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Treating the Whole Family

Whole family treatment is so important in the addiction treatment process. Recovery is made easier when the entire family is on-board with treatment, and is willing to take a look at their own maladaptive behaviors. 45% of the US population has observed alcoholism or alcoholic behaviors in their family. It is estimated that more than eight million children, younger than age 18, live with at least one adult who has a SUD (substance use disorder). This is a rate of more than 1 in 10 children. The studies of families with SUDs reveal patterns that significantly influence child development and the likelihood that a child will struggle with emotional, behavioral, or substance use problems.

Whole Family Treatment

The effects of a substance use disorder (SUD), like alcoholism, are felt by the whole family. The spouse, the kids, even the grandparents are affected. The family context holds information about how SUDs develop, are maintained, and what can positively or negatively influence the treatment of the disorder. The negative impacts of parental SUDs on the family include disruption of attachment, rituals, roles, routines, communication, social life, and finances. Families in which there is a parental SUD are characterized by an environment of secrecy, loss, conflict, violence or abuse, emotional chaos, role reversal, and fear.

The other big factor is change. The newly sober person, how they think and act, is much different than the person their family knows. It’s like if the family moves to a new house and everyone has to get used to the new place. Not only is the house different, but there’s a new grocery store, new neighbors, and a whole new way of living. It’s all positive, but it’s an adjustment. We, as human beings, resist change— even when it’s to our advantage. Families try to maintain “homeostasis” or balance and stability. Even when there are huge problems, we try and maintain the status quo. Why? Because we’re used to it, we know how to deal with it and changing it will upset the apple cart. It’s like repeating the same play over and over. You know your part, what you’re supposed to say and when. It’s comfortable and familiar. But the play always ends in the same way, disaster.

The Importance of Family Involvement

Treating the individual without family involvement may limit the effectiveness of treatment for two main reasons:

1. It ignores the devastating impact of SUDs on the family system, leaving family members untreated.


2. It does not recognize the family as a potential system of support for change.

In other words, the family and its dynamics will affect if and how someone develops and copes with an addiction. The family dynamics and how the family interact, will affect the outcome of someone trying to get and stay sober.


The goal of treatment is to maximize the possibilities of a guest getting and staying sober and minimize the difficulties. We can help with that by involving the family positively with the guest.

Education with the family about SUDs, their development, progression, and treatment is very helpful. When family members have appropriate education and treatment for themselves, they can play a significant role in their loved one’s recognition of the problem and acceptance of treatment. When dad and mom are educated on how addiction and treatment work, time and energy won’t be wasted on things like “ John just needs to snap out of it , he just needs some discipline and willpower” or “he got sober , I lost my drinking buddy! He can have a few beers with me, I’ll watch him.” The important part of involving the family with addiction treatment is getting on the same page, to set your loved one up for success in sobriety.

Family Support

At Royal Life Centers , our contact with family usually starts in the admissions process, as many admissions are initiated by family members. When the guest arrives at Royal Life Centers a “safe call “is made to a family member or friend the guest selects. Guests have weekly phone calls to the family with their therapist while in inpatient treatment (detox and residential). When our guests get to the PHP level families are welcome to come in person and have a family session with the guest and our therapists. The goals are to interact, collaborate and coordinate the guest’s progress in their recovery. Royal Life Centers also has a Family House at certain facility locations, which is a house specifically for families to book for lodging while they visit their loved one. Your family’s stay with us during their visit is at no cost; we want families to be able to heal together, which is why we provide the Family House.

Family support can be the number one factor in a guest staying sober long term. The whole family on the same page, knowing what to expect, knowing what to do and helping each other to achieve recovery goals can be a game changer for everyone. Instead of repeating the old behaviors that got nowhere, a team approach using new skills and actions benefit everyone and can make the family healthy and whole again.

Reach Out

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please reach out to us at 877-RECOVERY or (888) 557-7990. Our addiction specialists are available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Because We Care.

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