Family therapy for alcoholism and alcohol abuse
Are you a family member looking to help a problem drinker for alcohol problems? Often, family roles and behaviors are unhealthy and don’t help an alcoholic. Here, we review what occurs during family therapy for alcoholism and how families can help. Then, we invite your questions about family therapy for alcohol abuse at the end.
Family therapy for alcohol abuse
When someone begins to spiral out of control due to alcohol, families compensate in one of two ways.
1. They either clean up after the alcoholic and try to pretend everything is fine.
2. They try to control the problem drinker and force them to stop.
Even if someone who abuses alcohol seeks treatment, while they are getting sober their addiction is still taking its toll on their friends and family (what are treatments for alcoholism?). This is where family therapy becomes important. Even after an alcoholic stops drinking, the effects of alcohol abuse and alcoholism linger.
Family of alcoholic roles
When an alcoholic stops drinking, unhealthy family dynamics and behaviours can persist. Old patterns can drive a wedge between the alcoholic and their family. The alcoholic might view a family member’s reactions to sober life as patronizing or simply detrimental to their recovery. They may also feel that the family is pushing them away.
Meanwhile, the family is likely to see the person in recovery as obstinate and become angry because the alcoholic no longer conforms to their expected social role. No matter what the family does, the alcoholics’ behavior is bound to change the family dynamic and generally reorders the entire system that helps the family function. That means that even after the drinking has stopped, there can be deep seated problems with trust, guilt, anger and many other emotions that may be causing problems for the group.
Family therapy for alcohol problems
The best solution to address dysfunctional family roles is family therapy. Rather than focusing on the alcoholic or any one person, family therapy views the system as a whole, identifying where everyone sees themselves and the role they feel they play in the family. Not only does this help repair broken family bonds, it helps teach the family to stop trying to clean up after or control the former addict.
That may seem like a simply task but often times, families are so used to dealing with an alcoholic that they completely forget how to act when everything is normal. Each member of the family needs to relearn where they fit in the group, redefine their roles and most importantly, share their feelings.
That last part is especially important because there is usually a lot of pent up emotion after an addiction. Without the chance to release, this can fester and become a problem for the family going forward. However, if the family therapy is done correctly and people take it seriously, counseling can have very positive effect on the family as a whole and make everyone’s lives much easier.
Family therapy for alcoholism questions
Do you still have questions about family therapy for alcoholism and alcohol abuse? Please leave us your questions and comments below. We will be happy to respond and help you as best as we can.
Photo credit: Jonathan Adami