The Impact Of Alcoholism On The Family

An alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a disease in which the chronic consumption of alcohol is used regardless of negative consequences. An AUD causes harm to both the afflicted individual and the ones that surround them. Oftentimes, alcohol addiction is largely considered a family disease due to its considerable impact on family systems, an issue that can be addressed in supplemental treatment like family therapy.

Someone struggling with alcohol abuse generally begins to display problematic behaviors such as frequent dishonesty, misappropriation of family finances, lack of intimacy due to alcohol use, isolation from family, and other behaviors that may leave loved ones feeling hurt, embarrassed, and potentially even helpless in the situation.

Negative feelings of hurt or embarrassment may drive the family into unhealthy patterns of behavior. These behaviors may include enabling and acting aggressive verbally or physically. Conflict can quickly grow out of control to the degree that law enforcement is involved, or other consequences are experienced. Some examples include domestic violence episodes, property destruction, family members leaving home, and even overdose.

When negative consequences occur, it is often considered the “tipping point” in which the decision to seek treatment or therapy is agreed upon by the family.

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What Is Family Therapy?

Family therapy is a great way to not only address the issues of the individual struggling with alcoholism, but also how their illness affects the family system as a whole.

With the relationship(s) as the centralized focus, family therapy seeks to observe and understand each member’s place and role within the system and how decisions made by one person can affect another person. Family therapy is most effective when all members participate and are open to finding solutions to problematic behaviors. The goal is to eventually reestablish a healthy family system.

Family Therapy For Alcohol Use

Treatment for alcoholism and other substance use disorders typically includes a detox plan, prescribed medications, individual therapy, and group therapy. Depending on the severity of the addiction, patients may participate in inpatient or outpatient treatment.

Once a treatment plan is put together by a rehab facility’s professional team, the individual’s counselor may suggest family therapy. Supportive family involvement can help both the individual and the people in their life.

For those participating in full-time inpatient treatment, the family will likely commute to the rehab facility to participate in family therapy. For those participating in part-time outpatient treatment, the patient and their loved ones will likely meet at a facility or the therapist’s office to participate in family therapy.

Some families choose online therapy as a virtual option for family therapy, to avoid the complications of commuting and scheduling.

How Does Family Therapy Work?

Family therapy is intended to allow every member of the family an opportunity to share their feelings, experiences, thoughts, and concerns about the current situation and their path moving forward. In the presence of a trained family therapist, the process becomes much safer with someone to mediate heated discussion and ensure everyone’s voice is heard in equal measure. Therapists help to neutralize language and offer explanations for uncomfortable or inexplicable emotions and moderate the energy in the room, so all members feel safe from harm and free to be vulnerable.

While family therapy is not a replacement for traditional addiction treatment programs, it is a powerful tool to supplement, especially in families with a history of alcoholism. Without intervention, patterns of addiction and abuse are incredibly difficult to manage and overcome.

Fortunately, with support, hard work, and a strong sense of resilience, it is possible to rebuild a healthy, sturdy, loving family. Family therapy influences many powerful changes for both the individuals struggling as well as the entire family unit including:

  • Improved outcomes of recovery and abstinence from drinking.
  • Stronger family relationships and attachments.
  • Embodied sense of connection and understanding among members.
  • Established communication system that works for everyone in the family.
  • Awareness of and cooperation in the family that maintains healthy structure.

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Pillars Of Family Therapy

In order to rebuild a home, you must have a solid foundation to work with, even if that means tearing down the existing structure. The same is true in family therapy: to create a healthy, happy, functional family, a sturdy foundation must be built. Family therapy is many things, but there are four major objectives that largely lay the groundwork with which to build upon.

Develop Healthy Communication

One of the most important elements to a healthy relationship is communication. Healthy communication involves more than just speaking, but the ability to truly listen as well. Hearing someone out is not the same as active listening and attempting to see things from another’s point of view. By developing listening skills and truly learning what works best for each person, many conflicts can be reduced or even prevented.

Understand And Uphold Healthy Boundaries

Boundaries are necessary in forming and maintaining healthy, long-lasting relationships. A boundary is a clear indication of a limit in physical, emotional, or ideological activity with which one is willing to engage.

To have a healthy family, each member must recognize, respect, and uphold each other’s boundaries to ensure that everyone in the family feels safe and loved.

Establish Family Goals

While it may seem obvious why a family decides to attend therapy, it is very possible that each individual is hoping for something different out of the experience. By sitting down, speaking with all family members, fleshing out expectations and goals, and defining them together, you ensure that everyone’s voice is heard. If all members of the family feel like they have a stake in the matter, it’s that much easier to create a blueprint for functional family success.

Create A Healing Space

Because the act of healing is a sacred process, it is important to make space—internally and physically—where each family member feels safe to be honest and vulnerable. Everyone processes things differently, but still requires the opportunity to think through beliefs, emotions, and experiences without fear of repercussion or judgement. Without the unyielding support of familial love and a safe, stable environment, it can be quite difficult to achieve any lasting changes.

Online Family Therapy

In many ways, alcoholism is a family disease because of the way it deeply affects and disrupts family dynamics. Luckily, with modalities like family therapy, you can help yourself and your family. Learn about online therapy options today.

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