Alcohol and drug abuse can have devastating effects on the family. Relationships are often shattered throughout the family. Often, when a person seeks help they do so as part of a family ultimatum. It is important to include family in the process and educate them about addiction and the treatment process.
A frequent complaint by family members is that they are often “left outside the door” of the therapist or doctor’s office and told that the patient’s clinical history and treatment is confidential.
Whilst patient confidentiality is indeed guaranteed it should not be a bar to including the family who arguably need as much treatment as the addicted loved one. Patients should be given the option, never coercively, about involving their family in their treatment. A refusal of this request should always be respected.
The common thread, in family members who want to be included in the treatment process, is concern for their loved ones. Family therapy has a very good evidence base at strengthening and repairing fractured relationships and optimising treatment effectiveness. It also gives the family therapist an understanding of the systemic interactions of families which can facilitate the healing process for the whole family.
“Family therapy is a collection of therapeutic approaches that share a belief in family-level assessment and intervention. The benefits of this are two-fold. First, it seeks to use the family’s strengths and resources to help find or develop ways to live without substances of abuse. Second, it ameliorates the impact of chemical dependency on both the addicted person and the family”. (SAMHSA/CSAT Treatment Improvement Protocols. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment 1993).