomfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings with a stranger. Not everyone is comfortable or trusting enough of therapy to benefit from the process.

It’s possible to take a family-oriented approach to therapy without including everyone. If one family member is reluctant, everyone can still benefit if the other members participate.


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What Role Does Family Play in Addiction Recovery?

Family members often play a significant role in addiction recovery. 

In many cases, a person’s family is one of the primary issues that cause them to turn to drugs and alcohol. Members of someone’s family can also play an important role in their recovery. When people know how to deal with addiction and best support an addicted individual, the chances of successful recovery increase.

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How Does Family Therapy Work in Addiction Treatment?

Family therapy is useful in a variety of situations, including addiction treatment.

The approach utilizes a family’s strengths and resources to help someone with AUD recover. It also attempts to improve the relationships of the entire family. It reduces harm to everyone affected by the addiction.

In addition to family relationships, issues family therapy might address include:

  • Physical and/or verbal abuse
  • Parenting skills
  • Depression
  • Unemployment
  • Family conflict

During therapy, participants tend to discuss:

  • Family roles
  • Ways to improve communication
  • Rebuilding trust
  • Learning what’s harmful and what’s helpful
  • Identifying ways to respect members of the family

Family therapy shares some things with individual therapy. However, there are several differences. 

For instance, family therapy:

  • Focuses on a holistic approach, treating everyone in the family affected by addiction
  • Seeks to improve the addicted person’s support system
  • Treats the addiction as a systematic issue in which everyone in the family has a role
  • Healing a toxic home environment to promote long-term sobriety
  • Teaches effective communication skills to everyone in the family
  • Provides an unbiased perspective on ongoing family issues
  • Helps everyone set healthy boundaries

Family therapy addresses several factors, including:

  • Engagement
  • Reframing
  • Behavior change
  • Restructuring

What Is Family Therapy?

Family therapy incorporates a person’s relatives and support system into their addiction treatment. Family therapy aims to support repairing relationships and bringing family members closer together.

This type of therapy validates the experiences of all family members. Nobody is blamed during this type of therapy. Instead, the therapist explores how substance abuse affects the cycle of interaction within a family.

Additionally, a family therapist can highlight the dynamics within a family. Recognizing one’s role in the cycle of addiction helps people understand what they can do to improve their situation.

Finally, therapists working with families affected by addiction provide education and resources to help families reduce unhelpful behaviors and increase helpful ones.

Each family’s therapy looks different based on their circumstances. However, all are designed to improve functioning within the family.

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Family therapy is one of the most effective tools for dealing with substance misuse and abuse by a family member. It supports those affected by the addiction and the addicted individual. 

Successful family counseling helps people take responsibility for their well-being and learn how to support their addicted relatives. It’s not for everyone, but family therapy can be essential to recovery for many people with substance addiction.

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Updated on March 21, 2024
6 sources cited
Updated on March 21, 2024
  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Substance Use Disorder Treatment and Family Therapy UPDATED 2020.” samhsa.gov, 2020. 

  2. O’Farrell, T J, and W Fals-Stewart. “Behavioral Couples Therapy for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.” Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 2000.

  3. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Alcohol Facts and Statistics | National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).” niaaa.nih.gov, 2023. 

  4. Kourgiantakis, Toula, and Rachelle Ashcroft. “Family-Focused Practices in Addictions: A Scoping Review Protocol.” BMJ Open, 2018.

  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Treatment and Recovery.” nida.nih.gove, 2020.

  6. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Resources for Families Coping with Mental and Substance Use Disorders.” samhsa.gov, 2023.

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