The Role of Family Therapy in Adolescent Outpatient Programs

Jun 22, 2023 | Uncategorized

Substance misuse and other mental health conditions frequently impact the entire family dynamic. Engaging core family members in the treatment plan can play a vital role in the recovery of teens with substance use disorder (SUD). 

“The family context holds information about how SUDs develop, are maintained, and what can positively or negatively influence the treatment of the disorder,” wrote Lander, Howsare, and Byrne in their 2013 study on the impact of substance use disorder on families and children. “Understanding the current developmental stage a family is in helps inform assessment of impairment and determination of appropriate interventions. SUDs negatively affect emotional and behavioral patterns from the inception of the family, resulting in poor outcomes for the children and adults with SUDs.”

Family members can play an important role at any level of care, including in an intensive outpatient program (IOP). Participating in family counseling as part of the outpatient treatment of the child will provide all family members with a better understanding of addiction as a disease and their optimal role in achieving recovery for their loved ones. 

“For example, if a parent sees a SUD as a moral failing and thinks his or her adolescent child should just use ‘willpower’ to quit, this will be important to know if the treating therapist is working from a disease model of addiction,” explained Lander et al. “Education with the family about SUDs, their development, progression, and treatment will be needed. When family members have appropriate education and treatment for themselves they can play a significant role in the abusers’ recognition of the problem and acceptance of treatment.”

They point out that when one person in a family begins to change their behavior, the change will affect the entire family system. “It is helpful to think of the family system as a mobile: when one part in a hanging mobile moves, this affects all parts of the mobile but in different ways, and each part adjusts to maintain a balance in the system. One consequence of this accommodation can be that various family members may inadvertently sabotage treatment with their own behaviors as they respond to the change in the individual using substances.”

Educating family members about addiction and integrating them as much as possible into the treatment process has been shown to improve outcomes—significantly.

“The family system must be factored into the understanding of the disease development and maintenance as well as be included in the efforts necessary for successful ongoing treatment,” wrote Lander, Howsare, and Byrne in the summary of their study. “The earlier we can intervene in the progression of a SUD, the better the outcomes for all family members.”

At Avanti, we also believe that recovery from addiction is a process that should involve the immediate family. We have developed an effective and highly involved method of family counseling, focusing on multiple factors involving the existing family dynamic by examining the family unit and understanding the role of each individual family member. Ultimately, the aim is to restructure the family dynamic into something healthy, functional, and beneficial for all involved.

Our meetings are available to provide concerned family members with the tools that they need to effectively support their loved ones in the recovery process. For more information about our IOP and family programming call us at (720) 753-4030. 

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