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How to Engage in Family Therapy with an Alcoholic

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How to Engage in Family Therapy with an Alcoholic

Written by Genesis Recovery

Even though addiction is a personal challenge, alcoholism can negatively affect the entire family. Luckily, family therapy can help rebuild trust, mend wounds, and foster healthy communication. As a family member of someone in active addiction, however, engaging with their addiction may make you anxious. Grappling with the chaos your loved one has put your family through can be frustrating and emotionally, mentally, and physically draining. Fortunately, knowing what to expect from family therapy and how to engage with your loved one can help your family heal past wounds caused by alcohol abuse and regain a sense of wholeness and happiness.

What to Expect in Family Therapy

Family therapy is a form of counseling designed to help families address specific issues that have negatively affected the way their family functions. During each session, family members meet with a licensed therapist that works with the entire family to nurture change and encourage healthy development. If you and your family are asked to participate in family therapy, you should expect to do the following:

  • Engage with your family member while they are receiving treatment. Usually, family therapy begins after the person has enrolled in a rehab program and is making considerable progress. Weeks or months may have passed since you’ve last seen your loved one, but you should be prepared to engage with them openly and honestly.
  • Learn new skills. During therapy, a counselor will help you and your family members learn a number of new skills. These skills, which usually include conflict resolution, emotional regulation, and communication, can help improve your family’s interactions with each other.
  • Embrace new habits and behavior changes. As you and your family members navigate counseling, you’ll need to be open to developing new habits and behavior patterns in order to support your loved one’s recovery. You may not realize it, but some of your current habits may actually hinder your loved one’s sobriety. Be open to change. Be prepared to notice and embrace changes in your loved one’s behavior patterns and habits as well.
  • Set and accomplish goals together. Your family counselor may ask each member of your family to set goals related to their role in the family. The goals can range from listening more closely to spending more time together and are usually reviewed during each session. When members of your family accomplish their goals, they receive rewards, which tends to motivate other family members to accomplish their goals as well.

Engaging A Loved One During Family Therapy

upset man in family therapy session

You may not know how to communicate with your loved one as they’re recovering from alcohol addiction challenges. Before they enrolled in a treatment program, your communication might have been overly enabling or too aggressive. Luckily, there are ways you can communicate that can prevent enabling, help resolve conflict, and show your loved one you care about them. These include the following methods:

  • Be Kind. Kindness is often the secret ingredient to successful interactions with a recovering alcoholic. Your loved one knows how much they’ve hurt you and the family and may expect you to criticize, insult, belittle, and reject them. Do the opposite of that. Engaging with kindness and compassion shows them how much you love them and increases the chances of a successful session.
  • Listen More Than You Talk. Recovering alcoholics are more likely to confide in you and speak up if you listen to them without interruption or criticism. You don’t have to agree with their past behavior, but do give them a chance to apologize, resolve any existing conflicts, and ask for forgiveness. Remember, the intent of family therapy is to rebuild your family. Let your loved one explain how and why their alcohol abuse started. You should also let them explain what’s going on in their lives and how addiction treatment has helped them take strides toward long-term sobriety.
  • When You Do Talk, Be Honest. After you’ve listened to what your loved one has to say, be honest about how you feel. It’s okay to share how much alcoholism has hurt you, your family, and your relationship with your loved one. You don’t need to accuse or blame your loved one, but you can and should talk about the toll addiction has had on the family. You can also share life updates that have happened since your loved one entered treatment. This might encourage your loved one to continue to make healthy choices. Your loved one may also feel more supported if you talk about activities you’d like to do with them after they complete their addiction treatment program.
  • Be Willing to Forgive. As much as you may be hurting, you need to be willing to forgive. You don’t have to forget everything that’s happened, but you should be open to working towards a healthier future. Most family counselors have specific techniques to address forgiveness. If you’re going to engage with your loved one in family therapy, you should be open to hearing what they have to say and, when necessary, be willing to forgive.
  • Be Patient and Trust the Process. Therapy is a process and may require several sessions. Your family unit may not be whole and perfect after 4 sessions, so you’ll need to be patient. Trust the process and be patient with your loved one. Alcohol addiction is a chronic condition so you may not see a 180-degree difference in your loved one right away. That’s okay. Keep supporting the process, engaging your loved one, and attending family therapy. Remember, true growth and lasting change usually doesn’t happen in a day.
  • Be Supportive. If there was ever a time your loved one needs support, it’s now. They’re developing new habits, changing their thought patterns, restructuring their life, discovering a new identity, facing past hurts and pain they’ve tried to ignore, fighting alcohol cravings, and rebuilding their life. When you engage with them, be sure to show your support. If they look good, tell them that. If they’re communicating better, let them know. Do what you can to support their progress and you’ll help motivate them to continue changing for the better.

Giving Families the Chance to Begin Again

At Genesis Recovery, we believe in the concept of beginning again. We believe that lives and families hurt by drug or alcohol addiction can be fully restored. That’s why we have designed our treatment programs around the 12-step program.

Our approach to recovery includes expert clinical treatment, community support, and holistic activities that will help your loved one connect to a power greater than themselves. Contact us today at 619-797-7319 if you’re looking for a rehab center that can help your loved one and your family begin again.

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