Counseling for family members of drug addicts: INTERVIEW with Mariners Inn

Are you and your family dealing with addiction? Does a member of your family need help for a drug problem? Maybe it is time to consider family counseling. Read the following Q&A with NGO treatment center, the Mariners Inn, to know what to expect. More here.

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When a family member is addicted – the whole family suffers.

If addiction has affected your family, you should be aware that without help, this problem can disrupt the stability of the home. Addiction is a powerful disease. It affects the relationships, the finances, the health (physical and mental) of all who are in the family circle. Without the proper support, addiction recovery is much more difficult.

What to expect during family counseling

Nobody should be ever afraid to admit that you are in need of help and support. Instead, know that you are not alone, and that help is out there. In fact, family counseling over the course of many weeks or months can help restore relationships and bring harmony to individuals. But what can you expect during family counseling? What are the goals and the outcomes and what kind of commitment is required?

Family counseling experts tell us about the process

Today we speak with expert Kori Loewe, Treatment Director at Mariners Inn. Mariners Inn is a licensed residential and outpatient treatment center that has been providing Detroit’s homeless men with shelter, substance abuse treatment, and transitional housing for decades. Kori will speak with us today on the subject of family counseling, from experience based in their Strengthening Families Program.

She will inform us about how a proper counseling program can aid your whole family in treatment of addiction. You will also find out more about the role of the children in the process, how they are counseled and educated, as well as learn more about some of the issues that may come up.

We invite your questions at the end

If you’d still like to find out more about counseling for families of addicts, you can post your questions in the comments section at the end. We will make sure you get a quick, personal repose.

ADDICTION BLOG: What are the goals of family counseling when addressing addiction? What are the ideal outcomes of this process?

MARINERS INN:  The goals for family counseling differ with each family’s unique needs. However, generally speaking, goals include:

  1. Educating the family about the disease of addiction and the process of recovery.
  2. Identifying interaction patterns within the family that have sustained the person’s addiction.
  3. Coming up with a plan for how the family can be supportive of the person’s recovery.

Frequently, family counseling reveals individual issues in family members other than the person being treated for addiction. It can trigger other family members to seek individual therapy for their own issues.

ADDICTION BLOG: What kind of model/program do you use in your counseling sessions at Mariners Inn to help families understand and deal with addiction?

MARINERS INN: We utilize the Strengthening Families Model which is an evidence-based, 14-week curriculum that teaches the family healthy communication, conflict resolution, and parenting skills. We add our own component that educates the families on addiction, recovery, and being supportive.

Mariners Inn also offers family counseling with a therapist if the client and family are interested and it is deemed clinically appropriate. During counseling, we rely heavily on the family systems theory which looks at each person as both an individual and as a part of the family system. This helps us to uncover patterns of interaction and behavior that are either helping or hurting the family and each of its members.

ADDICTION BLOG: How often do families attend counseling when a loved one is in addiction treatment? How much time commitment is required?

MARINERS INN: Participants of our Strengthening Families Program commit to three (3) hours a week for fourteen (14) weeks which includes one hour for a family dinner, one hour for age-appropriate skill building classes, and one hour for activities that aim to deepen the participant’s understanding of the skills learned.

For individual therapy, the commitment is normally one hour per week for a finite number of weeks. The length of family therapy is normally determined by the therapist and family and is dependent on the presenting issues and the family’s goals.

ADDICTION BLOG: Does/Should family counseling end when a 30-60-90 day or even 6-12 month addiction treatment episode has been completed?

MARINERS INN: Definitely not.

Recovery of the family, like recovery of the individual, is an ongoing process. It is especially imperative in the first couple years of recovery as the family adjusts to the recovery of their loved one as well as how these changes will impact the family system as a whole and each of its members.

Many times, the addict has been in the role of scapegoat, where all of the family’s problems and stress are blamed on the person’s addiction. Once in recovery, this dynamic should change and the individual’s recovery and changes in behavior normally alert family members to their own unresolved issues that need addressing.

ADDICTION BLOG: The focus of your Strengthening Families Program is the children of addicts, as the most vulnerable category of person involved in the family system. How do you educate children on the addiction and treatment process? How do methods differ from counseling adults?

MARINERS INN: The methods for educating and counseling children is definitely different from adults and is based on their age and developmental level.

We teach children about the disease of addiction in age-appropriate terms and emphasize that their parent’s addiction is not their fault, as this is often the belief of children of addicts. Furthermore, for younger children, talk therapy is often inappropriate and play therapy is more frequently used. For older children and teens, the focus is balanced between their current issues and managing the issues of their parents.

ADDICTION BLOG: What can other family members do to prepare children for counseling sessions?

MARINERS INN: The best thing other family members can do to assist children is to reinforce the idea that addiction is not their fault and not something they can solve. Furthermore, reinforcing the idea that addiction is an illness can be helpful as well. Lastly, children should be told that nothing they discuss in counseling will be used against them later.

ADDICTION BLOG: What kinds of issues are uncovered during the children’s counseling process?

MARINERS INN: Many issues can be uncovered during a child’s counseling process including:

  • abuse
  • neglect
  • unhealthy family patterns
  • children’s substance use
  • mental illness

ADDICTION BLOG: Are clients themselves included in their children’s counseling process? How are they improving their parenting skills during treatment?

MARINERS INN: Clients are included in the child’s counseling process, although time is also given for just the child to be in services. Parents improve parenting skills through the Strengthening Families curriculum which teaches healthier communication, parenting, and discipline skills.

ADDICTION BLOG: How can children help the process of recovery for their parents?

MARINERS INN: The best thing children can do to help their parents recover is to understand their parent’s addiction is not their fault and to focus on their education and on being a kid. Kids can help also by empathizing and supporting their parents. However, children should understand that their parents addiction and recovery is not their fault or their responsibility.

ADDICTION BLOG: What are some success stories you’d like to share about the family counseling process?

MARINERS INN: We have many beautiful success stories from the Strengthening Families Program but one of the more recent ones involves a young man of about 26 whose daughter is 5 and who he has had literally no interaction with since birth. As part of our focus on families, we hold a Daddy Daughter Dance each year to give the men a chance to reconnect with their families. During this year’s dance, this young man brought his 5-year old daughter and the opportunity for us to see him be a father and love his daughter was priceless.

ADDICTION BLOG: Is there anything else you would like to share?

MARINERS INN: Mariners Inn serves as an anchor for those struggling to navigate the treacherous waters of homelessness and substance abuse through a wide range of social service programs that achieve the best possible outcomes for adults, families, and youth affected by addiction.

Mariners Inn provides 24 hour, residential substance abuse treatment for homeless men of Southeastern Michigan, in a professional, compassionate, therapeutic environment conducive to reducing their problems of drug and alcohol addiction, thereby promoting their return to health, independence, and increased self-worth. At Mariners Inn, we are dedicated to helping homeless men, seeking to be free of addiction, live independent lives filled with dignity and purpose.

Founded in 1925 by the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan, Mariners Inn is a nationally acclaimed, licensed, full-service treatment center providing substance abuse treatment, shelter, and supportive services to men. Mariners Inn now holds the most prestigious three-year accreditation through the Commission for the Accredidation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), is licensed to provide integrated treatment, and is one of Detroit’s premier treatment providers. Our myriad of services include residential treatment, outpatient treatment, supportive housing, art therapy, peer coaching, family programs, youth prevention, and a Residential Youth Prevention Program for young men 18-29.

About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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