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Family Therapy

Having a substance and/or alcohol use disorder can be challenging. It is a lifelong struggle that calls for constant vigilance and effort to keep it at a manageable level. Many people enter addiction treatment when they recognize they have a problem and are ready to finally take the first steps toward recovery. By making this monumental decision, it opens doors to a realm of possibility in which drugs and alcohol no longer control an individual’s life.

But what about when you leave the sanctity of treatment and return home? Or what about undergoing intensive therapy throughout treatment in search of answers as to the “why” behind addiction? Often those struggling with addiction feel as though many issues and difficulties stem from their relationships to their family members or that as a result of their addiction to drugs and/or alcohol that much damage and harm has befallen these integral relationships. What can be done?

Family therapy is not only an excellent tool for fostering change and development in familial relationships outside of addiction but also when faced with the perils of a substance/alcohol use disorder as well! Family therapy may be exactly what you and your loved ones need to find healing and hope for the future!

What Is Family Therapy?

Family therapy goes by many different names. It can be referred to as couple and family therapy, marriage and family therapy, family systems therapy, and family counseling. It is a branch of addiction psychotherapy which works with families and couples in intimate relationships to nurture change and development. The idea is to change the view of the systems of interaction between family members by emphasizing these family relationships as an important factor in psychological health.

This branch of therapy contends that regardless of whether a problem is considered an individual problem, or a problem stemming from the family as a whole, involving family members in the solution process is beneficial for clients and family members alike.

Family members are directly involved in participating in therapy sessions. The inclusion of family members into therapeutic measures can help cause change within the client and those they come in contact with the most. By changing the entirety of the environment’s dynamic, the hope is that this helps the client make individual changes in behaviors and perspectives as well. 

History of Family Therapy

family therapy

Family therapy has a rich history. Family therapy first made an appearance into the practices of psychology in the early 1960s. Originally, the idea of family therapy stemmed from published works such as books or articles in omnibus journals. Following the initial publications, family therapy began being utilized in clinical practice following the formations of Family Institutes.

New techniques were developed, tested, and perfected across the following half century. Throughout the recent history of psychology, family therapy has been expanded upon and included in nearly all curricula for psychology or psychiatry students. 

The idea was that by isolating issues stemming from familial relationships, it could have profound, positive impacts on clients undergoing therapeutic methods. As clients and family members began responding more positively to this form of therapy, family therapy became a staple in almost all therapeutic approaches. 

Family Therapy Techniques

So how does family therapy work? What are the different family therapy techniques that can be employed? There are many different types of family therapy. Since the overall job of the therapist providing family therapy services is to facilitate conversations that in turn act as a catalyst to strengthen and improve the relationships between family members, the majority of the onus actually falls on the clients and family members.

There are a number of different approaches that can be used when undertaking family therapy. The various family therapy techniques all have pros and cons, and the following are few of these family therapy techniques you can try:

Structural therapy was a style of therapy originally developed and implemented by Salvador Minuchin. The basis of structural therapy rests on five basic principles:

  1. Focus on interactions between people rather than their individual psyches
  2. Matrix of identity is based on personal interactions within the family
  3. Family structure is based on social interactions
  4. A well-functioning family is based on how the family will respond and develop according to family needs.
  5. The position of a family therapist is to assist the family in outgrowing the constraint surrounding growth patterns and develop as a stronger entity.

This is one effective family therapy technique that can help families and clients grow together as a unit and focus on the good of the whole as opposed to the individual.

Another family therapy technique known as strategic therapy. This is a theory that has grown from a numerous variety of different psychotherapy practices. There are five different portions that make up strategic therapy:

  1. Social Stage
  2. Problem Stage
  3. INteractional Stage
  4. Goal-Setting Stage
  5. Task-Setting Stage

Narrative therapy is another effective technique of family therapy. It is different from other methods in the sense that it focuses more wholly on the individual than on the family in its entirety. It encourages each person to be their own individual and use their own skills to address the problems and minimize smaller problems. Narrative therapy believes that in life, people can create their own stories that assist them in labeling who they are as well as that they possess the correct means to navigate their lives. It assists in the clarification, development, and supporting the narrator in life and guide their journey.

Transgenerational therapy is another great family therapy technique. It gives the therapist the ability to look closely at the interactions between individuals and their families across the different generations. The therapist will then take their observations and analysis of interationst to assist the therapist in grasping the core issues taking place within the family. The therapist may then also note potential struggles the family may come across in the future or other stressful situations.

Communication therapy is helpful for situations in which healthy communication is the primary focus and source of issues. Communication issues can occur for a variety of different reasons including trauma, secrecy, and mental health issues. By addressing the way in which family members communicate with each other, therapists can assist the clients and families to implement tools in which they may improve communication skills and abilities. This can be accomplished by active listening, opening lines of communication, and mediated communication.

Psychoeducation is one of the most powerful and profound family therapy techniques. It is simply the act of educating individuals with mental health conditions and their respective family members to assist in empowering them over their conditions and learn how to manage the condition in a health manner. Psychoeducation helps combat different social stigmas attached to different mental health disorders such as substance and alcohol use disorders. The four main goals of therapists in psychoeducation are as follows:

  1. Transfer the information
  2. Medication and treatment support
  3. Training and support in self-help
  4. Creating an available safe-space in which to open up

The last type of therapy on our family therapy techniques list is relationship counseling. Every day issues can contribute to causing strife in personal relationships. These additional problems can impact relationships in a negative way. Substance abuse is a major offender in this manner. By addressing these issues plaguing the relationship, the hope is that there will be a compromise and healing can begin. By processing past experiences and learning healthy coping skills and mechanisms, future issues can be completely circumvented or changed.

Who Benefits from Family Therapy?

Family therapy helps not only the client, but also can help family members Since family therapy is geared to create an environment that fosters healing and growth, family members can get involved in the addiction treatment of their loved one while also doing some serious healing and learning of their own.

Addiction impacts the client, but perhaps even more so it hurts those around them. The closer a person is to an individual struggling with a substance or alcohol use disorder, the more likely they are to experience fall out from that person’s unhealthy using patterns. 

Overtime, different wounds and problems can arise for the family members as a result of their loved one engaging in substance or alcohol abuse. Since environmental factors are also cited as a massive reason as to why addicts use, undergoing family therapy helps create a stable, safe environment and gives the family the healing and tools they need to handle their loved one’s using. 

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Family Therapy for Addiction 

Family therapy for addiction is a crucial facet in the healing process. Addicts have often found greater success in addiction treatment with the inclusion of family therapy in their substance abuse treatment.

Many treatment facilities put a special emphasis on the inclusion of family members and other intimate people into the treatment process. Some facilities will have “Family Days” where the families of clients are welcome to come to the facility to see the goings-on on a daily basis throughout the course of addiction treatment and have an opportunity to engage in family therapy sessions in the safety of the treatment center. 

Often, family therapy sessions can potentially get very emotional, and emotions can trigger sufferers to act out by using. By having these family sessions in-house during the course of addiction treatment, the clients will be in a safe space where drugs and alcohol are not accessible and they can focus on the task at hand.

Other facilities may include family therapy for addiction treatment in a less conventional way. Many facilities will instead mediate weekly phone calls by the client to their family and listen in on the conversation, offering feedback and redirection in instances in which it is called for. 

Since the family group plays such an integral role in the addiction treatment process, it’s important to make sure that the treatment facility you are considering offers family therapy for addiction treatment as a significant portion of their curriculum. Those struggling with drug or alcohol addiction who undergo family therapy are more likely to have greater success in recovery in the future, so laying this crucial groundwork in the beginning is vital. 

Start Your Journey to Recovery Today

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Are you or someone you love currently struggling with a substance or alcohol use disorder? Is addiction tearing your family apart? Let Pathway to Hope help you!

With much emphasis put on the family therapy aspect of our program, we at Pathway to Hope understand what you’re going through and how to successfully navigate you through it. By providing family members the opportunity to join in the treatment process, we help encourage an atmosphere of recovery that stretches far beyond our facility’s walls.

By calling now at 844-557-8575, you’ll be connected to one of our addiction and admissions professionals who can help answer any question or concern you may have about the treatment process. With our representatives standing by, 24/7, someone is ready to take your call and get you started on the journey toward recovery and a happy, healthy life today!


Kaslow, Florence W. (2012, January 5). Appendix D: A Brief History of the Field of Family Psychology and Therapy. Retrieved March 2018 from

U.S. National Library of Medicine. Substance Abuse Treatment and Family Therapy. Retrieved March 2018 from

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