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The implications of substance use disorder (SUD) and mental health problems rarely ever affect solely one individual; rather, these implications stretch through the individual’s immediate support circle, affecting loved ones in unique ways. Thus, it is essential to recognize that treatment and recovery are family endeavors. Not only does this help the individual in need of recovery understand that they are not alone on this journey, but it also enables loved ones to work through and persevere beyond their own experiences of mental health and addiction. Moreover, approaching treatment and recovery together as a family can ensure that all family members are on the same page as one another heals from the lasting impact of these conditions. 

At CCM, we believe that addiction and mental health issues impact the family unit before, during, and even after the intervention and treatment process begins. As we work to address one individual’s need for treatment and recovery, we also work to support and guide their family into a new dynamic to inform lasting behavioral change among all family members. Our holistic and intimate approach to family wellness is our core philosophy, and by treating treatment and recovery as family endeavors, we can establish lasting healing and wellness for all involved. 

Recognizing Substance Abuse and Mental Health Issues as Family Endeavors

To understand treatment and recovery as family endeavors, we must first address substance abuse and mental health issues as circumstances that impact the entire family unit. First, a publication by Social Work in Public Health sheds light on the impact of SUD on the family, stating, “Each family and each family member is uniquely affected by the individual using substances including but not limited to having unmet developmental needs, impaired attachment, economic hardship, legal problems, emotional distress, and sometimes violence being perpetrated against him or her.” Likewise, similar ripple effects can be felt when one family member struggles with a mental health disorder. 

Understanding Family Systems Theory

Family systems theory can help individuals and families better understand human behavior in a family context. According to the aforementioned article, “All the family therapy models share the basic principal of family systems theory that is that the individual cannot be fully understood or successfully treated without first understanding how that individual functions in his or her family system.” 

Thus, using family systems theory, professionals and families can better recognize what family dynamics, roles, and patterns of behavior may contribute to harmful behaviors among family members. Similarly, family systems theory can also help family members understand what patterns of behavior must be changed to promote healing and recovery together as a family. 

For instance, consider some of the behavioral implications of a parent who regularly engages in alcohol use. Whether under the influence or enduring withdrawal symptoms when sober, this parent may exhibit a wide range of unstable behaviors from aggression and violence to complete detachment in the lives of their loved ones. 

In response, their spouse and children may adopt unique sets of behavior in an effort to establish a sense of normalcy, more commonly referred to as homeostasis. As the aforementioned article explains, “The idea of homeostasis is key to understanding the effect of SUDs on the family in that each family member tends to function in such a way that keeps the whole system in balance even if it is not healthy for specific individuals.” 

Family Roles, Role Confusion, and Feedback Loops

The adoption of enabling behaviors is a common example of efforts to establish homeostasis in a family unit when one parent is using alcohol. For instance, children and spouses may minimize the severity of their loved one’s alcohol use to other family members and friends. This can lead to role confusion and broken communication dynamics, which can contribute to more severe family dysfunction. For deeper clarity, consider the following family roles:

  • The victim: Assumes themself as powerless, yet unwilling to take responsibility for maladaptive behaviors and undesirable circumstances. They seek for rescuers to solve their problems.
  • The rescuer: Intervenes on behalf of the victim to save them from perceived harm. Though their intentions may be good, their use of enabling behaviors keeps the victim dependent on them.
  • The persecutor: Blames victims and criticizes the behaviors of rescuers without assisting or finding a solution to the problem. They keep victims oppressed by continuously finding fault.

Moreover, when a family is impacted by substance abuse or mental health disorders, family members may find themselves in a feedback loop between these three roles. Furthermore, to reestablish or create new and healthy family roles and dynamics, all family members must be open to participating in treatment and recovery services. 

Addressing Treatment and Recovery as Family Endeavors

When families are impacted by addiction and mental health issues, there comes a time when each family member will experience significant exhaustion from being stuck in broken family dynamics. Unfortunately, many families even begin to lose hope in a brighter and healthier future. Yet, with the guidance and support of CCM, individuals and families can work to foster lasting healing from broken family dynamics with the establishment of modified behavior change, new family roles, and strengthened communication and understanding. 

At CCM, we offer a wide range of holistic behavioral health solutions, empowering clients to discover and maintain long-term wellness in a variety of ways. From treatment consultation to treatment and intervention services, recovery specialists, tele-therapeutic support, and more, we have the resources and knowledge that families need to commit to lasting behavior change and lifelong recovery. When in doubt, CCM is here to help. 

Substance abuse and mental health issues affect more than solely the individual struggling with them; rather, these challenges create ripple effects that impact loved ones in unique ways. To understand treatment and recovery as family endeavors, individuals must first recognize the impact of addiction and mental health disorders on family dysfunction, including role confusion, feedback loops, and more. Rather than one family member working to establish sobriety and recovery on their own, families can work together to clarify roles and create new family dynamics to sustain lasting behavior change and communication skills among all family members. At CCM, we are here to provide support and guidance to families seeking lasting wellness and recovery. Learn more by calling (855) 467-3226 today.