Spotlight on treatments: Family therapy

Spotlight on treatments: Family therapy

Most adolescents live with their families, so their home life plays a large role in the way they behave and interact with the world. When adolescents become substance abusers, clinicians often work with the addict’s family to ensure that they provide a safe, nurturing environment that will guide the teen into making positive life choices.

Family therapy has proven extremely effective as an outpatient drug addiction therapy (National Institute on Drug Abuse). When providing family therapy, clinicians can use any number of different counseling models. Some of the most effective include the following:

Brief Strategic Family Therapy (BSFT)

This type of therapy focuses on family interactions to help patients with behavioral and mental health problems remain on the path to recovery. BFST counselors observe the family’s interactions and establish a relationship with each member. During this time, the counselor identifies negative behaviors or patterns that might be causing problems for each member of the family. Then the counselor begins to introduce solutions to improve family behaviors and provide a more nurturing environment overall.

The counselor typically visits the family spread across 12 to 16 sessions. At the end of treatment, the addict will have a more structured and supportive family life, which will give him or her a better chance at remaining sober.

Family Behavior Therapy (FBT)

FBT uses positive and negative reinforcement to help addicts and their family members improve the home dynamic. The addict and at least one parent participate in two proven behavioral therapies during the treatment. The first is behavioral contracting, in which the participants receive rewards and sanctions for certain behaviors that have either a positive or negative influence. The rules are usually written out and signed by the participants to signify their agreement. The second therapy is contingency management, in which the participants receive voucher-based rewards for meeting therapy goals. The rewards typically increase as therapy progresses to prove added incentive to continue through the process.

By encouraging positive behaviors, the therapies help addicts and their families improve their relationships and create a healthier environment for the addict.

Multidimensional Family Therapy (MDFT)

MDFT addresses both family and community interaction. As such, meetings are often held outside of the home, such as in schools or other community settings. It is often used for addicts who also have conduct disorders and may have had brushes with the law. Treatment aims to increase cooperation between the family and members of the community, such as teachers, law enforcement and neighbors, to help the addict integrate back into the community. These (and some other) therapies can help families of addicts give their loved ones the help they need to achieve a real and lasting recovery.

If you or a family member has a substance abuse problem, help is available. The Prescription Drug Abuse Helpline of California can provide advice upon entering treatment. Call us 24/7 at 855-738-2770.