Family Therapy at Rehab

Authored by Hugh Soames

Edited by Hugh Soames

Reviewed by Philippa Gold

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What happens at Family Therapy in Rehab for Addiction?


During family therapy in rehab for addiction, family members get together to better understand themselves and each other. A family therapist helps them find new ways to communicate with each other and express feelings more effectively. The family gets a “neutral” third party who can give guidance and help resolve conflicts.


The family therapist can also provide feedback about what they’ve observed during a session or recommend a family read a certain book on the topic of substance abuse/addiction11.W. C. Nichols, Family Systems Therapy | SpringerLink, Family Systems Therapy | SpringerLink.; Retrieved October 7, 2022, from


During family therapy sessions at rehab for addiction, family members get a chance to have their problems heard and understood by other family members. If a family member has been acting badly for a while, the family may dismiss or ignore them to avoid conflict or confrontation. However, family support is often vital in order to recover from addiction issues.


What Happens at Family Therapy in Rehab?


Family therapy does not happen overnight. Family issues take time to resolve with just one family member’s effort. And family problems are often closely tied with addiction, so family members have to go through treatment programs before they are ready for family sessions.



Who Benefits from Family Therapy at Rehab for Addiction


Everyone benefits from family therapy even if only one family member has substance abuse issues. But some family members may not see any reason why they should go to family therapy if they are not the ones with addiction problems.


If you have a loved one with drug or alcohol problems, encourage them to get treatment so they can be part of their own family therapy family sessions22.M. Varghese, V. Kirpekar and S. Loganathan, Family Interventions: Basic Principles and Techniques – PMC, PubMed Central (PMC).; Retrieved October 7, 2022, from And family therapy family sessions can help you understand the situation better and learn how to deal with it as a family.


Family therapy can help family members who are facing addiction issues in their family. It is also helpful for family members who may be struggling with other problems, such as depression or anxiety disorders.


It’s also important that family members without substance abuse problems do go for family therapy too because they are still impacted by family addiction issues33.L. Jiménez, V. Hidalgo, S. Baena, A. León and B. Lorence, Effectiveness of Structural–Strategic Family Therapy in the Treatment of Adolescents with Mental Health Problems and Their Families – PMC, PubMed Central (PMC).; Retrieved October 7, 2022, from Family therapy begins with family members learning self-care strategies to take care of themselves even if their loved one is not yet ready for family counseling, family therapy, or individual treatment.


Family therapy can help family members:


  • Be more understanding and accepting of each family member’s emotions, thoughts and behaviors


  • Learn how to express their concerns in a way that family members will understand without hurting them too much


  • The family therapist provides support for family members who feel they cannot speak up or communicate effectively on their own. This often helps family members become better at communication and problem solving skills.


Limitations of Family Therapy at Rehab


Family members may not be ready yet family members might not be willing to attend family sessions during rehab family counseling is best with smaller families (3-5) so larger families need individual family counseling which can take a long time.


Family therapy can also be taxing for family members, especially when family problems have gone on for a long time. Family members may tire out or lose motivation to improve family relationships in family therapy if they don’t see results soon enough.

Family Support Doesn’t Mean Nagging


Nagging doesn’t have a productive role in family-based therapy, but people should still express themselves when they feel something should be done differently. In fact, family systems therapists encourage every family member to take responsibility for his/her actions and voice concerns about other family members’ issues as well as share personal feelings without fear of upsetting each other too much.


Family Therapy at Rehab for Addiction


Many family members threaten to give up when confronted with their family member’s addiction issues. Resolving these conflicts and regaining family peace can help family members stay committed to the family therapy in order to help the addicted family member recover. This can be done in a variety of ways, including:


  • Encouraging each other at family therapy sessions and providing support in difficult situations


  • Helping siblings understand why they have been affected so much by their parent’s problems


  • Being more aware of what triggers them so they can avoid being tempted to get angry or upset too often during family therapy


  • Setting aside their own issues so that they can concentrate on helping other family members get through rehab successfully, especially if someone has relapsed


  • Creating family rules, boundaries and agreements about family members’ behavior


Family Therapy at Rehab Tips


Here are some tips family therapists recommend to help family addiction go more smoothly:


  • Tell the truth about your feelings and what you think is causing your family member’s problems during family sessions, even if it hurts other family members’ feelings. Don’t worry about hurting anyone else’s feelings unless someone is getting really angry about everything that comes up for discussion at family therapy sessions. If this happens, stick to the facts until things settle down.


  • Remember family therapy is about family members working together to solve family issues, not blaming family members for problems or family addiction.


  • Try to be open minded about family therapy methods that may seem strange or uncomfortable at first. Family therapists are trained to help families with problems, whether it’s drug abuse or some other issue. For this reason, they use a variety of strategies and approaches when treating family members for addiction.


  • Encourage your family member who has substance abuse issues to go through with family therapy even if you don’t want him there most of the time. This will help everyone in the long run instead of waiting until all family members become involved in trying to fix the family problem with storytelling like family therapy.


  • Make family counseling sessions tolerable for family members by setting ground rules about what family members are allowed to say. For example, family members can agree not to attack each other or call each other names during family sessions. Or, family members may agree not to tell anyone else about the family issues that come up in family therapy unless everyone agrees on this ahead of time.


The first few family therapy sessions often go smoother when family members have these kinds of ground rules set up beforehand . The family therapist can help family members set up these rules if family counseling sessions become too frustrating. For more information on family therapy ground rules, read family therapy session ground rules44.E. Asen, Outcome research in family therapy | Advances in Psychiatric Treatment | Cambridge Core, Cambridge Core.; Retrieved October 7, 2022, from

Family of Origin


Some rehab centers have a special focus on providing family therapy to people with different backgrounds. For instance, family systems therapists might work with families that come from different cultures or religions to better understand how family members relate to each other and the world around them.


In general, families who go through family therapy at rehab have experienced some type of dysfunction in their pasts that negatively impacted them as individuals and as a group – this dysfunction came from their own parents or other relatives.


Sometimes called the ‘family system’, these dysfunctional systems are the family of origin. In family systems theory, family members are affected by each other growing up and may even pass on family problems to their own children.


People who came from healthy families do not need family therapy or family first aid training ; however people with addiction problems might not be able to break into that cycle of dysfunction without help through family sessions at rehab centers .


Family Systems Theory


When family members go through family therapy at rehab fro addiction, they learn more about family systems theory. Family therapists work with clients to understand how their choices affect their families and also what others’ choices affect them so they can make better decisions for themselves as individuals and as a group.


They also identify whether their patterns of behavior are understandable (and therefore acceptable) family reactions to family problems or are unhealthy family behaviors . With family counseling, family therapy and family first aid training , family members can learn how to work together to break cycles of family dysfunction.


Family sessions during drug or alcohol treatment often start with building better communication between family members so they know how to support each other without enabling bad behaviors if their loved one returns home after rehab. This helps all family members feel more supported even if their loved one is not yet ready for individual treatment, family counseling or group meetings.


According to Cirque Lodge, one of the best rehabs for family therapy, “at its basic foundation, family systems theory holds that clients with any mental health diagnosis, addiction or substance abuse disorder, can be more effectively treated if we take their relationships with their families into consideration. The client’s family system, be it functional or dysfunctional, is an important component to address when treating someone in recovery”.

Couples Rehab in Addition to Family Therapy


Therapists may recommend couples attend couple’s counseling instead of family counseling if one family member does not recognize the problem as everyone else seems to see it. In these cases, the therapist recommends individual treatment sessions instead so that family issues don’t get in the way of family member’s progress with treatment.


How does Family Therapy at Rehab Work?


Functioning families get together when someone has a problem or makes a request, so it also helps if everyone is willing to work on improving family relationships along with treating the substance abuse issues. Rehab centers provide many family therapy sessions to family members before they are ready for family therapy either together or separately.


Family sessions might be part of family counseling, family addiction treatment, family systems therapy, family first aid training or some other type of family support services. Sometimes family sessions follow the same schedule as individual substance abuse counseling , family counseling and/or group meetings.


Family members can attend family sessions at rehab centers during regular business hours if their schedules allow it. Family members may have to set up time off from work for this purpose. Family sessions also happen on weekends or evenings if necessary so that everyone’s schedule is accommodated.

Virtual Family Therapy at Rehab


For family members who are unable to attend family sessions at rehab centers, family therapists can also provide family therapy services for them on the phone , via e-mail, by video conferencing, through family first aid training , or other means that fit their family’s specific needs. Online sessions are mostly used by family systems therapists for treating family addiction that has become too dangerous or harmful to one member.


Families who do not live near the rehab centers can get family therapy over the phone, by e-mail, or with another means of communication. Most family therapists who work at addiction treatment facilities are willing to work with clients via other methods that fit each family’s specific needs.


Benefits of Virtual Family Therapy


Virtual family therapy sessions for addiction issues are an option if you don’t live near a rehab center that offers family therapy, or your chosen family lives far away from each other.


Some therapists offer online counseling by phone, Skype or email which gives you the chance to learn self-care strategies even though you don’t live near a counselor who can provide individual drug abuse treatment family counseling family first aid training family systems therapy family support groups family sessions during individual drug treatment.


Recovery from addiction is a family affair so learning skills to improve family communication can help everyone in your chosen family cope better even if you do not live near each other.


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Next: Learn About Privacy at Rehab

  • 1
    1.W. C. Nichols, Family Systems Therapy | SpringerLink, Family Systems Therapy | SpringerLink.; Retrieved October 7, 2022, from
  • 2
    2.M. Varghese, V. Kirpekar and S. Loganathan, Family Interventions: Basic Principles and Techniques – PMC, PubMed Central (PMC).; Retrieved October 7, 2022, from
  • 3
    3.L. Jiménez, V. Hidalgo, S. Baena, A. León and B. Lorence, Effectiveness of Structural–Strategic Family Therapy in the Treatment of Adolescents with Mental Health Problems and Their Families – PMC, PubMed Central (PMC).; Retrieved October 7, 2022, from
  • 4
    4.E. Asen, Outcome research in family therapy | Advances in Psychiatric Treatment | Cambridge Core, Cambridge Core.; Retrieved October 7, 2022, from
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