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Brief Family Therapy

Substance Abuse Disorders Do Not Develop In Isolation 

- Family member interactions: aggravate the problem or substantially assist in resolving it.

- Substance abuse strongly influenced by communication with family members and family members’ behaviors. 

- Family members should not be involved if they are violent, active users and/or deny the client’s use is a problem. 

- Family involvement is critical when the family is inadvertently reinforcing or supporting the problem. 

- It is also extremely important when a family member has a different agenda from the rest of the family. 

- When the whole family is involved changes are faster and easier to maintain. 

- Client then gains a built-in support system.

Appropriate Brief Family Therapy 

- Counselors can learn to work with families, especially if they do not hold the family responsible for the substance abuse. 

- Making real progress over a long period of time instead of brief is challenging because the family may try to incorporate the therapist into the family system routinely seeking direction in crisis. 

- Boundaries must be addressed. When therapy is brief boundaries are more clear.

Family Therapy Offers An Opportunity To: 

- Focus on the expectation of change within the family. 

- Test new patterns of behavior. 

- Teach how a family system works, and how the family supports symptoms and maintains needed roles. 

- Elicit the strengths of every family member. 

- Explore the meaning of substance abuse within the family.

Sessions 

- Open-ended questions to clarify nature of the problem are asked of each family member.

- Therapist then educates family on what is needed for treatment to be successful as well as psychoeducation on the nature of substance abuse.  T

- Therapist then provides feedback on what was said, demonstrating each family’s individual goals. 

- Begin prioritizing goal setting and may have the family develop a treatment contract. 

- No more than twice per week, 1-2 hour sessions, 6-10 weeks.

For more information, see SAMHSA TIP 34, Chapter 8

By Christina Cornejo-Felix, RSIII & Stacey Tisler, MSW

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