Saturday October 1st 2016

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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.

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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

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5 Responses to “Family therapy for alcoholism and alcohol abuse
Janice Warrilow
4:04 pm October 7th, 2013

We are trying in vain to find a therapist for myself and my son. My husband has been in recovery for a year but it is still not easy. Why is it impossible to google for help?
URGENT. We would like a male if possible

Jan

10:04 am October 8th, 2013

Hello Janice. Try this American Psychological Association counselor finder…and let me know if you need more help. http://locator.apa.org/

Lauren
5:32 pm January 9th, 2015

Brad,
You did a great job at breaking down the options for family therapy and individual alcohol addiction. What worked best for me and my family when we were going through this was actually entering a half way house and attending individual and group therapy sessions. A halfway house allows for discipline but also gives you a little bit of freedom as you move forward in your recovery. I recommend a same sex halfway house, this allows you to focus on your recovery and not be distracted. My family and I are finally a family again and I have been sober for 6 months now.

Stay strong and always remember that there is help out there for you!

All the best,
Lauren

Judy
8:55 am July 24th, 2016

Our son is aged 36, he has been an alcoholic for well over 7 years, who really knows. Financially we have been providing him paying for food, living expenses plus paying his mortgage. He has worked on and off and becomes sober and then relapses again. He’s very intelligent and understands that he is an alcoholic and persist to keep trying to stay sober. We have been keeping our financial difficulties from him, however we have become desperate to the stage of having to look at selling our house. We have been drained financially to the point that I told my son our situation and that we can’t keep going like this for much longer. I was very concerned about letting him know how his habit was effecting our lives. It cleared the air amazingly and he really appreciated us being honest with him. In no way did he want us to go through this to the stage of having to lose our house, and had no idea of our situation. He had been sober at the time. Since then all was brighter for a couple of weeks, my concern is that I am pretty sure he’s drinking again. I just don’t know where to go from here. Ice asked him if he’s ok and he says yes he’s fine, I’ve told him he doesn’t sound fine. The signs r very strong for me in thinking he is drinking again. He usually calls me everyday and sometimes 2 or 3 times. Since my suspicion he isn’t calling me much at all. Him and I r very close and I know he hates hiding the truth and lying to me, but I know this is what the disease does to addicts. I’m crying for help and feel numb in knowing what to do anymore. I’ve never felt angry or been angry towards him but have shown nothing but empathy in understanding his problem. My emotions have now changed and I’m angry, and regretful because we have done nothing but support him and I just don’t think we can do it any longer as we can c no change. What do we do now? Kindest regards Judy

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
2:14 pm August 5th, 2016

Hi Judy. I suggest that you look into the CRAFT model for families and interventions. One NGO called Allies in Recovery has some online reading that can help:
http://alliesinrecovery.net/about-craft/

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About Brad Girtz

Brad Girtz is a blogger working at Life Works Community, a residential treatment centre. He writes content about mental health, addiction and many other conditions treated at Life Works. Brad enjoys sharing news and information about the latest innovations and ideas in the field of addiction and mental health.

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