Addiction is a mental disease that changes the structures and functions of your teenager’s developing brain, affecting his or her behaviors and perceptions of the world. But your child’s drug abuse isn’t just about your child. Addiction indelibly affects the whole family, as you well know. Stress, fear and anger take a toll on each family member and on the family as a social group. According to the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, interrupted routines, manipulation by the addicted family member, and modicums of denial on all sides lead to dysfunction, the erection of defensive psychological walls, and constant vigilance that manifests in walking on eggshells, preparing for the worst at any given time. Because addiction is a family disease, treating the whole family is critically important not only for your addicted child, but for the wellbeing of you and your other family members.
Multidimensional Family Therapy
Multidimensional family therapy (MDFT) is a family-based treatment protocol for adolescents who abuse substances. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, MDFT takes place through an outpatient or day treatment program. It helps teenagers develop effective coping skills and problem-solving strategies for making better decisions, and it helps improve the functioning of the family as a whole, so that it can be a united front that serves as a protective factor against the teen’s substance abuse and the problems that result. MDFT is a prescribed program that’s manual-driven, but it’s also highly flexible and individualized, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which cites studies that have shown MDFT to be effective for reducing drug-related problems and improving teens’ behavior and mental health, as well as helping families repair damaged relationships and function better as a unit.
The Importance of Family Participation in Recovery
The benefits of family involvement in a family member’s substance abuse disorder treatment have long been understood. Whether your family engages in MDFT or another family-based recovery program, working through issues systemically has been shown across numerous studies to lead to better outcomes than simply putting a teenager in a treatment program and hoping for the best.
The benefits of family therapy are far-reaching:
- It improves family members’ understanding of addiction and how it affects brain function and behavior.
- It helps family members remain supportive without enabling the addicted or drug-abusing teenager.
- It improves communication among family members and reduces conflict at home.
- It helps families navigate various agencies, including the justice and school systems.
- It fosters motivation for the teen and helps him or her develop problem-solving skills and find a purpose and passion in life that doesn’t involve drugs.
- It helps parents develop skills and strategies to help their child remain drug-free during and after treatment.
Family-Based Treatment is Best
Finding a treatment program that includes the whole family in the recovery process is essential for helping to ensure the best possible outcome. In addition to therapy that focuses on the whole family, your teen will undergo individual cognitive-behavioral therapy in order to learn how to identify self-destructive attitudes and patterns of thinking and behaving and replace them with healthier attitudes, thoughts and behaviors. Individual sessions with one or both parents will address ways to prevent relapse through comprehensive education about the mechanics of addiction and relapse and effective parenting skills, including monitoring your teen in a healthy way and setting limits. Through family involvement in addiction or drug abuse treatment, you, your teenager, and other family members in the household will find hope, healing and a higher quality of life as well as develop skills that have the staying power to promote happy and healthy relationships well into the future. Call us at 877-466-0620 to learn more about family-based addiction treatment.