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Medically Reviewed

Family Therapy for Drug Abuse and Addiction

- 4 sections

Medically Verified: 2/1/24

Medical Reviewer:

Sahil Talwar, PA-C, MBA


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Family Therapy for Drug Abuse and Addiction

Family therapy is used in a variety of drug abuse and addiction treatment programs. Even if only one family member is experiencing addiction, the entire family is likely affected. Consequently, family therapy is a vital aspect of addiction treatment as drug abuse is far-reaching. This type of therapy involves a patient’s entire support network and is proven to be highly successful in treatment programs. In fact, drug abuse and addiction treatment programs that use family therapy have better outcomes in families who participate than those who do not. Sadly, failing to address dysfunctional family relationships in recovery actually hinders a person’s ability to stay sober. 


If you or a loved one is seeking help for addiction, you may wonder what family therapy is, what it looks like, and how it can help you and your family. Let’s take a deeper look at family therapy for drug abuse and how it aids addiction recovery. After all, it is a vital part of substance abuse treatment. It isn’t an aspect of rehab that you want to neglect.


What is Family Therapy?

Family therapy for drug abuse at addiction treatment programs consists of an approach that uses the family’s resources and strengths to help their loved one stay sober and heal the family dynamics. Furthermore, this type of counseling aims to reduce the harm caused by addiction to the entire family. 


An important part of working with families in counseling is navigating the challenges they have faced and teaching healthy behaviors so that the family can heal from complicated relationships. Family therapy for drug abuse also focuses on addiction education. After all, the more educated everyone is, the better equipped they will be to handle their loved one’s addiction and support him or her in recovery. Overall, the goals of family therapy include:[1][2]

  • Identifying and shifting family roles
  • Improving communication between family members
  • Building trust within the family
  • Learning how to help an addicted loved one
  • Becoming familiar with harmful and unhealthy behaviors
  • Discussing each person’s needs and how to have those needs met
  • Preventing substance abuse from passing from one generation to the next


Family therapy sessions that are part of drug abuse and addiction treatment programs differ in style. The type of therapy, number of sessions, and more depend heavily on the specific needs of the family. Arguably the most important component of these therapeutic interventions is that each participant feels comfortable, safe, and as though their voice is heard. 


What to Expect

The National Institute on Drug Abuse suggests that Family Behavior Therapy (FBT) for drug abuse and addiction should also address co-occurring problems. This means that in addition to substance abuse, behaviors, mental health, family conflict, childhood trauma, and more should be addressed.[3] Sessions are directed and guided by a licensed counselor and involve the patient along with at least one significant other or family member. Throughout the sessions, the therapist engages participants by teaching them how to apply behavioral strategies and communication skills into their day to day lives. Goals are set for the family each session and are evaluated during the next. Some types of family therapy strategies that are used include: 

  • Multisystemic therapy – addressing the factors associated with negative behaviors and substance abuse
  • Multidimensional family therapy – helps aid in developmental tasks such as decision making, problem-solving, communication skills, parenting styles, and more
  • Brief strategic family therapy – targets and reduces family interactions that provoke drug or alcohol abuse or associated behaviors
  • Functional family therapy – intervenes in problems caused by dysfunctional family roles, creates healthy boundaries, and imposes contingency management techniques
  • Adolescent community reinforcement approach and assertive continuing care – provides ongoing support and reinforcement strategies to families by promoting community involvement and relapse prevention


Family therapy for drug abuse and addiction is offered in many different settings. For example, many residential or day treatments offer such programs. In addition, outpatient recovery programs and independent counselors also offer these therapies. Dealing with addiction in the family is difficult and causes emotions to run high. However, family therapy aims to reduce the harm caused by substance abuse and instill healthy family dynamics.


How Does Family Therapy Help Drug Abuse and Addiction Treatment?

When the entire family is on board to help and support an addicted loved one, the individual is likely to have better outcomes. Having support, especially from family members, provides individuals with a sense of belonging, comfort, and love. Furthermore, substance abuse causes widespread problems that may reach family members – and families deserve to heal, too. Some benefits of family therapy for addiction include: 

  • Gain an understanding of substance abuse, addiction, and associated behaviors
  • Identify and change unhealthy family dynamics that cause dysfunction or harm
  • Set the standard for healthy, honest, and supportive communication
  • Establish trust among family members that may have been broken due to addiction
  • Allow each individual to express their emotions, concerns, needs, wants, and goals
  • Set healthy boundaries between family members (ex. Stop a mother from enabling her son/daughter)
  • Learn the importance of self-care for both the addicted and his or her family
  • Help hold the addict accountable throughout his or her recovery
  • Provide a strong family support network that the addict can rely on
  • Clear up and heal from past misgivings, hurt feelings, and troubles within the family unit


Addiction is an insidious disease that touches more than just the person abusing substances. Fortunately, therapeutic family interventions can help restore healthy family functioning and encourage long-term sobriety. 


“Family owned and operated, we take pride in our commitment to healing families as a whole. Recovery is not only for those who have abused drugs and alcohol but also for those who have suffered the trauma of loving someone with substance use disorder. Let our family help yours!”


If you or a loved one is ready for help, contact an addiction specialist today to learn more about family therapy programs at Carolina Center for Recovery.