About Family Involvement in Substance Abuse Treatment

Families of drug or alcohol abusers go through a lot of painful feelings as they struggle with their loved ones’ addiction. Sometimes these family members are overlooked as help is being offered to the person with the drug or alcohol problem. New initiatives have been formed in recent years that focus on substance abuse treatment and family therapy, and it has proven to be a benefit to not only the user, but also to his or her family as well. Support groups have also been organized that help family and friends deal with those with addictions.1

Support for Spouses of Individuals Struggling With Addiction

It has been said that alcoholism is a family disease, affecting the entire family.2 Perhaps spouses are the first to notice a problem with addiction, and their lives may change the most. A once-loving spouse and parent to their kids becomes withdrawn, depressed, unreliable, and hard to spend time with. It is very painful to watch someone you love wreck themselves over substances.

Support for Parents of Individuals Struggling With Addiction

Parents go through much pain also as they watch a child struggle with addiction.3 Feelings of helplessness, failure, and embarrassment are common in these situations, and often parents question where they went wrong and don’t know how to fix it.

family therapy & involvement in substance abuse treatment

Support for Children of Individuals Struggling With Addiction

Children, however, may often suffer the most. To not have the parent around to care for them properly or to spend time with them takes its toll on children. Abuse and neglect commonly go along with parents that do drugs or are alcoholics, and these kids suffer greatly. It is common for these kids to go on to abuse substances themselves one day.4

In fact, it has been shown that children of parents struggling with addiction are more than twice as likely to develop a drug and/or alcohol use disorderby young adulthood than their peers.5 Moreover, these children may also be at risk for a variety of additional negative outcomes, such as social, behavioral, and emotional problems, as well as cognitive and educational challenges.6 Considering the debilitating effects of substance abuse on children and their development, it is crucial for treatment facilities to offer appropriate family support to mitigate the associated risks.

Substance Abuse Treatment and Family Therapy

Many drug and alcohol treatment facilities also offer help to families and encourage family therapy.7 This offers benefits to family members, and it may improve treatment for the individual struggling with addiction. Often, families can provide support and resources to help the user live without the substance. Sometimes the family is even motivation for an abuser to succeed in treatment, such as a mother who works extra hard to overcome addiction in order to be with her children again.


Because addiction has such a strong effect on the family of an individual struggling with addiction, it is important for families to receive support themselves. Al-Anon and Alateen (for younger family members) offer help and hope to addicts’ families. Al-Anon holds regular meetings throughout the country for family members to share their experiences, learn from other people’s stories, and be encouraged to find their own strength and happiness.

The Importance of Family Therapy in Substance Abuse

Family involvement has a crucial role to play in substance abuse treatment and a complex one at that. Family members can be a source of support and help to the addiction treatment process. however, they should also be provided with adequate resources for managing the consequences of their loved one’s addiction. Offering support for the entire family can be of immense benefit for the overall effectiveness of treatment.8

For those family members suffering in silence while a loved-one abuses drugs or alcohol, there is help out there for both the user and the family. It is important to encourage the user to get treatment and counseling to overcome the addiction. It is also important for the family to receive treatment in order to move on with their lives. And even if the drug user or alcoholic won’t free themselves from the substance, their family members can and should get help so they aren’t left suffering alone with the problem.

Unsure where to start? Take Our Substance Abuse Self-Assessment

Take our free, 5-minute substance abuse self-assessment below if you think you or someone you love might be struggling with substance abuse. This evaluation consists of 11 yes or no questions that are designed to be used as an informational tool to assess the severity and probability of a substance use disorder. The test is free, confidential, and no personal information is needed to receive the result. Please be aware that this evaluation is not a substitute for advice from a medical doctor.