Palm Beach County is known for its scenic landscapes and affluent communities. However, behind the picturesque terrains hides an inconspicuous but serious crisis of substance use disorder (SUD). Once the epicenter of the overdose rate in the state, the region continues to grapple with the disastrous effects of SUD within its communities.

But that’s merely scratching the surface of the problem. As a chronic disease, addiction wounded and hurt Floridian families. Parents, spouses, children, and friends are emotionally, financially, legally, and medically devastated by this ongoing substance abuse epidemic.

One family member’s substance abuse disorder affects the entire family system. It severed family relationships, impacted trust, and left everyone affected feeling isolated. As such, interventions must consider family members just as much as the person with SUD.

Thankfully, modern treatment plans now involve the family in the healing process. With the help of evidence-based psychotherapy, such as group and family therapy, more and more SUD victims fully recover from the illness. So, let’s walk you through everything you need to know.

How Addiction Affects Families

A 2023 survey revealed that almost two-thirds of Americans know or are related to someone with substance use disorder (SUD). In Florida alone, it’s estimated that 8% of the citizens, or over 1.5 million people, use illicit drugs at any time.

Impact to Children

The children are the most vulnerable victims of substance use disorder in a family. According to data gathered by Psychology Today, 1 in 5 American children grows up in a home where one or two of their guardians abuse illicit drugs or alcohol.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported similar findings, reporting 25% of American children living in a home with one parent suffering from SUD.

As a disease characterized by a person’s inability to control behavior and use of the substance, SUD parents typically fail to meet their children’s needs. These symptoms often interfere with their ability to create a safe and nurturing space for their children, essentially endangering them.

Under normal circumstances, the parent takes on the role of a caregiver, nurturing the children’s well-being. They provide shelter, emotional support, and security. In a home with substance abuse issues, these roles are usually reversed, with the child taking on mature responsibilities.

Additionally, children from an SUD-riddled household typically exhibit the following signs of negligence due to their parent’s illness:

  • Poor academic performance
  • Emotional and behavioral problems due to lower family functions
  • Significantly low self-esteem, especially compared to their peers
  • Higher chances of developing mental illnesses, including depression

Moreover, as noted by SAMHSA, exposure to alcohol or drugs at a young age may result in earlier experimentation. That means children living with a family member suffering from alcohol or drug addiction are more likely to develop it as adolescents.

On a much graver note, experts also found a higher rate of physical, verbal, and sexual abuse among children whose parents suffer from SUD. In a study on children’s illicit substance overindulgence, Bredehoft et al. (1998) discovered the following:

  • Parents with SUD sometimes overindulge their children with drugs
  • 27% of these children experienced physical violence from a relative with SUD
  • 15% of those overindulged as a child experienced sexual abuse
  • A staggering 72% experienced verbal abuse, including ridicule and shaming

That said, while the most vulnerable, children can also play a crucial role in the recovery of a parent suffering from SUD. With the right healthcare resources and treatment options, the family can work together to conquer addiction and its harmful effects on the family.

Impact on the Family Unit

While unfortunate, it’s typical for a family to become hyper-focused on the person suffering from SUD and less considerate of other family’s needs. The emotional needs of the spouse, parent, sibling, or child fall by the wayside as they take on the role of the caregiver.

This situation can quickly become a source of distress for members of the family taking care of the delicate circumstances. Exposed to these highly stressful conditions, they can easily become vulnerable to mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression.

Adding on that, people with substance use disorder are often prone to erratic and irrational behaviors. Because of the disorder’s effect on the brain, they’re more likely to have outbursts. Circumstances like these typically lead to strained relationships between family members.

What Is Family Therapy?

Typically done by marriage and family therapists (MFT), family therapy or family counseling is a type of psychotherapy (talk therapy) that focuses on addressing and resolving family issues. It teaches valuable coping skills, such as problem-solving, effective communication, and more.

As part of a treatment plan, it uses long and short-term strategies, depending on your family’s unique needs. The goals of family therapy include re-establishing the family as a source of comfort and security for everyone affected by the unfortunate substance use disorder.

Unlike individual therapy, which concentrates on the emotions and struggles of one person, family therapy considers the family unit as a whole. It extends outside the person’s symptoms, emphasizing a holistic approach to healing.

In this type of therapy, the family therapist meets the family members or other close relatives of the person with SUD. These meetings would happen in a set amount of time within a few months. Each therapy session would explore various topics, from your feelings and concerns to learning skills and coping mechanisms to handle these sensitive issues.

Types of Family Therapies For Addiction Treatment

Mental health professionals employ various group therapy approaches. Depending on your situation, you may encounter one of the following family interventions:

  • Functional Family Therapy (FFT): A type of therapy commonly used by family therapists to help families with cases of adolescent SUDs. It focuses on improving family interactions and eliminating underlying unhealthy dynamics contributing to the issue.
  • Behavioral Couples Therapy (BCT): Aimed at married couples, behavioral couples therapy uses positive activities and rewards to promote abstinence from substance use. It’s typically characterized by the use of “Recovery Contracts.”
  • Brief Strategic Family Therapy (BSFT): Similar to FFT, brief strategic family therapy aims to reduce unhealthy family dynamics in a family with adolescent SUD. It adopts structural and strategic family therapy to improve a child’s problematic behaviors.
  • Multisystemic Therapy (MST): This is an intensive and family-focused therapy approach for juveniles suffering from SUD. It emphasizes a holistic approach to healing, addressing the environment that contributes to the person’s drug involvement.
  • Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT): CRAFT teaches positive reinforcements to promote abstinence as the SUD victim transitions to sobriety. It employs motivation-building, communication, safety training, treatment entry, and more.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a psychological treatment approach to resolve problematic thoughts and feelings while healing from addiction. It also addresses co-occurring symptoms, such as anxiety, bipolar disorders, and eating disorders.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT): Dialectical behavioral therapy teaches valuable skills to cope with the symptoms and effects of SUD. DBT techniques can help family members feel heard and validated for the struggles they’ve been through.

Benefits of Family Therapy For Addiction

Extensive research provides a hopeful outlook on the positive results of family therapy for SUD cases. Here are some of the benefits observed when a family goes through the psychotherapeutic treatment:

Bolsters Chances of a Successful Recovery

One of the most important results of family therapy is the increased chances of a successful SUD recovery. These psychiatric programs equip family groups with resources and skills to identify and prevent relapse. You’ll also learn about triggers and how to deal with them.

Increases Understanding of Addiction

Another crucial benefit of family therapy is the awareness it raises. Sessions often include psychoeducation, which teaches everyone about the nature of addiction. Identifying the disorder, knowing its symptoms, and learning how to address them decreases the stigma.

Promotes Positive Changes in Family Dynamics

Family therapy lets you recognize unhealthy family dynamics contributing to the SUD problem. By addressing problematic or enabling behaviors, you can create healthier and safer interactions between family members that are conducive to recovery.

Reestablishes Connections Between Family Members

Addiction erodes trust and strains relationships between family members. Through learning to communicate, resolve conflicts, and share the burden, families can reestablish a bond based on mutual trust. Family therapy offers a safe space for anyone, promoting acceptance, forgiveness, and healing.

Final Thoughts: Reach Out, Get Help!

Substance use disorder affects not just the person suffering from addiction, but also the people surrounding them. Everyone deserves healing. If you or any of your loved ones suffer from SUD affecting your relationship, don’t hesitate to reach out. Recreate Life Counseling offers state-of-the-art addiction treatment programs, experts, and facilities for your family’s needs.


Published on: 2024-06-11
Updated on: 2024-06-20