Quality addiction treatment programs offer family programs to allow family members of clients to learn about substance use disorder, participate in family and group counseling, and prepare to support their loved ones when they return home.
For example, Mountain Laurel Recovery Center’s Family Program helps families “learn healthy ways to express concerns, identify and address problems, communicate, and behave in a way that supports the recovery process.”
But what if you don’t want your family involved in your treatment? Can you refuse to participate in the family program? What are the consequences? The short answer is that you do not have to involve your family in your treatment. Your treatment is about you; your treatment center will advocate for you and protect you. Working with a therapist, you will determine what’s best for your immediate and continued recovery.
But let’s delve into a longer answer, along with more detail about the family’s role in addiction and why treatment programs include family in the recovery process.
Why Offer Family Programs?
Addiction is a family disease. It affects the entire family unit, and successful recovery is often dependent on the functionality of that family unit. A family struggling with addiction is a family that lives by denial. Denial may start out as refusing to air out emotions and freely express feelings and concerns to each other; it may progress into a refusal to accept that a family member is struggling with substance use and a denial that everyone is suffering.
Treatment centers offer family programs to help clients and families learn to be open with each other, to set boundaries, to talk through problems rather than sweep them under the rug. Family members learn that addiction is a disease and that they all have a role in both the problem and the solution.
Who Participates in Family Programs?
Most treatment centers set a limit on the number of family members who can participate, simply because of limited resources. Within that restricted number, only those of whom the client approves can participate. In other words, a treatment program will not force your family on you or talk with any family members about you without your approval (see this previous post on confidentiality). It’s your health that matters, and your treatment center will focus on you.
When the Family Should Participate
When you live with family members and will return to live with them after treatment, it’s extremely beneficial to involve them in the treatment process. You will learn how to function as a family unit in a way that is healthy and that supports everyone involved.
As a person struggling with addiction, you have probably felt a lot of guilt about how you relate to your family. You have probably been reluctant to confront family members or set boundaries of your own because you think, Who am I to point out problems when my life is such a mess? Family programs and therapy can help you learn to respect your own role and your needs in the family and to see yourself as a worthy equal.
Ultimately, your decision about whether to involve your family will be something you talk about with your therapist. If you and your therapist decide that the family program will be helpful, and if your family is willing to participate, go for it.
Know this: even if your family really, really, really wants to participate, you don’t have to let them. Again, if you have fears or anxiety about involving your family, you can work through these with your therapist. Your treatment center will honor your decision.
When the Family Should Not Participate
When the family dysfunction is so toxic that family involvement will compromise your health and safety, the family should probably not participate. In this case, you will talk with your therapist about how to separate from your family, both physically and emotionally. You’ll learn how to set boundaries, that it’s okay to set boundaries, and how to create for yourself a loving network of friends to support your recovery process.
Obviously, if your family does not want to participate in any of the family programming, they won’t. If you and your therapist determine that their lack of participation is a sign that you might need to distance yourself from them, you can take the steps to do so.
Remember: Your Recovery is About YOU
Whether your family participates in family programming or not, your recovery is about you. Treatment is a time to focus on your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health. You may enter treatment full of guilt about how your relationships have deteriorated; you may feel an urgent need to fix everything as soon as possible. But treatment is a time to set aside all of your family worries and to focus on yourself. Only by caring for yourself will you gain the stability and knowledge needed to repair relationships.
Your treatment is also a time for your family members to focus on themselves, to let the treatment center care for you while they take stock of their own situation and find their own stability.
Mountain Laurel Recovery Center believes that addiction is a sickness of isolation and that recovery cannot be sustained without a support group. While we do what we can to involve your family when appropriate, we know that the family you were born with is not always the family you need. We do our best to help you heal your relationships with your family and at the same to create friendships and support groups that understand recovery and offer unconditional love and encouragement.