Treatment and family involvement

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Treatment and family involvement

11 January, 2019Articles, News

TREATMENT AND FAMILY INVOLVEMENT. The whole family worries when a member is in trouble. While the afflicted person might be absorbed in a downward spiral, the family is consumed with concern for the addicted member’s safety, emotional well-being, mental health and physical health. Everyone in the extended family worries that the addicted person will drink themselves to death or overdose. They live in fear of a phone call from the police department announcing that the addicted individual has committed a crime to pay for their addiction, been involved in an accident while under the influence, or worse, has been found dead.


Family involvement is important in substance abuse treatment for family and friends of drug- or alcohol-addicted individuals, addressing the addiction is one of the most difficult aspects of helping the addicted person seek treatment. Often, over time, daily family involvement has only managed to enable the addict. Family members frequently do not know how to bring up the issue of addiction therapy, and opt to ignore the problem for fear of pushing their loved one away during a confrontation or intervention.

These are legitimate concerns, and while families should understand that approaching their loved one should be a gentle and supportive process, they also need to understand that most patients seek substance abuse treatment because of positive family involvement and intervention.

Why is family involvement important?

Family involvement in substance abuse treatment, in many cases, can be highly advantageous tool to help families to break the “cycle of addiction.” Many parents/family members are simply not aware of destructive behaviours such as enabling that have kept their children/loved ones in the cycle of addiction. It is important for family members to be provided with information from a trained professional (s) so they may take a look at their own behaviours and the subsequent role it may have played in their loved one’s addiction. Therapists commonly recommend that families attend either Nar-Anon or Al-Anon to seek support and education about effective methods to help address common issues inherent within substance abuse treatment. Coincidentally, it is not uncommon that when a parent has a child in a formal treatment setting (and removed from the home) they become aware of their own behaviours that could have helped perpetuate the cycle of addiction. Support groups are also highly effective to help family members set healthier boundaries. In particular, support groups can help teach families effective methods to hold the addicted individual accountable for past and future actions. In addition, a support group such as Nar-Anon and Al-Anon can be an invaluable resource to help provide family members support during what is understandably an emotional and trying time.


Family involvement in treatment can provide education about the disease model of addiction. Many clients have often said that their parents/family members have stated, “I don’t know why you just can’t quit using alcohol/drugs!” A trained professional (as well as support groups such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon) can help facilitate an understanding that addiction is a disease. Family involvement and education about the disease model of addiction can also help dispel many unrealistic expectations about substance abuse treatment, such as the “person is cured” after they complete treatment. This can help the family be aware that addiction is a disease that requires continuous care to keep in remission. This awareness can assist family members to be conscious of the needs (such as meetings, sponsorship, self-care) of an addicted individual to have sustained sobriety.


People who enter treatment may come from families where open, healthy communication was never the norm. Or perhaps, the person may be in a situation where healthy communication was the norm, but is now broken due to active addiction. People in treatment report isolating from families while in active addiction and/or having extended periods of time with very little or superficial conversations with family. The value of having a trained professional to help re-engage healthy dialogue is immeasurable. An addicted individual may need the support of their therapist to help facilitate productive conversations with family members. A trained professional can help families learn new, effective methods to communicate as well as point out behaviors that are not conducive to healthy conversations. Family involvement in treatment can also help family members and the addicted individual become aware of and address issues within the family that may have had a role in the individual’s cycle of addiction. Hopefully, the newly gained awareness can facilitate the process of healing and forgiveness within the family. Lastly, family involvement can also help the addicted individual and family members set healthy boundaries and realistic expectations going forward in the future.

In sum, addiction is referred to a “family disease” and people often regrettably do not know where or how to start repairing damaged relationships. Family involvement in treatment can help repair damaged relationships and help families to ascertain the tools to build a foundation for a healthier future.


Recovery Connection. (2016). Family involvement in substance abuse treatment.

PsychCentral. (2016). Family Involvement is Important in Substance Abuse Treatment.

Journey Pure. (2018). The Benefits of Family Involvement in Recovery.

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