Healing the Family Unit
When someone is affected by a behavioral health condition, including mental health or substance use disorders, the entire family is impacted by it. Because each of us functions as a cog in the family wheel, when one cog is wobbly the wheel no longer turns smoothly. This is why family therapy is an important component in the treatment of behavioral health disorders, to restore smooth functioning of the family unit during recovery and beyond.
About Family Therapy
When a family member is struggling with mental illness or addiction the resultant pain, confusion, frustration, guilt, shame, and anger can do significant damage to the family unit. Bonds of trust may have been broken. Resentments may fester. The family dynamic may have become tense and fragmented. For these, and the many struggles a family with an afflicted loved one experiences, family therapy is an essential part of the healing and recovery process.
During family therapy, the client’s family members are invited to participate in therapeutic sessions that aim to methodically rebuild the bond between the family members. This entails various insight activities, group counseling, and bonding exercises that help the family examine patterns of behavior and adapt new coping and communication skills.
What is involved in Family Therapy?
Family therapy involves a comprehensive approach to guiding the family toward a healthier, more unified relationship with both the loved one who is afflicted with a behavioral health disorder, and each other. Family work is intrinsic to rebuilding what has been damaged as a result of the mental health or addiction disorder and touches on all aspects of the family dynamic.
Because it is often difficult to get family members to be open and honest about the challenges the mood disorder or substance abuse has inflicted on them, family therapists use a multitude of activities and exercises that help draw the thoughts and emotions out. They may use a collection of multidimensional approaches that aim to promote harmony through improved communication skills, recognizing codependent behaviors among family members, and free and open discussion that improves understanding between family members.
An example of an exercise might be where the parent and the son or daughter in treatment each take a turn expressing three things they love about the other and three things they dislike about the other. Once these items are out on the table, the therapist can facilitate deeper discussion between them, guiding the family members towards resolution using new behaviors that would satisfy each. Through use of therapeutic exercises therapists seek to identify maladaptive family interactions and ineffective or destructive communication styles and help the family members effect change. New relating and coping skills can be demonstrated and taught by the therapist, helping family members manage anger, frustration, or stress in more effective ways. As therapy proceeds, family members will be held accountable for practicing the new skills to effect positive change and meet treatment goals.
Family therapy teaches the family members effective ways to support their loved one’s recovery, which reduces the risk of relapse back into the mental health or addiction disorder. The therapist helps the family set goals and objectives for developing a healthier, more supportive family dynamic using the information taught regarding mental illness, addiction, treatment and recovery, and apply it in practice.
What Treatment Approaches are used in Family Therapy?
Family therapists often combine elements from different therapy models to customize the therapeutic sessions to the specific needs and issues occurring within the particular family. The most common evidence-based treatment modalities for family therapy include:
Cognitive based therapy
Cognitive based therapy (CBT) is based on the theory that irrational or maladaptive behaviors can become entrenched through family interactions. The CBT sessions will help the family members identify the dysfunctional behavior responses to triggers by a family member and use coping skills and improved communication techniques to replace the maladaptive responses with new, healthy ones.
Attachment theory is based on the assumption that secure attachment in childhood nurtures healthy emotional development. When there is a lack of confidence in the safety of relationships with family members, emotional energy is directed toward protecting and preserving the dysfunctional relationship. Attachment based family theory is centered on repairing the attachment by using the therapeutic setting to increase the sense of security through teaching interpersonal skills that promote positive behavior among family members.
Multidimensional family therapy
Multidimensional family therapy (MDFT) integrates several treatment modalities and emphasizes the interrelated roles that the individual, the family, and certain environmental factors play in behavioral health disorders. Therapists guide the family members not to place blame or find fault with each other, but to work together toward improving family interactions.
Phaite Behavioral Family Therapy
Call to schedule a free consultation and learn more about family therapy and treatment at 888-259-1268