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Family Therapy


To help make recovery as successful as possible, a person should consider all forms of professional treatment to identify and address issues contributing to substance use. For many, family therapy techniques can be useful tools for maintaining sobriety while improving communication and relationships with loved ones.

What Is Family Therapy?

Family therapy is a form of psychotherapy that involves an individual who needs mental health services — sometimes called the identified patient (IP) — and other people they know. Though the focus is on the IP, a family therapist may use specific family therapy techniques aimed at helping the entire group of people. Anyone who cares about the IP and is willing to be a part of the treatment process may join family therapy with the therapist’s approval. This includes:
  • Parents and grandparents
  • Siblings
  • Children
  • Romantic partners
  • Friends
  • Co-workers
Though family therapies share many similarities, there are unique family therapy approaches like:
  • Structural/strategic family therapy
  • Narrative therapy
  • Multidimensional family therapy
  • Multisystemic therapy
  • Bowen family therapy

Structural/Strategic Family Therapy

Structural/strategic family therapy is based on two key principles:
  1. The commonly repeated and predictable interactions of the family determine the behaviors of the individuals.
  2. The power of the family is too strong for one person to resist or change on their own.
Structural therapy is an appropriate choice to help shift the power, rules, boundaries or family positions whenever dysfunction develops. A vital goal of this therapy style is to reduce substance use, which can realign the family structure.

Narrative Therapy

Narrative family therapy focuses on the stories someone has about their families and the impact these have on their symptoms. Once the stories are identified, narrative therapy aims to revise and edit them into something more positive. In this treatment, the therapist encourages the IP to guide the sessions and helps them search for meaning. In a family setting, the therapist can inspect each family member’s narrative and look for similarities, differences and areas to address.

Multidimensional Family Therapy (MDFT)

MDFT is a specific family therapy approach used to treat adolescents with substance use disorders. This is done through a combination of individual and family sessions in the home, community or office. MDFT views substance use as being encouraged by environmental factors like peers or parents, so adding healthy activities and outlets will improve behaviors. The goals of MDFT include:
  • Improving family functioning
  • Reducing substance use
  • Reducing delinquency
  • Developing peer relationships
  • Boosting school performance

Systemic Therapy

Systemic therapy — also called multisystemic family therapy — strives to find ways to keep adolescents and families engaged in the treatment process. With everyone active in treatment, symptoms will shrink, and substance use will end. Systemic therapy involves:
  • Therapy in the home
  • Therapists who are available 24 hours per day
  • A focus on the IP’s strengths instead of weaknesses
  • Family members and therapists sharing the power during sessions
Multisystemic family therapy is so helpful that it has influenced other treatment variations, such as functional family therapy.

Bowenian Therapy

Murray Bowen believed that all of the issues within a family unit stemmed from their inability to manage anxiety, and substance use is just a flawed way to handle anxiety. Unlike other therapy approaches, Bowenian therapy is based on the idea that one person can change the entire family.

Bowenian therapy will find the most motivated family member, using them to produce change and balance the family through independence and improved coping skills.

Family therapy approaches may not be best for every situation, but if substance use impacts you or your loved ones, family therapy could help. Call Next Generation Village to begin the treatment process today.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a 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 provider.


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