Family Treatment vs. Family Program

November 16, 2016 - - 0 Comments

Family Programs vs. Family Treatment
By Sue Jackson LMFT, Clinical Director

At His House / Her House / New Creation and Merito House we welcome the families to join in family treatment. Often families do not understand the difference between a family program and family treatment. We at His House firmly believe the family needs treatment similar to the client, addict/alcoholic. This article clarifies the differences so families and understand what is needed for whole family healing.
Individuals abusing drugs or alcohol have left a healthy lifestyle behind and through the progression of addiction have adapted to a lifestyle of abnormal behavior. Addiction to alcohol or drugs by a family member significantly effects and impacts each non drinking family member. Dr. Max Schneider observed this phenomenon in many of his patients and their non-drinking family members. He acknowledged that family members living with an alcoholic or drug addict will display similar behaviors as the addict or alcoholic according to the progression of the disease. Research and experience has taught us as a profession that families of addicts and alcoholics suffer equally in active addiction. Years of addiction have conditioned the family to live their lives by coping and reacting to people and events rather than authentically experiencing and responding to them appropriately. The addict or alcoholic desiring treatment is encouraged to detox if necessary, complete a 30, 60 and 90 day treatment followed up intensive outpatient programs, twelve step meetings on a daily basis and follow up with a sponsor. Families of the addict or alcoholic are encouraged to attend a weekly 12 step support group and short term family educational groups. This is not enough treatment for a family that has become critically impacted by the disease of addiction. Treating the family equally to their addicted counterpart is not only beneficial it is vital!
Usually in the traditional family program for the addict and/or alcoholic there is an emphasis on family education including; the disease concept, how the disease effects the family, enabling behaviors and how family members should react to the substance abuser while their family members are in treatment. This would be a first order of change for the family.
This is in contrast to family treatment. Family treatment is the second order of change. A comprehensive and long term process of healing. It is extremely important to treat the entire family. As each family member begins to verbalize their personal experience, the degree of those devastating effects need to be identified. Devastating effects manifest as symptoms related to depression, anxiety, and PTSD caused by the addictive family chaos. Treating the family separately from the addicted family member may resolve some of these symptoms. However, family members that survived the chaos caused by addiction have deeper issues due to their own part in the “family disease” and need to be treated in a similar modality as the addict. It is extremely important that families affected by addiction be treated simultaneously while addressing the deeper issues caused by the addiction which contributed to and created the family chaos. As suggested by William L. White there needs to be a revitalizing family treatment and I agree. Family treatment needs a family systems modality to address the deeper issues that arise. It is important for families to understand the realities they have endured during addiction in the family. Also important is for families to understand they too will experience their own Post-Acute Withdrawal.
In family treatment, families resolve their own personal issues that trigger negative responses when they interact with the addict or alcoholic. Family issues, include couples resolving each reality described in the book. This is paramount and more cost effective when treating the family. If a client leaves when in treatment, they are more likely to to return or seek treatment again if the family has remained in a long term family treatment. It takes a personal commitment from the family to the, recovery family treatment community they are engaged in regarding issues they are working through. Long term family commitment is the complete resolution of pathos, abstruse secrets, synchronized pathos, grave incongruence, stages of wrath and creating a positive scrimmage, which is profound coherence.

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