6 Ways Family Therapy Helps Teens Overcome Drug Abuse

Family therapy can be successfully used as a part of your teen’s recovery from the impact of addiction. Here, we share 6 ways family therapy can help YOU address the issue as a unit.

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Quality Addiction Treatment Includes Family Therapy

It’s common for parents to want to do everything they can to help their struggling teen stop abusing drugs. However, many parents are unsure how to help. What can you do as parents to help your teen struggling with drug abuse or addiction? How can family therapy help?

Quality teen addiction treatment programs take a multi-therapy approach to treating drug addiction in teenagers. More here on how family therapy can be successfully used as a part of the treatment process. At the end, we invite your questions and try to provide a personal and prompt response to all legitimate inquiries.

Family Therapy For Your Teen Addict

Participating in family therapy is a great way for parents and the rest of the family to provide the support their teen needs to recover from drug abuse. Family therapy is about healing the family as a whole. It is also a way for families to work through any issues caused by the teen’s drug abuse. However, this type of inner work comes at some cost.

It’s important to know that family therapy can be a major time commitment on both the part of the parents and the siblings. In addition, difficult issues often come up during these sessions that may be painful, at first. Although going through family therapy together does take hard work, the results are worth it for helping teens overcome drug abuse while also providing ways for both parents and their teens to heal.

6 Main Benefits of Family Therapy For Teen Addiction

Still considering the investment in time and energy? Here are 6 ways that family therapy can help you overcome teen addiction and drug abuse. We invite your additional questions in the comments section at the end.

Benefit No.1: Help Teens Understand the Impact of Their Addiction

Teens do not live in a vacuum. Their drug use and/or addiction affects everyone in the family system. Staring at the effects of drug abuse face-to-face with those who are impacted the most is important for teenagers. This can sometimes be one of the toughest parts of family therapy. However, letting each member of the family share the negative consequences of the teen’s addiction gets everything out in the open.

But looking at the hurt of the past can compel us to counter attack. How do you maintain a positive outlook during family therapy?

During family therapy sessions, a professional counselor will make sure that sessions do not turn into a public shaming of the teen. Instead, they will encourage these thoughts to be shared in a way which allows the teen to gain awareness of how their decisions impact the entire family. For example, they might hear that a little brother was scared when they were arrested or that a sister cries at night when they don’t come home. This can be a sobering experience for teens who may not have realized how much their loved ones care about them.

Benefit No.2: Strengthen the Emotional Health of the Entire Family

Everyone knows that a team is only as strong as its weakest member. When a teen struggles with drug abuse, it is common to discover that there are other issues happening within the family…perhaps a parent struggles with alcohol addiction or a sibling has depression.

How can you get to the bottom of the family’s problems and challenges? In family therapy, you gain a professional assessment of your family dynamics that can shed insight into how each member’s emotional and physical health impacts the rest of the family. If there are issues that need to be resolved, then you will all be guided toward finding a resolution that benefits everyone involved.

Benefit No.3: Correct Codependent Behavior

It is common for parents to think they are doing everything right to shield their teen from the negative effects of his or her drinking or drug habit. Perhaps you gave your teen money out of the hope that they would really buy clothes even though you knew they’d probably spend it on drugs. Alternatively, you may be permissive out of the fear that they will run away. Siblings may also unwittingly make it easier for your teen to abuse drugs if they lie to you about your teen’s whereabouts out of a misguided sense of loyalty.

How do you stop codependent behaviors? Family therapy helps to bring these behaviors out so that everyone can learn new strategies to prevent codependency that makes it easier for your teen to do drugs.

Benefit No.4: Establish Positive Communication Patterns

Parents of teenagers know all too well how quickly a simple conversation can escalate to a heated argument. From battles about curfew to laying down the rules about bad grades, you are going to encounter more than a few disagreements before your teen reaches adulthood. Unfortunately, addiction and poor communication go hand in hand, and it can take some real work to relearn how to communicate as a family. The good news is that going to family therapy is the right step toward learning positive communication strategies.

How can family therapy help improve your communication? Teens learn how to communicate in therapy…from discovering how to be an active listener to practicing how to resolve problems successfully, your teen will benefit from no longer feeling the stress of a yelling match triggering a craving. Instead, you will all learn how to keep your voices calm and even take a time out if things get heated so that things are said out of spite that everyone later regrets.

Benefit No.5: Teach About the Different Stages of Recovery

For those who have never struggled with addiction before, it is common to believe that recovery happens as soon as a person stops using drugs or alcohol. However, addiction recovery generally spans several different stages which all impact your teen’s sobriety. In therapy, you’ll learn that there are different systems of support in place for each stage of recovery. Educating yourself about them gives you more ways to provide support.

For example, your teen may leave a formal treatment program feeling stronger, but they will need ongoing support to prevent relapse. Your family therapy may be one of these types of relapse prevention support. Group and individual counseling may also be recommended.

How can you help in a time of need? Learning more about the different stages helps everyone to understand when a teen needs to attend a counseling session or has a need to speak with their support team in the middle of the night.

Benefit No.6: Help Find Fun Ways to Bond as a Family

During the teen years, it takes work to get everyone together to enjoy a group activity. Yet, bonding as a family makes it easier to get through difficult times. While your teen is in treatment, they are learning new ways to relax and have a good time without drugs or alcohol. They may have taken up acting or discovered a love for playing volleyball. Most likely, your teen now has several interests that they would love to share, and their siblings are also probably full of ideas for some sober family fun.

How is family therapy helping you have fun? Family therapy provides a place where you can plan new ways to spend time together now that everyone is committed to a life of sobriety.

Family Therapy is Excellent Recovery Support

The goal of family therapy is to strengthen the bond between teens and their family. It’s never meant to place the blame on anyone. Your family counselor will help you work out any issues that may have developed as a result of your teen’s drug abuse, such as a lack of trust. Attending therapy sessions together as a family will make it clear to your teen that they have your full support throughout their recovery.

Still Have Questions?

If you would like to ask anything regarding family therapy, or are wondering if family therapy is right for you and your teenager, please post them in the designated section at the bottom of the page. We welcome your feedback and try to answer all legitimate inquiries personally and promptly.

About the author
Dr. Nalin is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist (PSY17766), a Certified Chemical Dependency Intervention Specialist and a Certified Youth Residential Treatment Administrator. Dr. Nalin is the Founder and Clinical Director of Paradigm Malibu and Paradigm San Francisco Adolescent Treatment Centers. He has been responsible for the direct care of young people at multiple institutions of learning including; The Los Angeles Unified School District, the University of California at San Diego, Santa Monica College, and Pacific University. He was instrumental in the development of the treatment component of Los Angeles County’s first Juvenile Drug Court, which now serves as a national model.
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