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What Are the Different Types of Family Therapy for Substance Abuse?

By Nicole Etolen
Updated May 17, 2024
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When one member of a family suffers from an addiction to a substance such as drugs or alcohol, it can deeply affect every other member of the family. Most addiction specialists recommend that everyone affected attend family therapy. This not only helps individual members of the family work through their feelings regarding the addiction, but it also enables the entire family to work together as a unit to help the addicted member succeed in treatment. The different types of family therapy for substance abuse include couple’s therapy, group therapy with all the members of a single family, group therapy with other families and one-on-one counseling with each member separately.

Couples therapy is a type of family therapy for substance abuse that focuses on a married couple or long-term domestic partners. Living with a spouse that suffers from substance addiction can be very draining both emotionally and physically. The non-addicted partner not only often feels as though the relationship is out of control, but also often develops a pattern of covering for the addicted partner. Couples therapy helps both partners redefine their roles in the relationship.

Group family therapy for substance abuse that includes all the members of a single family is one of the most common types for those with children. During this type of therapy, the entire family gets together with the counselor and talks about how the addicted member’s behavior affects them as a whole. Typically, everyone is given a chance to speak while the counselor leads the family members to further explore certain feelings. It can take many years of counseling before the family reaches a point of resolution.

One-on-one counseling with individual members often goes along with group family therapy for substance abuse. Typically, the same counselor will invite each member to a separate meeting to explore their thoughts and feelings without the pressures of other family members. Children especially may be more likely to open up if their parents aren’t in the room with them. These sessions are private and information disclosed during them are not shared with the other family members, but the counselor can use them to determine in which direction other group meetings should go.

Group therapy that brings families together with others going through the same situation is another type of family therapy for substance abuse that may be beneficial. In some cases, families may be divided up by role or age group. For example, the young children may attend a separate group than teenagers, and spouses may be mixed with other spouses.

Finding the best family therapy for substance abuse depends primarily on the dynamic of the family. If one type doesn’t work, another one may. It is important for families to try to find the right type of counseling for their needs so they are more likely to continue going until a resolution is reached.

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