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The Importance of Family Counseling in Addiction Treatment

Family Counseling in session - managing interpersonal boundaries concept

Separated couple and their young adult children resolving family issues in group therapy

Addiction is a complex and multifaceted disease that affects not only the individual struggling with substance use disorder but also their loved ones. This can include immediate family members or even extended family members and friends. Addiction can cause significant damage or impairment to relationships, which then leads to feelings of anger, resentment, and mistrust. Therefore, family counseling or family therapy is an essential component of any model of addiction treatment, as it can play a vital role in healing and helping patients and their families rebuild or restructure their relationships.

Family counseling or family therapy is a type of therapy that involves and engages the entire family unit, including the individual struggling with addiction. The goal of family counseling or family therapy in the context of addiction treatment is to help families understand addiction, learn how to communicate effectively, and develop healthy coping mechanisms to best support the struggling individual and their own emotional health. Family counseling or family therapy is a key component of any comprehensive approach in treating addiction in rehab, regardless of whether that level of care in an inpatient, residential, or outpatient setting.

Addiction is classified as a family disease because it impacts all the members of a family unit. Families can become overwhelmed by addiction, taking on roles in the family that need to be unlearned once the individual finds recovery. Negative coping mechanisms are developed, and dangerous behaviors become habitual. During rehab, family counseling and family therapy can begin to help identify and unravel those negative patterns, behaviors, and roles.

Addiction is a chronic disease that affects the brain, leading to compulsive drug-seeking behavior by the person in active addiction despite experiencing numerous negative consequences. Addiction can cause individuals to prioritize their substance use over their relationships, their work, or the many things that they enjoy in their lives, leading to feelings of abandonment and neglect among their loved ones. This compounds fear, anger, resentment, and mistrust. Family counseling or family therapy is important during rehab in that it can help families better understand addiction, the behaviors that their loved one exhibits, and how their lives have been impacted as a result.

Family counseling and family therapy can also help families understand that addiction is not a choice but a disease that requires treatment and ongoing support. By educating families about addiction, the family members can learn to separate their loved one as a person from the disease of addiction, and furthermore to begin to develop empathy and understanding for their loved one’s struggles. By gaining a better understanding of addiction as a disease, and the behaviors that often accompany  addiction, families can be helped to avoid blaming or shaming their loved one due to their actions or behaviors, which can be extremely counterproductive to the recovery process. This includes both the individual’s personal recovery process as well as the recovery process that the entire family will no doubt need to experience.

Another benefit of family counseling or family therapy is that it can help family members learn how to communicate effectively. Even the healthiest families with the healthiest communication patterns will be impacted negatively by addiction, and in turn, their communication will suffer. Family counseling or family therapy can help families learn how to express their feelings in a healthy and constructive way, in a safe space with a professional therapist or counselor. By beginning to rebuild open, honest, and effective communication, families will have the opportunity to rebuild their relationships. Effective communication is also essential for families going through addiction treatment because it can help families set boundaries and establish healthy dynamics within the family unit. Working with a licensed professional therapist or counselor, families can learn how to communicate their needs and expectations safely and effectively, which can help them avoid enabling their loved one’s addiction in the present and into the future. By setting clear boundaries, families can help their loved one understand the consequences of their actions and encourage them to seek treatment, but also create healthy boundaries for themselves, which will communicate what the family members will allow and will not allow, and give them an ability to find emotional balance and healing.

Here at Maryland Addiction Recovery Center, family programming is a vital piece of the treatment and recovery process.  Family counseling and family therapy offers support to the individual family members of our patients in the beginning of treatment, while the identified patient begins their treatment and recovery journey. This allows for some separation of the patient and family, until the family members engage in important elements of the treatment program. Families will then begin the process of our MARC Family Recovery Program (FRP),  where they will work with our clinical staff and a small group of families of other patients, before then coming to MARC for a three-and-a-half day intensive workshop, and then continue on with treatment that will include joint sessions with their patient. It is well-known that families who engage with and participate in the family counseling and family therapy portions of a loved one’s addiction treatment experience offer their loved ones better, healthier support and lower the chances of their loved one relapsing. It is also well-known that families who engage with and participate in their own recovery offer a higher chance for their loved one to find their own personal recovery and a high quality of life.

If you or someone you know needs help for addiction or co-occurring disorder issues, please give us a call. Maryland Addiction Recovery Center offers the most comprehensive dual-diagnosis addiction treatment in the Mid-Atlantic area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or your loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at (866) 929-4318 or email our team at For more information on all of our drug addiction, alcohol addiction, and co-occurring disorder services and recovery resources, please visit our website at

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