Putting Value on Family Therapy

Wednesday, January 3, 2018
Laura Bishop, MS, Executive Director


Oftentimes, when an individual is struggling with addiction, the sole focus is on them, and the family members get lost in the chaos. I understand this firsthand, as I’ve spent over a decade working in treatment addiction, and have witnessed the dire effects alcoholism and drug use has on children, spouses, and partners. It’s a dire “family disease,” one that contributes to many psychosocial and psychosomatic issues.

Having been raised myself by an alcoholic parent, the level of anxiety and unease I felt as a result of growing up in so much uncertainty was challenging to say the least. What started out as some underlying fear, lead to anxiety and full-blown panic attacks. Eventually my environment and internal turmoil lead to insecurity and an unhealthy sense of self, which I went on to later perpetuate in my personal relationships. Constantly trying to be perfect, in hopes of changing my father's behavior, or somehow coerce him into putting down that drink never worked, but I kept trying. This cycle only prolonged the issues, evidenced by the growing symptoms of a greater problem within the family, making it harder to recognize the level of dysfunction.

When my parent decided to get sober, it was an exhilarating and frightening time. I was preoccupied with the possibility of a slip or full-blown relapse. I had no reprieve from the daily stomach aches and anxiety I was now accustomed to living with. And that’s when I was encouraged to try my own recovery program, while also addressing the illness within my family unit. In doing so, this type of therapy, lead to healing, and provided me with an opportunity to process my own experiences, while my father attempted to emerge from his addiction as well. What a blessing!

Addiction effects everyone. Yet so does recovery. Taking that first step, and admitting there’s a problem should be praised and honored for any individual who has struggled. For the family, change happens when the unit gets into the thick of the clinical work together. That’s where the real work begins; improving the health of both the addict and their support system. For change can’t happen alone, and it certainly can’t happen without everyone on board to some degree, at least not without some bumpy roads along the way.

Family therapy is a crucial component of the therapeutic model at North Bay Recovery Center. Taking an integrated approach, we hold monthly workshops dedicated to the direct needs of the family members, as well as offering family therapy and reunification meetings. We approach these lost ones with empathy and love, while holding a safe space for them to fall apart, be heard, find a solution and redirect the treatment course to positively impact and change the family as a whole. 

Collaborative care is at the forefront of the treatment experience. We believe the work starts with the family, and our program is designed to support the improvement of interpersonal relationships, parent unification, relief from codependency, and the repair of family systems. Without this cohesive model, unhealthy patterns and communication styles continue, making the transition for the addict difficult, and at times unsuccessful. Family therapy is an important tool, one that holds great value for long-term recovery.\