The Importance of Family Therapy in Addiction Treatment
Many factors can have an impact on your chances of abusing drugs or alcohol. These same factors may subsequently play a role in the development of substance addiction. A key influence for most people is their family of origin.
Your family may function in ways that help protect you from drug or alcohol problems. However, it may also function in ways that make such problems more likely to occur. Unless you address your family-related issues, you may find it difficult to recover from the effects of addiction. For this reason, family therapy may form a crucial part of your recovery plan.
What Is a Family of Origin
Exactly what is a family of origin? Experts define it as the family in which you were raised as a child. This may be the family into which you were born. However, it may not be.
What matters is the formative influence your family of origin has on you. That influence has an impact on literally every aspect of your life. That includes things such as your:
- Course of growth and development
- Way of looking at the world
- View of yourself
- Connections to other people
- Everyday physical and mental health
Family influences can be broken down into two main categories: supports and stressors. Supports help improve your well-being and ability to function. They also help boost your sense of self-esteem and self-worth. Examples of supportive family influences include:
- A household that fosters warmth and close connection
- Consistent boundaries for acceptable and unacceptable behavior
- Open communication and problem-solving
- The absence of verbal, physical and sexual violence
- A lack of untreated drug or alcohol problems
Stressors tend to wear away at your well-being and daily function. As a result, they can have a significant destabilizing influence on you. The main stressors in a family of origin are typically the mirror opposites of the most beneficial family supports.
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How Does a Family of Origin Relate to Addiction
Your family of origin can be a major protective factor against developing a substance addiction. Typically, your risks for addiction are relatively low if you received ample family support in childhood. In stark contrast, the presence of multiple family stressors can increase the odds that you will experience addiction.
However, your family of origin is just one potential childhood influence on your addiction risks. The list of other influences that may play a role in your case include:
- The substance use habits of your age peers
- Your level of access to drugs and alcohol
- The economic resources available to your family
Genetic influences and your individual behavior can also raise or lower your addiction risks.
What Are Some Common Family of Origin Issues
Family of origin issues can have a major influence on your decision to start drinking or taking drugs. Problems that tend to push you toward substance use while still a teenager include:
- Poor family bonding
- Low parental involvement and interaction
- Absent or ineffective parenting practices
- A lack of effective models for conflict resolution
The single most important factor is poor bonding within the family unit. Having a family with high levels of conflict is also another big factor.
Another key family of origin issue for many people affected by addiction is childhood trauma. This is the term for exposure to an event that strains or overwhelms your ability to cope emotionally or psychologically. Compared to adults, children have relatively poor coping skills. For this reason, traumatic events can have a much bigger impact on children than on adults.
Sometimes, the trauma experienced by families has an outside source. For example, your family may have lived through a major disaster or act of violence. However, the source of a trauma may also come from within the family unit. Certain kinds of traumatic events are especially common among children whose parents abused drugs or alcohol. Examples of these events include:
- Sexual abuse
- Physical abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Child neglect
Issues such as these may you more likely to start abusing drugs or alcohol at an early age. They may also increase the risks for intergenerational trauma. This the term for trauma-related harms that get passed on from one generation to the next.
What Are the Ways Family of Origin Issues Show Up
Family of origin issues can show up in later life in a variety of ways. For many people, these kinds of issues show up in the form of addiction or serious substance abuse. You may also experience a variety of other long-term effects, including things such as:
- Difficulty forming or maintaining intimate relationships
- Problems adapting to change
- Low self-esteem
- A lack of personal boundaries
- An inability to define normal or acceptable behavior
- Unreasonably high standards of personal performance
You may also be affected serious mental health issues unrelated to drug or alcohol use. Depression and anxiety disorders are both relatively common in adult survivors of dysfunctional families. Borderline personality disorder is also sometimes associated with growing up in this kind of family.
If your family of origin issues included serious childhood trauma, you may also be affected by PTSD. This acronym is the common shorthand for posttraumatic stress disorder. Children exposed to traumatic events have elevated risks for PTSD. If you do not get proper treatment, you may continue to be affected as an adult.
Addressing the Root Causes of Addiction and Trauma
Much of the focus of modern addiction treatment is practical. In other words, its goal is to help you function better in everyday life. However, to achieve this goal, your treatment team may need to address certain root causes of addiction. They may also need to address deep-seated issues related to childhood trauma exposure.
Your addiction and trauma may have at least some of their roots in unresolved family of origin issues. If this is true for you, you may need the help provided by family behavior therapy, or FBT. FBT is specifically designed for people in addiction recovery who also need help for family-related problems.
Family behavior therapy has several overlapping goals. First, it provides a forum where you can talk with your family and discuss your experiences with them. It also provides a forum for your family members to discuss their own experiences. With guidance from your therapist, you learn how to establish better, more respectful communication habits.
During FBT, your therapist will also ask you and your family to work on changing dysfunctional behaviors. Goals for change are set during your FBT sessions. You then work toward meeting those goals outside of therapy. At following sessions, your therapist will review your progress.
You may also need treatment for PTSD or another trauma-related condition. Several forms of therapy may prove useful. Possible options include exposure therapy and cognitive therapy. Another potential choice is a treatment known as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, or EMDR. A PTSD treatment plan may also include medication. Common choices include antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications.
Erasing the Negative Impact of Family Trauma
Completely erasing the negative impact of family trauma may be an unrealistic goal. However, with help, you can significantly ease this impact. As a result, you may experience a greatly improved sense of well-being. You may also find it much easier to lead a functional, substance-free daily routine.
How to Start Your Recovery Without Family Support
Family support is known to be a positive factor in addiction recovery. However, for various reasons, you may have family of origin issues that you cannot resolve. Can you still recover from addiction in these circumstances? The answer to this question is yes. Many people in recovery rely on support networks that do not include their family of origin. These networks often include a new, self-chosen family of friends and loved ones.
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Doing Family of Origin Work During Residential Treatment
You may be able to address your addiction and family of origin issues in outpatient treatment. However, to recover, you may need the more intensive care provided in residential treatment. The deciding factor here is not typically your family of origin. Instead, as a rule, the main factor is the severity of your addiction.
Recovery From Family of Origin Issues Is Possible at Emerald Isle
Family of origin issues are common in people affected by addiction. These issues may not have a major impact on your substance problems. But there is a very good chance that they do. This means that to recover from addiction, you may need to address your family issues. The same step may be needed to help you cope with lingering childhood trauma.
At Emerald Isle, we understand the ways in which your family of origin can affect you. To help you resolve your key issues, we feature family therapy among our treatment options. We also offer treatment for PTSD and other trauma-related conditions.
No matter the issues affecting you, we’ll help you build a suitable recovery plan. Our customized plans reflect you unique needs. In so doing, they help increase the benefits of your time in treatment. We offer both residential and outpatient recovery options. To learn more about our many services, call us today or fill out our online form.