When one member of the family suffers, that pain often reverberates throughout the entire family. Whether your loved one is facing addiction or mental health challenges, it is likely that your entire family has felt the effects. In addition to the individual seeking treatment on their own, it’s important for your family to find ways to recover as a unit.
Family therapy or family counseling is an effective treatment that helps family members work towards recovery as a group. The practice of family therapy is rooted in the family systems theory or the idea that families are not just a group of individuals but rather a cohesive organization that inherently works together. Family counseling provides a forum for each family member to address their specific and unique difficulties within the context of the broader family challenge.
It’s impossible to know what’s really going on with your family if you don’t communicate with your family. This is, of course, easier said than done especially when the family is just beginning to recover from a traumatic event. Start small and work your way up to the point of feeling comfortable communicating openly and honestly, without judgment. Make sure your loved one knows they can come to you at any time to discuss anything, including their urges to use substances, their good and bad mental health days or their feelings on a shared significant event.
Dedicated family time
Your teenagers may roll their eyes at the suggestion, but spending more time together will greatly improve your relationship as a family. Take time to really get to know each other and agree on an activity that everyone will enjoy to minimize discomfort or unhappiness. Better yet, rotate who is responsible for finding and planning family activities at whatever cadence you decide. This will keep the family engaged and committed to spending time together, and it will likely lead to new experiences for all of you.
Fun family activities that promote bonding include:
- Taking a cooking class, or even cooking together at home
- Camping and hiking
- Sports games, whether it’s your son’s middle school basketball team or your city’s professional baseball league
- Weekend vacations and road trips
- Movie nights
- Art classes or art therapy
- Game nights
- Trying new restaurants around town
- Family book club
- Home improvement projects – involve your family in choosing the design or decor
- Genealogical research
- Community service and volunteering
- Learning a new language
- Berry picking
- Picnic lunch – either at a local park or in your backyard
- Local theatre plays
- Daily walks around the neighborhood
Support groups may be better as an individual activity, but they can help deepen your understanding of what your family member is going through. If your son was recently diagnosed with schizophrenia, find a support group in your area with other parents going through the same thing. If your wife has decided to seek treatment for drug addiction, join a group for spouses of individuals facing addiction. Your loved one may even invite you to join them at their own recovery support group. Hearing about the lived experiences of others in positions similar to yours will help you feel less alone, and you’ll get a chance to share your story and how you’re coping with the recent changes in your family.
When an individual is suffering from addiction, there is often a point where their family feels like they must intervene before it’s too late. This is a very direct approach to confronting your loved one’s addiction, and it has the potential to convince them to begin their recovery journey. The good news is you don’t have to do this alone. Many mental health practitioners advocate for the Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT) method, which, in partnership with your therapist teaches families and friends how to engage with your loved one facing addiction and designs an intervention plan that is best for the entire family. Rather than forcing your family member into rehab or threatening to cut them off, CRAFT encourages families to truly understand the root cause of their loved one’s addiction and approach their addiction from a gentle and loving place. This treatment style instills important skills for families of individuals struggling with substance abuse, especially if this is an entirely new experience for the family including – empathy, understanding, identification of triggers, problem-solving, self-care, communication and domestic safety.
Walden by Pyramid Healthcare is dedicated to helping families recover together. Reach out today at 301-997-1300 for more resources on family counseling, family recovery support and family intervention.