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Surviving the Hurricane that Is Addiction: Why Family Treatment Is Necessary

Family therapy session - addiction treatment center in Virginia concept image

When a hurricane blows into a community, it rips the community apart, leaving vibrant neighborhoods reduced to piles of lumber and metal. Addiction causes the same devastating destruction, not only to the addicted individual but to their family members as well, wreaking havoc on emotional, mental, and physical health, as we see every day at Encore Outpatient Services, a treatment center in Virginia.

Research done in the past 25 years has shown that family treatment is effective in improving family members’ health, the well-being of the family overall, and improving treatment outcomes for the family member with addiction.1 As a 2012 study noted, “family-based models are not only a viable treatment alternative for the treatment of drug abuse, but are now consistently recognized among the most effective approaches for treating both adults and adolescents with drug problems.”2

The Dysfunctional Dance of Addiction

The truth is that no family can go through addiction without developing unhealthy coping and communication skills. Some of those dysfunctional behaviors may have preceded the addiction and gotten worse. Others arise because of the addiction.

Ideally, both the person suffering with the addiction and the family system receive treatment. Patients at Encore’s facilities often have transformative experiences while in treatment. They learn a range of skills, including coping, boundary setting, and communication, to better deal with their relationships and lives. In order for the person to maintain those gains achieved while in treatment, it’s important that the family has also received psychoeducation about addiction and recovery, has learned new ways to communicate, how to set and maintain boundaries, and has developed an improved understanding of the social dynamics that exist in the family.

Family members are often still trapped in patterns they are not aware of or are incapable of changing on their own, as we have often seen at Encore’s treatment center in Virginia. The stress of these negative patterns can cause physical health problems as well as emotional and mental health issues in affected family members. Treatment for families may include attending support groups, participating in family programs, or engaging in individual, couples, or family therapy.

Addiction is a dysfunctional dance that can’t change until all the dancers get help, support, and guidance. It’s not surprising and it’s not anyone’s fault. Substance use disorder is a disease. Like any disease, it will create symptoms and issues that require treatment, for the addicted individual and the family members.

For family members, dealing with addiction may create anxiety, fear, anger, and guilt, among other emotions. In the early stage of addiction, there is worry and anxiety about what they see taking place with their loved one. As each family member tries to cope, maladaptive and harmful coping skills can become normal and feel necessary, like trying to control the loved one’s behavior or snooping through their phone, laptop, or belongings. When addiction continues, there is grief, even shame. As the disease progresses, family members can feel tortured with worry that their loved one could die as a result of the addiction.

Family Treatment at Encore’s Treatment Center in Virginia

Family treatment gives everyone in the family the tools they need to rebuild. Like rebuilding after a hurricane, treatment puts a solid foundation for recovery in place and creates a structure that enables the family to build healthy, interdependent relationships. The family treatment we provide at Encore’s treatment center in Virginia:

  • Helps the family learn about enabling behaviors and examine their own behaviors in that context.
  • Teaches new ways to communicate – open, honest, direct, assertive.
  • Teaches new ways to solve problems.
  • Provides guidance and support around setting healthy boundaries that are realistic and enforceable.
  • Encourages family members to pursue their own therapy.
  • Offers resources like recovery and support groups.
  • Encourages family members to find activities that they love and engage or re-engage in those passions.

At Encore Recovery, we offer:

  • A weekly family support group: The group includes alumni family members as well as family members whose loved one is still in treatment. Facilitated by a skilled and experienced therapist, the group takes on different topics each week. Topics range from learning about substance use disorder and its effects and mental health challenges, to what codependence, anxiety, and depression are and how they manifest. The group also learns how to make positive, healthy changes to their own behavior. Everyone has an opportunity to discuss how addiction has affected them and their experiences. Family members who participate in our program who have met at our treatment center in Virginia develop connections that turn into supportive and lasting friendships. They share stories and resources, creating a network of support that enables everyone to heal and move forward.


  • Family sessions: Family members join the patient to work with a therapist who can help them see the unhealthy patterns that are in place and guide them to identify and put in place healthy behaviors, such as setting boundaries, healthy communication, and understanding relapse and how to deal with it. The therapist can also help family members deal with underlying issues that may be present in the patient, like depression, anxiety, and trauma.

Joy of Recovery

Research has shown that treating the whole family results in better treatment outcomes and improves the health of everyone in the family. At Encore’s treatment center in Virginia, we have seen how much happier and healthier our family members in recovery are as a result of the treatment they have received.

For more information about our addiction treatment programs, contact Encore Recovery today!

1 Ventura, A.S., and Bagley, S.M. To improve substance use disorder prevention, treatment

and recovery: engage the family. Journal of Addiction Medicine 2017;11: 339–341.

2 Rowe, C.L. Family therapy for drug abuse: review and updates 2003–2010.

Journal of Marital and Family Therapy 2012;38:59–81.

Addiction is hard

Getting help shouldn’t be.

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