The Recovery Village provides guidance, support and training for families looking to heal relationships affected by the destructive force of addiction.

  • Family therapy sessions at The Recovery Village are an important part of your loved one’s recovery.
  • The Recovery Village incorporates family counseling for addiction into our different levels of care and treatment.
  • The Recovery Village can teach families how to support their loved one during recovery and after discharge.

Addiction inflicts damage to relationships with family and loved ones. It ruptures trust and communication and can contribute to emotional instability, financial difficulties and lack of safety.

Repairing fractured family connections is a central goal of drug and alcohol rehabilitation. During treatment, rehabilitation facilities use family programs to give families and loved ones the opportunity to find healthy ways to support a person whose addiction may have caused them pain and suffering. Patients gain full awareness of the extent of addiction’s damage in these relationships, and family members get to understand some of the common roles they may have played in the progression of addiction. Family programs and therapy allow all parties to feel heard, listen to others and appropriately interpret and understand their feelings. The knowledge gleaned from this rewarding process provides patients and families with essential insights as they work to make meaningful amends and move forward from active addiction.

Family Roles in Addiction

When confronted with addiction, clients and their families often engage in reinforced patterns of behavior, usually without any conscious knowledge that they are doing so. This phenomenon in families was described in the 1960s and 1970s by psychotherapist Virginia Satir and others, then adapted specifically to by psychotherapists Claudia Black and Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse in the 1980s. It is therefore of critical importance that family members recognize which roles they may be assuming.

The roles that family members play include:

  • The Addict: A person suffering from active addiction uses substances to cope with difficult emotions or circumstances. The addicted individual tends to create chaos and tension within a family and avoids responsibility for doing so through denial, rationalization or other types of resistance.
  • The Enabler: This family member tries to protect the addicted person from consequences and pain. This often occurs to the enabler’s detriment since enablers take on a large, exhausting role and tend to neglect their own self-care in the process. The enabler personality type often makes excuses for or justifies the addict’s behavior, disproportionately assuming responsibility for the damage done by the addicted family member, thus keeping the addicted person shielded from the accountability necessary to recover. The enabler role tends to be the epitome of codependency.
  • The Hero: These role players tend to be the “star” of the family and — in an unconscious attempt to reduce the destructive force of addiction — achieve high levels of success and accomplishment. They try to represent the family’s best qualities to the world. Internally, however, this role tends to create perfectionistic tendencies and high anxiety levels. These qualities also can lead to rigidity, poor communication and the inability of the hero to ask for help.
  • The Scapegoat: Compared to the other roles, the scapegoat is less passive-aggressive. In the face of another family member’s addiction, scapegoats tend to become directly defiant, acting out in unhealthy ways for attention. As the name suggests, people in the scapegoat role can assume the polar opposite position of the hero, being underachievers and acting irresponsibly, sometimes engaging in substance misuse as well.
  • The Mascot: Mascots use humor to diffuse the tension and pain caused by addiction. Humor becomes a means of control and is used to gain attention, but it also results in emotional underdevelopment. As a consequence, those in the mascot role are usually immature. They do not often earn family trust and are viewed as poor decision-makers.
  • The Mediator: Individuals in this family role act as go-betweens to other family members. They seek to stamp out anger and hostility, even when such emotions may be part of healthy communication. As a result, mediators tend to have a high tolerance for inappropriate and self-sacrificing behavior and avoid conflict. The product of these tendencies can be deep wells of fear and unspoken resentments.
  • The Lost Child: The primary defense against the chaos of addiction for the lost child is invisibility; thus, the lost child gets forgotten within the family. Those in this role become independent, immersing themselves in solitary activities. They ask very little of others, leading to unmet needs and low self-esteem.

These roles are not always clearly divided between individual family members. Often, one person assumes multiple roles (e.g., hero and enabler), or multiple family members may play a single role (e.g., children become the collective “scapegoat” in a family with an alcohol-dependent parent).

The Importance Of Family Involvement In Addiction Recovery

It is common for clients and family members to experience many emotions during treatment. For example, people may notice feeling:

  • Guilty
  • Resentful
  • Lonely
  • Angry
  • Jealous
  • Relief
  • Sad

Family therapy can provide a safe space to work through these emotions with a trained therapist. 

Family counseling for addiction can also help teach a family how to navigate changing family dynamics as a person moves through recovery. Family members learn how to change unhealthy behaviors and patterns developed during the addiction, like enabling or co-dependent type behaviors. Family therapy can teach the family healthier ways to interact as family members.

Treatment Options for Families (Parents and Children)

At The Recovery Village, we may offer several treatment options to work with families, as medically appropriate.

Inpatient Rehab: During inpatient rehab, your loved one will live onsite at our facility and work through their personalized treatment plan. They will receive intensive support and 24-hour monitoring. We may offer family therapy sessions during the inpatient rehab program as part of recovery, as medically appropriate.

Outpatient Rehab: When your loved one either completed inpatient rehab or does not require the intensive monitoring and support of inpatient rehab, they can attend outpatient rehab. During outpatient rehab, the patient will live at home and be free to participate in treatment on a schedule that best suits their needs. 

With outpatient rehab, your loved one lives in the family home. They can continue to attend work or school. Outpatient rehab places more responsibility on your loved one to maintain sobriety. 

Dual Diagnosis: If your loved one has a mental health and substance abuse diagnosis, they can receive treatment for both simultaneously. When treatment addresses both diagnoses as part of a comprehensive program, treatment will have a greater impact and support recovery. Substance abuse treatment and family therapy in a dual diagnosis program will help the family work through mental health diagnoses and addiction issues.

Aftercare: Aftercare planning involves setting up a plan for your loved one upon completing treatment with The Recovery Village. The aftercare plan would likely involve: 

  • Establishing a strategy for relapse 
  • Referrals for any outpatient providers such as therapists, psychiatrists or medical care
  • Support groups

The aftercare plan will incorporate the family’s needs and may involve referrals for the family members as well.

Benefits of Family Rehab Programs

During family therapy, family members may engage in activities that help the family and the addicted loved one. The family can meet with the treatment team and participate in group and family therapy sessions. During these times, the family can work to learn how to:

  • Improve communication
  • Set healthy boundaries
  • Recognize triggers for use
  • Recognize situations where limits must be set on potentially harmful behaviors 
  • Rebuild trust
  • Create a plan for a smoother transition home upon discharge
  • Learn about the addiction and recovery process

Disadvantages of Family Rehab Programs

Sometimes, rehab can create challenges and concerns for family members and the loved one with addiction. Some common concerns about disadvantages include:

  • Impacts on custody arrangements or losing custody of children: While The Recovery Village cannot ensure that people will not lose custody of their children, getting addiction treatment will help you recover and improve your parenting relationship. As you recover, you can work towards a safer and more stable home for your children.
  • Fears of losing a job: Certain laws and guidelines can protect you from losing your job if you go to rehab. Situations differ, so look into your specific state. You can plan your appointments around your work schedule if you attend outpatient rehab.
  • Concerns about how people perceive rehab: Unfortunately, some may place judgment or not understand addiction and recovery. If your family and loved one need rehab, that treatment is much more important than anyone else might think. Taking a step towards recovery is a brave and powerful way to improve your life and your family’s functioning.

Remember that The Recovery Village can discuss any concerns about treatment with you, and we can work together to find solutions and incorporate them into your treatment plan.

Convincing a Loved One To Get Treatment 

Individuals in active addiction usually are not fully aware of the damage they created and do not seek treatment until the consequences are too dire or urgent to be ignored. Families may need to serve as catalysts for convincing their loved one to seek treatment but may encounter significant resistance from an addicted person. Sometimes the family ecosystem has adapted so strongly to the unhealthy environment that families may not be aware of the extent of the problem. Legally binding and involuntary commitments to treatment are utilized in some circumstances, and the social pressure of staged interventions can also provide significant assistance in convincing an individual to seek treatment.

Supporting a Loved One in Rehab

People in recovery often receive a large morale boost when their families and friends are involved in their treatment. Such support is invaluable, but it must also remain healthy in its approach; supporting a loved one in rehab involves recognizing when unhelpful patterns may develop.

It is critically important for family members to learn to engage in healthy self-care. Family members who can do so are far better able to support their loved ones in recovery. At times, this support must come from an emotional distance, especially from family members who have been negatively affected by addictive behaviors.

Recovering as a Family

Multiple studies show that family involvement in recovery efforts leads to longer stretches of abstinence, fewer instances of return to drug use and better psychosocial and treatment outcomes. The benefits of family involvement during recovery can extend far past the immediate episode of addiction treatment. Challenging the usual maladaptive modes of communication and helping the family replace them with healthier alternatives is a focus of much of the effort in family programs.

Who Can Attend Family Programs?

In addiction treatment, the word “family” is highly inclusive. It can refer to direct relatives of the person in recovery — spouses, partners, siblings and children — but it can also expand to include extended family, a close circle of friends or anyone else likely to have significant personal interactions with an individual in addiction recovery. Any of these individuals can and should attend family programs when possible. The only true requirement for attending these programs is a desire to understand addiction’s impact on family members and the addicted person.

Family Support Groups

Mutual support groups, such as 12-step programs, often play a major role in an individual’s recovery efforts and can also be an integral part of family counseling for addiction. Groups like Al-Anon and Nar-Anon are structured to support those with a family member suffering from an addiction. These groups can provide significant support levels by:

  • Modeling productive relationships
  • Helping family members process their feelings about addiction and treatment
  • Providing fellowship from those who can relate to the presence of addiction in a family

Finding Family Programs Near Me

Family programs are usually associated with a treatment facility but can also be implemented as part of an aftercare plan at an independent practice. If your loved one is currently receiving treatment at a rehab center, the clinical treatment team can guide you on how to best carry out and maintain family therapy. It is important to understand that communicating with close family members about difficult situations is a lifelong, ongoing skill that needs to be developed, and family programs allow for such skills to be well-honed.

The Recovery Village offers programs at several different locations. Contact our Recovery Advocates for help finding a facility nearest you. 

Family Programs At The Recovery Village

Addiction is a family disease, and healthy family relationships help create a sustainable recovery. The Recovery Village encourages clients to involve families actively and thoroughly through the addiction treatment process. We help clients and their families become more effective communicators with each other.

Contact us today to learn more about family therapy offered at The Recovery Village. You can also learn about our extensive treatment options if you are seeking substance use disorder treatment. Give us a call today.

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Editor – Theresa Valenzky
Theresa Valenzky graduated from the University of Akron with a Bachelor of Arts in News/Mass Media Communication and a certificate in psychology. She is passionate about providing genuine information to encourage and guide healing in all aspects of life. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Sara G. Graff, LCSW
Sara Graff is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in Florida. She earned both her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and her Master of Social Work (MSW) degree from Washington University in St. Louis. Sara has over twenty five years as a social worker and has worked in many areas of mental health. Read more

Satir, Virginia, et al. “Changing With Families.” Science and Behavior Books, 1976. Accessed July 26, 2019.

Black, Claudia. “It Will Never Happen to Me!” Ballantine Books, 1981. Accessed July 26, 2019.

Wegscheider, Sharon. “Another Chance: Hope and Health for the Alcoholic Family.” Science and Behavior Books, 1981. Accessed July 26, 2019.

Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. “Chapter 1 Substance Abuse Treatment and Family Therapy.” 2004. Accessed July 26, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.