Family Treatment for Substance Abuse

When your loved one enters treatment for substance abuse, the entire family should be a part of the treatment facility’s process for getting your family member drug-free and able to remain abstinent. Substance abuse affects the whole family, not just the individual who is addicted. An essential part of family treatment involves providing information and support. While each substance abuse treatment facility has different programs and protocols, here are some general components of family treatment.

Information About Your Loved One’s Treatment

The first step on entering a treatment facility for substance abuse involves a thorough assessment of the individual. This is conducted through an interview which covers the parson’s background, family history, specific substances abused and duration of abuse, and any other issues or problems pertinent to or that may affect treatment. For example, there may be a dual-diagnosis issue, drugs and alcohol, or drugs and mental problems like severe depression or drug-induced psychosis, that will impact the type of treatment recommended.

There will be screening tests to determine the exact substances being abused, since not all patients or clients are entirely truthful about their actual drug use, either through selective thinking, or impaired thought processes. The counselors will then develop a recommended treatment plan based on all the information received. The purpose of the plan is to help the individual on a path to getting clean and sober – and remaining there.

You will be advised of the specifics of the treatment plan for your loved one. Detoxification will be the first step, since no treatment can proceed until the client is clean from drugs. Treatment begins following detoxification, and will involve a multi-faceted approach: individual counseling, group meetings, educational lectures, social and recreational activities, family treatment and relapse prevention, among others. The patient will learn to recognize triggers that caused them to use drugs in the past and develop coping skills to deal with difficult situations. They will learn more appropriate behaviors and how to control their emotions, how to be responsible, honest and drug-free members of society.

The length of time your loved one will need to stay in treatment will vary. There is no set timeframe, as each individual’s treatment plan is based on their own unique circumstances and drug usage. Someone who has only recently begun drug use will potentially need less time to kick drugs than an individual who has been abusing drugs for years. The longer the individual stays in the recommended treatment program, the better their chances for success. If a patient leaves after three months, they won’t be as successful in remaining clean and sober as one that stays six months or a year. Again, the length of time depends on how severe the drug problem is, and how long it has lasted, as well as any dual diagnoses or other co-occuring problems that must also be treated.

Counseling And Advice For Families

Through individual appointments with family members, you will receive counseling on how to best help support your family member in treatment – both during treatment and in recovery. You will learn all the aspects of drug addiction, type of drugs used, what they do to a person physically, mentally and emotionally. You will be counseled that the drug abuse didn’t happen overnight, and it will take time to change. When you speak with your loved one, he or she may sound so much better, and you wonder why they can’t come home yet. It can be very frustrating to wait, but it is in the best interest of the patient to complete the treatment regimen. The changes that the substance abuser needs to make will take time to stick, so that they become routine, second nature when they leave treatment.

Many things at home will also need to change upon the patient’s return. The family will be advised and counseled on the best ways to approach these changes. You will also be encouraged to attend group meetings in addition to the individual counseling sessions. There may also be large group meetings with all patients and family members. Discussion groups, educational lectures and other family activities may be part of family treatment.

How Families Can Help The Loved One

In order for treatment to be most effective, family members are strongly encouraged to actively help by doing the following:

• Changes at Home – It is vital that the counselors be apprised of any changes at home, whether that is a major crisis or even a minor development. That’s because what happens at home within the family has a big impact on the person in treatment – even small details are important. Also, keep the facility informed as to how things go during home visits, if that is permitted in your loved one’s treatment program. This assists the counselors to help the patient learn how to deal with the stresses and issues at home, stay in treatment and avoid potential relapse when in recovery.

• Rules – Your loved one has to abide by rules when in treatment. Family members can help him or her by also adhering to the rules and structure of the treatment process. Breaking them sends a confusing message to the patient about why these rules aren’t being followed at home. For example, no addictive behavior can occur at home – no alcohol, no drugs, etc.

• Relapse Warning – As the family, you are the front-line advisors if relapse seems imminent when your loved one returns home. Advise the treatment facility immediately so that steps can be taken to avert total relapse or get the individual back into treatment as quickly as possible.

• Express Concern – Your support and encouragement is critical to your loved one’s staying in treatment. By expressing your encouragement, it shows the level of concern you have over his or her progress toward recovery. It will also help motivate your loved one to stick with the program.

• No Drugs or Alcohol – Family members can help by removing any alcohol or drugs from the premises at home, office, car, shed – any location where the loved one may have occasion to find it. Similarly, no family member should use drugs or alcohol, especially when the loved one is home. They are in an extremely fragile state at this point in time, and cannot handle the temptation and stress that witnessing you drinking or doing drugs will provoke.

• Seek Help For Yourselves – Family recovery necessitates seeking ongoing support. Join and participate in groups providing outstanding support such as Al-Anon meetings. You may also wish to get outside professional counseling to more fully understand and be able to cope with your loved one’s – or your own – issues and problems on addiction and addictive behavior.

• What Motivates Your Loved One – As each substance-dependent individual is unique, each has differing wants and needs. They are motivated by various rewards or consequences for failure to abide by family rules. As the family, you are in the best position to advise the counselors what works with your loved one.

• Be Full Participants – As much as possible, participate in whatever aspect of your loved one’s treatment program. This involves working with the treatment professionals, especially when your loved one starts to voice irritation, complaining about the length or severity or processes of the treatment program. Discuss any concerns you may have after hearing from your loved one by talking with the counselors yourself. Don’t assume the worst. Remember that treatment is tough, and there’s a lot of denial and bad behavior to overcome. Help your loved one to stay in treatment through your unwavering support and encouragement – and full participation.

Understanding That Recovery Is A Life-Long Process

One of the most difficult things to accept is that recovery isn’t a guarantee for any individual who’s been in treatment for substance abuse of any kind. He or she doesn’t just get clean and sober and go through treatment and come home and that’s it forever. No, staying abstinent involves a lifetime commitment, participation in support group meetings, keeping on top of routines and schedules and seeking help when cravings or issues threaten to derail their clean and sober life.

Families need to understand this as well, and continue offering support and encouragement to the loved one in recovery. It won’t be easy, but you don’t have to go it alone. By getting counseling and participating in support group meetings you will be better able to accept and address what needs to be done – to ensure a successful recovery for your loved one and the entire family.