In treatment and recovery from substance use disorders, family involvement refers to the active participation of someone’s loved ones in their treatment and recovery process. Family involvement can take many different forms. These range from providing emotional support to attending therapy sessions to learning more about substance use disorders.

While family involvement will vary from family to family, research has shown that involving the family in treatment and recovery can lead to better outcomes for the individual with the substance use disorder. Conversely, if the family does not become involved in learning about substance abuse and its role in the family dynamics, it might hinder the individual’s recovery.

Why Is Family Involvement Important?

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that family therapy can help by using the family’s strengths and resources to find ways for the person who abuses alcohol or drugs to live without these substances and to lessen the impact of substance abuse on both the person and the family.

There is growing recognition of the need for family involvement in recovering individuals with mental health and substance use disorders. Family involvement in therapy can be used at various stages of the recovery process. It can motivate a family member to get into treatment, stay in treatment as long as is needed, and maintain sobriety when they reintegrate into life in the outside world.

Ideally, the family members will become a part of the person’s long-term recovery. Many relapse prevention plans include family as critical support. Too often, family relationships have played a role in the development and progression of mental and substance use disorders. Using the influence of these relationships instead to help someone recover and maintain sobriety can be key. When loved ones are involved in the recovery process, stress can be reduced, positive relationships can be built, and much-needed assurance can be provided to the person in recovery that they are not alone.

What Are the Benefits?

Family involvement is one of the most important predictors of positive outcomes in treating mental and substance use disorders. Numerous studies have shown that family involvement leads to better treatment adherence, improved clinical outcomes, and increased social support.

Some of the main benefits of family involvement in the treatment and recovery process include:

  • Lowering the risk of relapse. Studies show that individuals with family support and involvement throughout their recovery may have a lower risk of relapsing after treatment. The family is often educated about addiction, its causes, triggers, and other factors that can help them navigate the recovery process. Additionally, they can provide an invaluable level of emotional and practical support during difficult times.
  • Providing useful education. It is crucial to offer addiction psychoeducation to family members close to the individual in recovery. Addiction is often misunderstood, and people often hold inaccurate beliefs about the disorder. The instruction can take place in workshops, individual and group therapy, and sessions with some of the staff at the treatment center. The family will learn about the causes of addiction, triggers, and how to best support their loved one during recovery. In addition, families will have an opportunity to ask questions and address any concerns they may have.
  • Repairing and strengthening familial relationships. Isolation is one of the most common characteristics of addiction. This can look different for each family, but usually, the individual battling addiction pushes their family away in favor of using drugs or drinking alcohol. Because of this, they often miss sports games, dance recitals, school events, and family obligations. In addition, they may forget birthdays and anniversaries because of their substance use. Missing important activities and failing to remember important dates can damage family bonds. The purpose of family involvement is to help identify and address family problems so that everyone can work toward resolving them.

Should Everyone Be Involved?

Although family involvement in the recovery process often yields higher success rates, there are situations where this inclusion can be damaging. For example, suppose a history of an individual’s physical, emotional, or sexual abuse exists within the family or friend unit. In that case, the abuser’s inclusion in treatment may prevent a client’s full recovery and worsen the client’s addiction.

Likewise, friends and family members who are currently struggling with addiction themselves may not be able to provide the level of support needed for a successful recovery. In these cases, it is often best to involve other support systems, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.

Do I Need a Group?

Taking the first step toward recovery from mental health and substance use disorders can be daunting, and it’s common to feel isolated and alone. Friends and family may want to help, but they may not understand what you’re going through.

Fortunately, there are many support groups that can help. In a support group, you can share your experiences with others in a similar situation. This can help you feel less isolated and more in control of your diagnosis. Support groups can also provide practical information and advice about treatment options and coping strategies.

If you’re interested in joining a support group, your doctor or mental health professional may be able to recommend a group that’s right for you. You can also find support groups through national organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

Recovery support groups are essential for individuals without supportive familial ties. Mental health and substance use disorders are isolating experiences, but you don’t have to go through them alone.

Inviting family and friends to be involved in the recovery process for mental health and substance use disorders can provide many benefits. Individuals who have support from loved ones often have a stronger motivation to stay sober because they feel accountable to their loved ones as well as to themselves. In addition, family and friends can provide a much-needed emotional support system during this difficult time. However, if there is a history of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse within the family unit, the abuser’s inclusion in treatment may prevent the individual’s full recovery and worsen their addiction. It is important to consult with a professional to determine whether or not involving family and friends in treatment will be beneficial or harmful. For more information on families and their role in treatment and recovery, or to discuss your specific situation, call 449 Recovery at (949) 435-7449.