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Healing Together: Embracing Family Therapy in Your Recovery Journey

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Our families can simultaneously be sources of strength and stress. Engaging in family therapy to understand how family dynamics can help or hinder healing from a substance use or mental health disorder is critical to ensuring a sustainable recovery.

Your recovery journey is an intensely personal one, defined by who you are as an individual and your unique goals, experiences and perspectives. While recovery is unequivocally about you, it also includes those close to you with whom you’ve shared important relationships – like your family. Whether you’re trying to repair bonds or define healthy boundaries, family therapy can be a useful tool in creating a supportive environment for you to successfully recover and thrive. 

What is Family Therapy?

Family therapy, also called family counseling, is a type of group talk therapy that focuses specifically on improving family dynamics, relationships and behaviours. Family is a broad term that can encompass spouses, parents and children, close relatives, chosen families, friends, or other caregivers. Family therapy can be used in a variety of situations, including to support a family member as they seek treatment for a mental health or substance use disorder. 

Family therapy works by creating a safe, nonjudgmental, and supportive space for your family to identify and discuss challenges in order to improve the functioning of the family unit. There are several different types of family therapy available that focus on healing various aspects of the family system. These include:

Family systems therapy

Family systems therapy operates on the fundamental premise that what happens to one member of a family will affect everyone in the family unit. It examines the specific family dynamic and patterns of interaction to understand how these affect the individual members, then brings in the family as a whole to help a struggling member and learn positive ways to support each other. 

Family systems therapy should not be confused with internal family systems therapy, which is when a therapist works with a person to identify and address “sub-personalities” or “sub-families” within a person’s mental framework that serve to protect emotionally wounded or traumatised parts of the psyche.

Strategic family therapy

Generally a short-term form of therapy used for addressing current issues experienced by the family, strategic family therapy focuses on examining communication between family members, and breaking the cycle of problematic interactions to make constructive solutions. This approach considers what developmental stage the family is in to determine the best ways to communicate effectively, and can be used to address serious challenges like addiction or mental health. 

Functional family therapy

Another short-term, targeted type of therapeutic intervention, functional family therapy is used when one family member is struggling with a significant problem. Designed to designate appropriate intervention strategies, foster trust, set clear boundaries, and create collective solutions, this is most often part of a family intervention process for children or teens with behavioural or substance misuse issues.

Couples therapy

Focusing specifically on the issues which arise between partners, couples therapy aims to identify unhealthy patterns of behaviour in a relationship, address contributing factors to those patterns, and work collaboratively towards healthy solutions. Rebuilding trust and fostering emotional intimacy are often important elements of couples therapy.

Benefits of Family Therapy

Family therapy tends to improve healthy communication amongst members, helping people learn how to effectively and honestly express their thoughts and feelings to each other. For families affected by substance use disorder or a mental health disorder, family therapy can build understanding about these conditions and address dynamics in the family that may trigger or exacerbate symptoms. 

At The Dawn Wellness Centre and Rehab, we’ve seen that family involvement in addiction and mental health treatment greatly contributes to a sustainable recovery. At The Dawn, we develop a comprehensive, personalised treatment plan with our clients where the potential for family involvement is discussed. If a client is in agreement, their family will be included in their weekly progress updates and invited to participate in an in-person or online family work session towards the end of treatment. 

This close-out family session provides an opportunity for the family to learn about a client’s continuing care plan from both the client and their therapist, which may include a referral to a family therapist upon their return home. During this session at The Dawn, the family is also guided through the best ways to support the client as they make their transition back home and into a full, lasting recovery.

Are there any risks of family therapy?

Because family therapy often tackles sensitive issues within the family, this can temporarily heighten stress or tension between members as these issues are discussed and processed. This underscores the importance of all members’ participation in and commitment to family therapy activities, and an understanding that the healing process will take time. 

At The Dawn, we carefully discuss each client’s unique situation to assess the benefits of family involvement as well as any potential risks while creating their individual treatment plan. 

What Can You Expect in Family Therapy?

While family therapy sessions will vary depending on each family’s specific needs, generally there are some common goals and practices that your therapist will follow during each appointment. During your family sessions, your therapist will:

  • Check in with individual family members about their worries and hopes regarding therapy
  • Help develop ways to change behaviours that are causing problems
  • Talk through miscommunications to build understanding between members
  • Help the family collectively brainstorm solutions ways to make positive changes
  • Assist members in understanding the impacts of their words and actions
  • Encourage full participation and active listening

Family therapy is a valuable tool in helping members learn how to support each other in ways that benefits both the individual members as well as the family as a whole. If you are in recovery from a substance use or mental health disorder, family therapy can help shift the dynamics created around or feeding into these issues, building a safer, more stable environment for you to continue healing.

Involving the Family in Recovery at The Dawn Thailand

The Dawn's clients sitting on the lawn

At The Dawn Wellness Centre and Rehab, we employ a person-centered, trauma-informed care approach to the treatment of substance use and mental health disorders. Our compassionate, internationally trained team of specialists works with you from before you arrive to develop a treatment plan that is specific to your unique needs, situation and goals, helping you to clearly see the path towards your sustainable recovery. 

As the only treatment centre in Asia-Pacific to be internationally accredited by the Commission of Accreditation on Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) and the American Accreditation Commission International (AACI), The Dawn offers a well-appointed and serene recovery retreat far away from the stressors and triggers of home.

How Your Family Factors into Treatment at The Dawn

In our experience, we have seen that family involvement in a client’s treatment is a critical step towards ensuring a lasting return to health. Your focal therapist will consult with you during your treatment to assess the potential for family involvement and, with your agreement, include your family in various phases of your recovery. The Dawn offers family work sessions, with referrals to a qualified family therapist in your area upon your return home. Call us today to learn more about how we can help you in your recovery journey.

Q: How can family therapy specifically benefit someone undergoing mental health or addiction treatment?

A: Family therapy can be incredibly beneficial for individuals undergoing mental health or addiction treatment by creating a supportive environment that fosters understanding and collaboration among family members. It helps to address and heal the family dynamics that may contribute to or exacerbate an individual’s condition. 

Therapy provides tools for better communication, aids in resolving conflicts, and strengthens the family’s ability to support the individual’s recovery journey. It also equips family members with strategies to avoid enabling behaviors and to establish healthy boundaries, which is particularly crucial in cases of addiction.

Q: What should I expect during a family therapy session in the context of mental health and addiction recovery?

A: During a family therapy session, you can expect the therapist to facilitate open and honest communication among family members. The therapist will help identify patterns within the family that may be impacting the individual’s mental health or addiction recovery. 

Sessions often involve setting goals, discussing the impact of the individual’s condition on the family, and working on strategies to improve the overall family dynamic. The therapist will guide the family through exercises designed to enhance empathy, understanding, and emotional support.

Q: How does family therapy integrate with individual therapy in a treatment plan?

A: Family therapy is often integrated with individual therapy to provide comprehensive treatment that helps ensure a sustainable recovery. While individual therapy focuses on the person’s specific issues, family therapy addresses the broader relational dynamics that affect and are affected by the individual’s mental health or substance use disorder. 

The insights gained in family therapy can inform individual therapy sessions, and vice versa, creating a more holistic approach to treatment. This integration ensures that progress made individually is supported and reinforced by a healthier family environment.

Q: Can family therapy be effective if a family member is resistant to participating?

A: Yes, family therapy can still be effective even if a family member is resistant to participating. Therapists are trained to handle resistance and can employ techniques to engage reluctant participants. 

Sometimes, the therapy process can start with the willing members, and as they experience benefits, it can encourage the resistant member to join. The therapist can also work with that individual to explore the reasons behind the resistance and find ways to address concerns, making the therapy more inclusive and beneficial for everyone involved.

Q: How long does family therapy typically last, and how will I know if it’s working?

A: The duration of family therapy varies depending on the specific needs and goals of the family, as well as the complexity of the issues being addressed. It can range from a few sessions to several months or more. Progress in family therapy is often measured by observable changes in family interactions, communication, and overall functioning. 

Therapists will regularly evaluate the therapy’s effectiveness with the family, adjusting the approach as needed to ensure that the family is moving towards their goals. Signs of improvement include reduced conflict, better understanding among family members, and a stronger support system for the individual in recovery.

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