By Danielle LaPointe
When one person is suffering from addiction, the whole family suffers along with them. These families tend to have limited resources, leaving them unsure of where to turn or how to help their addicted loved one.
Helping Families Work Through the Stigma of Addiction
There are a lot of misconceptions about addiction, and helping families and patients see past the stigma isn’t always easy. Decades of comprehensive research have helped us to understand that addiction is a disease, not an opinion. And when patients realize they have symptoms that can be managed, it can be empowering.
But for families, accepting addiction as a disease, rather than a character flaw, can be complicated. While, it’s true that people can have a genetic predisposition to addiction, in some cases, addiction might be a learned behavior. When families learn about these genetic and environmental factors, it is not uncommon for them to blame themselves or become defensive.
In this case, a dynamic family therapist, in addition to a therapist or behavioral health professional working with the individual being treated for addiction, help families create their own treatment goals. Working through feelings of denial, defensiveness, and even the codependency, can help enhance family communication and rebuild relationships, while also strengthening an individual’s chances of long-term recovery by enabling greater family support and understanding.
While patients work to get better, Sunspire Health Hilton Head works to get families in tune with the progress the patient has made. By aligning a patient’s progress with their support system, both families and patients can step forward in recovery with a positive outlook.
Educating Families about Addiction Triggers
Cravings are chemical reactions in the brain, typically triggered by something in the person’s environment. Substance use triggers can come in a lot of different forms, but the most common trigger is exposure to the substance. And unfortunately, families can sometimes serve as the source of that trigger.
For instance, family gatherings that always include alcohol can be difficult for someone in recovery to attend. When you take somebody out of a treatment center and put them back into a ‘routine’ environment of a household—and if alcohol and drugs are a part of that routine—it’s almost easier to slip back into the routine than to avoid it and maintain abstinence. These types of situations can increase a person’s chance for relapse, even after they’ve received comprehensive treatment.
Family therapy serves to educate families on their loved ones’ triggers so they can be successfully avoided. For a person with an addiction, working through triggers and cravings can be one of the biggest challenges in recovery, and families can play an important role in helping a loved one sidestep these triggers.
Helping Families Set Reasonable Expectations
The transition from residential treatment to sober-living at home can leave families uncertain of what to expect from their loved one. Many families think their loved one will be ready to jump back into daily life, get back to their job, perform better in school, and more. But a lot of patients don’t have those immediate results.
That initial six months to a year span when someone is in early recovery and has made their first commitment to stop using drugs or alcohol is often the most difficult time. There will be days when somebody in early recovery wants to lay on the couch all day because their brain chemistry is still changing and normalizing. It’s like a spring - it’s bouncing back.
It is critical to educate families on what to expect when their loved one returns home. This can help families meet the needs of their loved one based on where they are in the recovery process and provide the best and most appropriate type of support.
Getting Everyone On Board with the Patient's Aftercare Plan
Family therapy encourages family members to get involved in their loved one’s recovery and play a positive role in helping their loved one stay sober. This could mean joining their loved one in a healthy sober activity or driving them to appointments or meetings.
Sunspire Health Hilton Head can also work with each patient’s primary care provider to establish a plan of action for aftercare once residential treatment is over, and — with patient consent — help involve families with this aftercare plan. The addiction treatment facility has two full-time physicians on staff who work to establish this personalized aftercare plan.
Our physicians are extremely involved from admission to discharge, and they collaborate with the therapists and nurses throughout the course of treatment. This allows them to provide patients, and their families, with the attention they deserve both during and after the treatment process.
Hilton Head's Approach to Family Therapy
Upon arrival at Sunspire Health Hilton Head, patients and their families will be assigned a designated family therapist. These therapists can conduct family therapy sessions over the phone, so family members can stay involved no matter their location.
If they wish, families are welcome to visit the Hilton Head center and participate in family therapy on-site. Families can also visit during Hilton Head’s family event, where they can listen to education panels with the on-site addiction specialists, take part in group discussions, and spend time with their loved one.
Addiction impacts the entire family and therefore recovery does, too, which is why Sunspire Health Hilton Head is committed to providing the highest quality of comprehensive care for clients and their families. It’s where we see the greatest impact!