Blog | Family And Addiction

3 Steps to Effective Family Therapy After Heroin Addiction

Families take many forms in America today, but one thing all families share is an intense emotional connection between members. When a family member has a heroin addiction, however, emotional ties weaken.

A heroin addiction responds best to treatments that help someone understand how heroin use affects him and others. People with addictions easily deny problems, instead focusing on getting and taking more drugs. Treatments that allow a person to understand how addiction destroys personal life and family life motivate him to want to change and then seek change.[1]

Man consoling woman with hand on shoulderWhen family members are part of treatment, they learn to support a loved one in sobriety and heal damage brought by addiction, such as loss of trust and loss of respect. Plus, families who lived through a loved one’s heroin addiction need treatment to process their own feelings and learn ways to help a person in recovery. It’s important for everyone to take part in family therapy during and after heroin treatment. Such participation helps family members heal after an addict damages relationships during active addiction and offers techniques for building relationships as a loved one gets sober.[2]

Three basic steps help family members healing after heroin addiction strikes: 1) achieving sobriety for the addicted family member, 2) adjusting to sobriety, and 3) learning to maintain sobriety for the long haul. Though there may be slips or occasional relapses due to the chronic nature of drug addiction, the goal is to make drugs and alcohol a distant memory of daily life for anyone in the family.

Attaining Sobriety: The First Step in Family Therapy During Heroin Rehab

Getting into treatment is a huge step for an addicted loved one. Research shows heroin addicts need a personalized treatment plan – some respond best to a combination of talk therapy and medication-assisted treatment (drugs that manage heroin cravings, such as methadone) or talk therapy alone to allow complete abstinence.[3] The detox process is only the first step toward learning to stay sober; an addict needs support, especially family support, to live in recovery.

No matter how the rest of the family members feel about an addict’s behavior during active addiction, it’s important to be supportive. Choose a heroin rehab that incorporates family therapy into the overall treatment program and includes the needs of family members in treatment plan decisions.

Adjusting to Sobriety: Family Therapy During and After Heroin Rehab

During heroin rehab and after heroin detox, the focus should be on adjusting to life without heroin addiction. Understandably, the addict will go through the biggest adjustments. She must learn how to live a sober life again and interact with people on a more honest and forthcoming level. Living with a newly sober person is an adjustment for family members, too. Many families have trouble believing their family member is clean or will remain that way for long. Rebuilding trust begins during this period at family therapy.

Families who participate in treatment with their loved one give her a greater chance of entering treatment in the first place, a stronger likelihood of staying in treatment and better odds of staying sober for longer.

Treatment programs that integrate family therapy into the plan explore reasons behind an addiction and involve family members in improving the situation after treatment. Family members should prepare to take responsibility for their own roles in the addiction, whether they contributed by ignoring the problem or enabling it as a way to keep people outside the family from seeing the addiction.

Maintaining Sobriety: Continued Family Therapy After Heroin Rehab

Couple in therapy sessionOnce the addicted family member successfully completes heroin rehab, family therapy should not stop. Finding a family therapist who specializes in drug addiction treatment helps everyone in the family as the addicted member works on maintaining sobriety. Knowing that the support of the family is behind her is crucial to success in long-term recovery.

While there is a place for peer recovery support groups, the participation of family members in recovery greatly increases a person’s odds of success. When families recognize the ways members either promote sobriety or discourage sobriety, they learn to focus on supportive, encouraging practices. Continuing family therapy gives members a chance to break bad habits by practicing better routines and openly discussing problems before they get worse. Good family support makes up for the everyday pitfalls, such as stress and temptation, which lead to relapse. It also gives the family the chance at a more loving and richer family life.[4]

Learn About Family Therapy and Heroin Rehab at Michael’s House

Contact us today to learn more about the family therapy we provide as part of our heroin rehab program here at Michael’s House in Palm Springs. We’re here to help the entire family heal after addiction.


[1] Feldstein Ewing, S. W., Apodaca, T. R., & Gaume, J. (2016). Ambivalence: Prerequisite for success in motivational interviewing with adolescents? Addiction. Retrieved Apr. 3, 2017 from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/store/10.1111/add.13286/asset/add13286.pdf?v=1&t=j12banim&s=1f7d645667540f1c577ed7e345f88f0ef8cc8365

[2] Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2004) Substance Abuse Treatment and Family Therapy. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 39. Retrieved Apr. 3, 2017 from http://store.samhsa.gov/shin/content/SMA15-4219/SMA15-4219.pdf.

[3] National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction. Retrieved Apr. 3, 2017, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/treatment-approaches-drug-addiction.

[4] Liddle, Howard A.; Rowe, Cynthia L.; Dakof, Gayle A.; Ungaro, Rocio A. & Henderson, Craig E. (2004). Early Intervention for Adolescent Substance Abuse: Pretreatment to Posttreatment Outcomes of a Randomized Clinical Trial Comparing Multidimensional Family Therapy and Peer Group Treatment. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. Retrieved Apr. 3, 2017 from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02791072.2004.10399723.