Family Therapy for SUD in Indiana

Family Therapy for Substance Use Disorders in Indiana

On the outside, most people see a substance user as a singular person and only think of the effects that drug use has on that person. That’s not true, though. In reality, substance use can affect an entire family. This can include those living in the house along with extended family. Not only that, but family can also be the best support network if they are willing to help the individual suffering from substance use.

We are going to cover some information about how substance use affects the family, why family therapy can be very beneficial for treatment, and how family therapy differs from group therapy. Recovery is possible, but sometimes it takes the whole family to pitch in and help.

What Is Family Therapy?

You might be worried or curious about how family therapy goes. Or, you may not know what to expect from it. Family therapy is a specialized type of therapy where the therapist sees multiple members of the family. The family members that should be involved are often those who are closest to the intended client. However, it’s best to speak with the clinician to get their viewpoint.

Some people prefer only seeing the client along with their parents. Other clinicians may want the close extended family to join as well. It depends on the situation. Some clients might do better with having their entire family in the session while others might do better with just a few members.

Family therapy itself is a process of discovering what the stressors and concerns are within the family. Many families find themselves reliving dysfunctional patterns because their parents did things a certain way. A therapist can help you see these patterns and find ways to break them. The therapist can also help analyze communication patterns. For example, it’s common for family members to become upset at those who use substances. This can make all communication very critical, which often leads all members to become more stressed.

You’ll find that family therapy usually lasts around 12 sessions, but this depends on the family’s presentation. It’s also important to note that the family therapist is there for the whole family. This means that everyone is expected to work on the issue, even if there is only one client who is the symptom bearer.

Who Is the Intended Client?

This is tricky to answer. The intended client is the person with the substance use disorder. This is the one where the most therapy and attention are given. This person is currently the symptom bearer or the one who is facing mental health symptoms.

A better way of answering this, however, is saying that the intended client is the whole family. Most people don’t face issues in a vacuum. There might be family pressures and stresses that some members handle worse than others. This can lead some towards substance use and mental illness. At the same time, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the other family members are healthier. It just means that there are stressors that some members are buckling under, but it’s those underlying stressors that must be looked at and improved.

Substance Use Affects the Whole Family

Some people believe that substance use affects only the person using the substance, but nothing could be further from the truth. Substance use affects the whole family. While substance users likely don’t mean to hurt their family members, that is often what happens. Everyone suffers and makes accommodations for the use. Whether this is a common element in the family or it’s only one person, everyone feels the effects.

Substance use tends to affect maturity, which means that the person may not meet development milestones and needs. This most commonly manifests as a failure to launch, which can put stress on the parents and may leave siblings frustrated or unwilling to launch themselves as well. Attachment issues can manifest as well, with individuals either becoming more or less attached to handle the stress of substance use. For example, members may either draw away from or become unusually close to the one who is using.

Other common difficulties include economic hardships and legal problems. This is especially true with harder and more expensive substances. Those undergoing legal scrutiny have a harder time finding work, they may not be able to afford their own place and may need help driving places and meeting court dates or parole officers.

There’s also a problem with violence. This can go one way or the other. Sometimes those who are using may become more violent in order to get money or because they’re so stressed they don’t know how else to react. Other family members might become violent against those using out of sheer frustration. Once again, the whole family is affected.


Children are especially receptive to the effects of substance use. If they see a parent, sibling, or other family member using, then there’s a higher chance that they will develop substance use disorder themselves.

It may or may not be the same substance, and it may not even be for the same reasons. What matters is that they’re witnessing the behavior, and it helps them relieve stress. The chances of children developing substance use disorder are often highest if the user is a trusted figure because children will ingrain the message more. It might occur even if they don’t like the family member, however.

History of Use in Other Family Members

Substance use tends to have a high correlation in families. There are several ways of looking at this. Research shows that there is a genetic element where substance use tends to affect family members, even if they have been adopted and have never seen family members use. There’s also a behavioral element where some members may think it’s OK to use substances or see that they can relieve their stress by using substances.

If there are family members who either actively use or used in the past, then there is a higher chance of it occurring with other family members. Family therapy can help pinpoint the pattern, whether for genetic or behavioral reasons, that substance use runs in the family. A genogram is one of the most common tools for this. You basically create a family tree and display which members have used substances, have mental health concerns, and other issues that might pop up down the line.

Family Is the Greatest Support

Whether you love them or they bug you, the truth is that family is often the greatest support network a person will have. Sometimes this is biological family and sometimes it’s chosen family, but these are people who are close to you and can provide a great deal of support.

Family therapy helps the whole family pinpoint and cope with stress. It also helps everyone understand why one or more people are using and how to react to it.

Another benefit is that there’s a higher chance of following through with sessions and treatment plans. Having family sessions ensures that you’re more accountable because the people you either live with or know will be more engaged in your treatment. As family therapy progresses, they will learn how to help with your individual challenges and hardships.

Outpatient Therapy

Family therapy is often done on an outpatient basis. Depending on your clinician, you may have weekly, biweekly, or monthly family sessions. The two of you will work together to see which is best. While family therapy can also be done at higher levels of care, outpatient treatment is the most common.

Is Family Therapy Good for Certain Substances?

You might be wondering if family therapy is only good if you use certain substances. It is true that every substance has its own nuances and differences. For example, if you use opioid pills, then the therapist might suggest a lockbox. This is helpful for pill-based addictions, but not as much for alcohol or cocaine.

While there are nuances, the truth is that family therapy is good for all forms of substance use. As long as the family is willing to work together to solve the issue, then family therapy can be incredibly helpful in ending substance use.

The same goes for co-occurring disorders. This is also known as dual diagnosis. A dual diagnosis means any combination of a mental health disorder and substance use. That could be anxiety and alcohol, depression and cocaine, schizophrenia and cannabis, and so on. The list is nearly endless. The truth is that many clients are dual diagnosis as one often affects the other. If users are anxious, then they’re more likely to drink. If users drink, then they’re more likely to become anxious about hiding their use and ensuring they always have alcohol in their proximity. Be sure to talk to your clinician, but family therapy is helpful for getting through substance use.

Get the Help You Need

At First City Recovery Center, we have been providing family therapy for substance use disorder in Indiana for many years, and we would be happy to help you. Whether you’re the one suffering or you know a family member who is, we would be happy to provide the treatment services you need to recover.

While we covered family therapy here, we also provide many other therapeutic services. From multiple levels of care, such as intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization programs to medication-assisted treatment, we’re here to help you on the road to recovery. Contact us today and let us help you.

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