Family Therapy Treatment Program | Family Recovery & Treatment Plans Vs Family Counseling

Family Therapy Treatment Program

Family is a primary source of attachment, nurturing, and socialization, and each family member is differently affected by an individual using substances. For instance, families may experience problems such as damaged attachment, emotional distress, developmental challenges, economic issues, legal problems, and sometimes even domestic violence.1

Family therapy programs emphasize the interdependent nature of family relationships and the way they aid an individual struggling with addiction.

What Is Family Therapy?

Family therapy is a collection of therapeutic approaches that share a belief in family‐level assessment and intervention.2 These approaches generally focus on a large variety of problems in addition to a family member’s substance problems. They also concentrate on family communication, some other disorders, and problems with school or work attendance. The goal of these family-focused treatment programs is to meet the needs of all family members.

The Benefits of Family Treatment Programs

There are numerous benefits of family therapy programs.3 They may include the following:

  • Improved communication among family members.
  • Finding acceptance and support from the therapist.
  • Understanding and organization of the family structure.
  • Improving and strengthening the desire for change.
  • Establishing possible accountability.

All these benefits help with the family’s determination to change negative behaviors and the way they communicate. Another benefit of family therapy is that it does not observe substance abuse as an isolated problem but in the context of family. This is why this type of therapy shares some similar features with 12‐step programs.4

family therapy and treatment programs

What Are the Different Types of Family Therapy Approaches?

There are numerous approaches that can be applied in family therapy treatment programs. Today, there are four main family therapy models used as the foundation for substance abuse treatment:5

  1. The family systems model believes that families function and interact in the context of their substance abuse. In that way, the family keeps balance (homeostasis) while adapting to substance abuse.
  2. The family disease model considers substance abuse as a disease that affects the whole family. There is a danger that substance abuser’s family members might develop codependence. As a result, that causes them to enable the individual’s substance abuse.
  3. Multidimensional family therapy (MDFT) incorporates a few different approaches which focus on the links between awareness, emotionality, behavior, and environmental input.
  4. The cognitive-behavioral approach sees family interactions aiding unfit behaviors (such as substance abuse).

In terms of family-based approaches, several specific types of family-based treatments were proven to be beneficial in adolescent substance abuse treatment programs.6 They include the following:

  • Multidimensional family therapy (MDFT)is a family- and community-based treatment. It is intended for adolescents who abuse substances and also for individuals at high risk for problematic behaviors.
  • Multisystemic therapy (MST)is a thorough and demanding family- and community-based treatment. It has proved to be effective with adolescents and also with individuals who tend to behave violently.
  • Brief strategic family therapy (BSFT) is based on a family systems approach to treatment. Here, it’s considered that one family member’s problematic behaviors are rooted in damaging family interactions.
  • Functional family therapy (FFT) blends a family systems view of family functioning with behavioral techniques. The aim of this approach is to improve interaction, problem-solving, and parenting skills.
  • Family behavior therapy (FBT) combines behavioral contracting along and contingency management in order to deal with substance abuse and other problematic behaviors.

The Effectiveness of Family Treatment Programs

The studies of the success of family treatment programs are limited, but they indicate that these approaches should be included more often in substance abuse treatments.

Evidence suggests that substance abuse treatments which include family therapy are more effective than the treatments that do not include it. Family therapy was shown to improve user’s engagement and retention in treatment and it might prevent relapse. The results showed that the individual’s drug and alcohol use reduced.7

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Family therapy programs have several goals, but the major one is prevention. It is essential to prevent substance abuse from being passed from one generation to another. Family therapy can provide answers to questions such as these:8

  • Counseling and education also need to put emphasis on the social, as well as physical consequences of substance use disorders. Family treatment programs typically involve counseling that is conducted with respect and care. These programs avoid counseling approaches that might have a negative effect on users and their families, such as shaming, harsh confrontation, and intrusive monitoring.Counselors and therapists work with users in a way that helps them build self-esteem. They also make sure not to use approaches that the patients might find aggressive or threatening. Counseling should focus on users’ recovery and relapse prevention.9

  • In family therapy programs, users decide who they think should be involved in therapy. It is important to identify those who are important to the user since the counselor or therapist cannot decide who belongs to the person’s family. For the purposes of therapy, anyone who maintains the household and provides finances and support, and with whom the user has a strong and long-lasting emotional connection may be considered family. No one should be included or excluded automatically.10

  • The very concept of a family implies a connection on an emotional level that can greatly benefit the user. In case the user has geographically distant family members, the therapist needs to involve them in the therapeutic process, despite geographical distance. They can have a crucial role in substance abuse treatments.


1. Byrne, M., Howsare, J. & Lander, L. (2013). The Impact of Substance Use Disorders on Families and Children: From Theory to Practice.

2. National Institute On Drug Abuse. (2014). Principles of Adolescent Substance Use Disorder Treatment: A Research-Based Guide. Family-Based Approaches.

3. JBS International, Inc., & The Center for Children and Family Futures, Inc. (2007). Family-Centered Treatment for Women With Substance Use Disorders – History, Key Elements, and Challenges

4. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2004). Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 39.

5. Pequegnat W., Bauman L.J., Bray J.H., DiClemente R., DiIorio C., Hoppe S.K., (…) Szapocznik J. (2001).Measurement of the role of families in prevention and adaptation to HIV/AIDS. AIDS and Behavior. 5(1):1–19.