What is Family Therapy?
Family Therapy is a type of treatment that works with multiple family members to help improve the functioning of the family unit as a whole. Family Therapy focuses on relationships, behavior patterns, communication styles, family history, roles, and dynamics.
Treating families together as a whole system has powerful benefits for individuals. Each person is supported to make adjustments within their family’s habitual ways of relating. These changes help everyone feel better and free them up to be their best selves.
Family Therapy is especially helpful for women with addictions, as the reasons we turn to substances are intimately connected to ways of relating to self and other that we learned in our youngest years.
Family Therapy is very powerful – even just a few sessions can make permanent changes. Chronic dysfunctional patterns can be shifted, long-unspoken feelings can be shared safely, and the deep love and healthy interdependence that is part of a healthy family is supported to flow.
When life energy is cleared to move around the family system in open, growth-affirming ways, this helps everyone bring forth their best sides and ultimately dissolves ancient burdens and aches.
Family Therapy is most often facilitated by a professional who has specialized in the field of psychology, such as a therapist, a counselor or social worker. It is usually shorter term and frequently runs in parallel with individual work for some or all family members.
Family Therapy ideally includes all family members, and when that is impossible it will include as many family members as are able to participate. The therapy plan will be tailored and structured according to the family’s chosen direction, with input from the therapist.
The work will include an element of coaching, showing the family how to use tools that have worked for many other families to rebalance themselves to happiness and relational health. Through tailored, structured work that targets clear goals, each member benefits in personal and family life.
Family Therapy sessions help family members strengthen bonds of trust, closeness, honesty, and connection within the family unit. This brings out a long-lasting resilience which assists the family to work together harmoniously and effectively after the therapy is complete.
The Benefits of Family Therapy During Addiction and Mental Health Recovery
Family Therapy is supremely helpful in cases of addiction and should be undergone if at all possible. This is because addiction is connected to family relationships. It is also highly effective for families where one or more members may be presenting with mental illness, as well as in cases when a crisis has appeared (marital conflict, financial problems, a child getting into trouble, and so on).
Whenever addiction exists, family relationships are involved and affected. While in the grips of addiction, people will make their substance top priority, overriding the needs of their loved ones. The people in the family system who love the addicted person will experience very distressing emotions, and often sustain trauma as well as suffer from being neglected by the addict. On the surface, it may look as though the only problem the family has is the addiction itself.
At the same time, a deeper truth lies underneath the appearance of addiction as a symptom. Addiction cannot exist in isolation, and the reality is that an individual family member’s addiction is almost always fed and protected by family members trapped in a role of enabling. Even with best intentions, each family member has a part in supporting and suffering from addiction. That is why addiction is considered a family disease.
The good news is, that means that when even one family member changes their behavior, it has knock-on effects for the whole family system. Because of the way that families work together as a unit, families that work together to recover can go far to make long-lasting impactful changes. The task is to transform themselves from a family that matches or cocreates the addiction pattern into a family that sustains and supports emotional health.
The best thing you can do for a loved one who is suffering is to change your own ways however you can. This requires leaving blame and judgment at the door, creating a safe zone where all can take a deep look, in the light of forgiveness, at the way we unconsciously encourage or allow addiction to thrive in our family.
Because of the vital role and powerful healing possibilities of family work, Villa Kali Ma works with any willing and available family members to learn how to change deep patterns of relating towards health and freedom, love, acceptance for all family members.
Villa Kali Ma will help families learn to communicate and behave in ways that truly support recovery, while the family member who has addiction receives individual therapy and participates in addiction treatment to get the help she needs.
How Does Family Therapy Help?
Family Therapy helps by teaching each individual family member and the family as a whole to rebalance to healthy behaviors within themselves, while relating to family members differently.
The key change made is to adjust roles and ways of relating to shift from being a codependent, enmeshed, dysfunctional family system into a healthy, happy version of the same family. Each family has a potential best version of themselves, and Family Therapy works to uncover and support this potential version of the family to come out.
Healthy in this context means that each person is able to manage their own emotions, make their own free-will choices, and experience the consequences and benefits of their own choices, so that they can learn and grow. All while staying in loving connection with others.
Mental illness, addiction, trauma, infidelity, financial problems, adult children who can’t seem to make it on their own, and difficult behavior in young children are all manifestations of a family system that’s not as happy and healthy as it wants to be on a deeper level. Crisis and symptoms are signs of a family wanting to grow towards health.
These very symptoms indicate underlying trouble, which means not that there’s something wrong with the family in a moral sense (of anyone in the family being good or bad), but rather that there are some psychological changes that want to happen to open up greater freedom and joy for this family.
Recognizing and acknowledging family behaviors that keep the family stuck or sick is necessary before changes can be made. Most people who are suffering in an enabler role have a hard time realizing that their actions and communications are actually supporting their loved one to stay sick, rather than to move into recovery. It is part of the family illness that the ways we support each other to stay ill is unconscious to us – we do not see it at first.
Overall Family Therapy helps family members learn what actually does and does not support the ones we love to thrive. Each person learns tools and behaviors to take care of themselves, communicate better, and to prevent addiction patterning from returning to the family system.
The Role of the Family during Addiction and Mental Health Recovery
The family has an important role during addiction recovery.
Most immediately, the family must learn to relate in ways that will support their recovering loved one to succeed in recovery. Supporting the loved one to succeed is different than taking responsibility for them. In fact, family members must learn how to maintain an environment that balances loving support with accountability and truth. It is critical that the recovering person take full responsibility for themselves. However, there is a lot that the family can do to support them to do so.
One of the best things that family members can do to support their loved one to recover is to educate themselves about addiction, particularly the ways that one’s own behavior within the family system either reinforces or undermines health.
When properly educated as to how, family members can be a vital help for a person achieving and sustaining sobriety. This requires being aware of roles that are part of addiction patterning, and learning to refrain from playing those roles out.
A lot of what we do to protect another from pain turns out to be misguided, having the opposite effect than what we really wanted for our loved one. In the case of families with addiction, we have to learn to see that our effort to control the addict’s behavior, even though well-intentioned, has the end result of ensnaring our loved one even more in the cycle of self-destruction. That’s because the pain we try to protect our loved ones from is actually a necessity for psychological growth and development – each person has to feel their own pain to learn from it.
Once family members learn to “detach with love” from one another, allowing each person to be a sovereign person in their own right, each person often discovers their own inner world of unmet needs, unprocessed grief, and pain that needs to be felt before we can move on from our own addiction to managing the behaviors and experiences of other people.
Families that learn to disentangle from unhealthy ways of relating are then freed to access the higher octave of family love. True emotional intimacy and closeness only comes when we recognize our true and total individuality while at the same time deeply claiming each and every family member as belonging completely just as they are.
Family Therapy Options
Family Therapy options abound, and it is never a bad idea to take some extra time and attention for the family to learn healthier ways of relating.
If you or your loved one enter treatment with Villa Kali Ma, we will provide counseling sessions for the family as well as opportunities for education, while we work in parallel with the person who is presenting with addiction to achieve and maintain her sobriety.
A general recommendation for any family with addiction patterning is to attend Al-Anon meetings while the recovering person is in treatment. Al-Anon is a 12-Step program just for those who are in relationships with people with addiction, and will help ease the suffering and heartache that goes along with loving someone who has addiction. It also helps family members get the support they need to make the deep changes that family members need to make in order for their loved one to recover.
Family Therapy is also offered by practitioners in the community and may also be offered online.
If not all family members are willing or able to participate in Family Therapy, it is still beneficial to work with whomever is willing and able. Spouses, adult children, siblings, and parents are all important components of a network of love, who can help recovery shine.
Family Therapy represents a chance for multiple people to feel better together, and to experience the rewards that come in a loving, evolving family relationship. At some level, we were all wounded in family, and when we heal in the family context, this has powerful impacts not only for ourselves but for the entire family of humanity.