Serenity Lane’s Family Program: The Help and Support Families Need
Anthony Brandt, a famous author and editor, once said…
“Other things may change us, but we start and end with the family.”
That couldn’t be more true. It isn’t much of a surprise but our families shape us in more ways than we can even imagine! From genetics to sense of humor, family can have a role in it all. Sometimes family is bound by blood and other times by love alone. Whatever your family make up is, it is important to keep in mind how much they can shape the good and the bad in and around us.
Within the world of addiction sciences and addiction treatment, family can play just as big of a role as they can in the treatment of any other illness.
The question is how?
Support for Families: What Is a Family Recovery Support Program?
As with the treatment of any illness, whether it be physical, social, mental or emotional, family can play a central role in how the course of treatment plays out. Some of this is why the field of family work was created and has been studied for years and years.
Within the world of addiction sciences, like we said before, family CAN play a big role but most treatment programs focus only on the individual. We know that addiction treatment and the recovery process can be—and often is—deeply personal, but it can also make a world of difference to include the family in this sort of thing.
Family members and close friends often witness the minds—and sometimes bodies—of their loved ones change during the struggle with addiction, regardless of the substance used. They endure difficult home situations alongside the person who is facing the addiction. Trust and communication can become compromised in part from fighting, arguments, or internal struggles or from the lack of communication skills that promote healthy communication.
Often during these tense circumstances, misunderstandings and arguments turn into the “normal” methods of communication for families or friends that are on edge and feeling the pressure. Eventually, what may have once been known as “a happy home” becomes a must darker place of confusion, hopelessness, and despair.
More unfortunately, some parents may even lose their children “to the streets”. This can happen as the person struggling with cravings for certain substances seeks out more of the substances they feel they so desperately need. This can endanger relationships, careers, and education, as well as health.
Family members of those struggling with addiction also often begin to display symptoms of codependency. This is usually a type of coping method that is meant to help them handle the stress from the unpredictable behavior of their loved one with an addiction. Often, family members do not—or will not—realize when they are enabling their loved ones. This can be particularly difficult to recognize since most often their intentions are to help them.
A family program for addiction treatment works to promote healthy communication within families, find solutions for codependency, and so much more. These family programs most often feature support groups.
Support groups will usually have many different people in one room who are there sharing struggles with a family member’s substance use. These groups can be—and are—often held in offices, online, or in a community building. Family members often address and share their difficult stories and memories of seeing family members under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
New members that are attending these sessions are often encouraged to introduce themselves in the beginning of the meeting. This is usually when the leader of the meeting asks if anyone is new. But it can be important to remember that they are not required to do so, which means if you are feeling nervous or unsure, then the metaphorical spotlight doesn’t have to be on you.
Eventually many members choose to open up, and during this time they will become more comfortable speaking in front of several people in this intimate group setting. There is also often privacy that can be offered while engaging certain members in support groups. A major positive element of support groups is the feeling of community and safety.
So, now that we know and understand a group setting for family therapy, let’s look at what makes it so crucial for treatment.
Why Is Group Therapy for Families Important? What Kind of Help Can Support Groups Provide?
Part of what makes this type of treatment method important is that it allows family members to release their stress, worries, fears, and anger in safe and trusted areas. They can share memories and experiences that are unique to their family but may relate to others in the group.
This sharing of experiences can sometimes be hard to hear but it can also lead to what is known as a “catharsis”. A cathartic moment is one that allows us to share our emotions so that way we can handle and resolve them in healthy ways. The term was actually coined based on the way Shakespeare made people feel during a tragic play. There was a lot of build-up from the tension in the story that led the audience to release their feelings by the end of the play in a catharsis. This is the same way that family groups during addiction treatment work.
Family members with a loved one who struggles with addiction may feel alone and angry. Sometimes these feelings are even directed at themselves. They may also feel as if they have failed as a parent. Sometimes this leads us to seek reassurance in their suffering, and connecting with others can help foster that reassurance and comfort.
Finding Help and Support is Essential in Understanding a Family Member’s Substance Use Disorder
Addiction is sometimes referred to as a “family disease”. This is because one family member’s addiction can ultimately affect the entire family. Family members attending support groups can find it to be highly beneficial in helping a family heal, whether it is healing from the dysfunction that addiction causes or just learning how to better handle conflict or confrontation as a family.
This type of treatment also increases the chances that their loved one will seek help and maintain long-term, lifelong recovery.
Of course this isn’t the only thing that makes support groups during family programs important.
The Science Behind the Family Program for Addiction Recovery and Support
The scientific community is—and has been—studying the benefits and effectiveness of family programs for addiction treatment for years. Still, there are limited studies of the effectiveness of family therapy in the treatment of substance use disorders. However, there are still plenty of studies that find some important trends. These trends suggest that family therapy approaches should be considered more frequently in substance use and addiction treatment than they currently are.
A lot of the federally funded research into substance use treatment has mainly taken a focus on criminal justice issues, co‐occurring disorders, and individual‐specific treatments. Now that isn’t to say that these are valid and great venues of study, but they are leaving out a huge chunk of programming. One reason for the lack of research around family programming is that research with families is often difficult and sometimes costly.
Another reason is that there are some disagreements on what a family is and what family therapy is. Ambiguities in definitions of family and family therapy really change the landscape of the research in these areas which can make things more difficult. As a result, family therapy has not been the focus of much substance use research in the past or even some of the present.
However, evidence from the research that has been conducted, including the experiences that we see in those who participate in family programs like the one at Serenity Lane, indicates that substance use treatment that includes family therapy works better than substance abuse treatments that do not.
The science suggests that family therapy programs for addiction treatment increase engagement and retention in treatment. This means that more people are not only taking part in the programs but they are benefiting from them so they are coming back more often. This also reduces the drug and alcohol use, improves family functioning, and discourages relapse.
Science around family programs for addiction treatment also found that counselors benefit from the program too! By working through family programs while a loved one is in addiction treatment, substance use counselors are able to:
- Understand the impact of substance use on families taken as a whole
- Recognize that family members need treatment in the context of the family as a whole
- Appreciate the value of family therapy in treatment and integrate their interventions with the greater good of the family
At Serenity Lane, we know that having your family take part in the care process is a big step toward long-term recovery and reduced risk of relapse.
The Serenity Lane Help, Support, and Difference for Family Groups
Addiction to alcohol or other drugs is an illness that has a profound effect on both the individual and his or her family members; a person’s life becomes progressively more self-destructive.
Because the illness is insidious, the person who struggles with addiction may notice their life is affected physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. As a result, the entire family can get caught in the destructive progression of the disease. Living with someone who struggles with addiction can be a chaotic, unpredictable experience. Serenity Lane incorporates family programs in all of its treatment modalities.
Serenity Lane’s Family Services are available throughout all levels of care, including our residential, day treatment, and outpatient programs. Our residential family program includes four family weekends where patients and family members work on repairing relationships, improving communication, and building a foundation for long-term recovery.
Timeline to Get Support for the Family
The first weekend focuses on education around the disease of addiction and Serenity Lane’s treatment programming. This is also when patients and family members begin engaging in dialogue with support from the group and our counselors.
During the second weekend, we delve into family systems and communication. Patients and family members participate in communication exercises designed to clear barriers and build trust.
On the third weekend, patients and families participate in our highly popular letter writing exercise where patients and families write letters to each other. This exercise often helps with expressing things that are hard to say out loud. Patients talk about their experience in addiction while family can share how the patient’s behavior affected them. These letters are then read aloud in a therapeutic group. This is one of the turning points for our patients and families and is the result of the first two weekends of work.
In the fourth weekend, we work on setting boundaries and developing tactics for relapse prevention to prepare patients and families for the transition from residential to the home environment.
We encourage family members or significant others/friends of our patients to attend the program to learn how the disease has affected them.
The focus is on family roles and improving communication skills. Lectures, readings, small and large group discussions, and role-playing activities help participants develop skills and tools they can use in everyday life.
A Letter From Our President and CEO About How We Are Keeping You and Your Family Safe During COVID-19
Due to COVID-19 there is currently no visiting allowed. Serenity Lane’s Family Program is currently taking place virtually.
August 25, 2020
Dear Patients, Family Members and Referents,
We have done a great deal of planning and work to make Serenity Lane safe in light of the current pandemic. The risk from COVID-19 cannot be eliminated; however, with careful adherence to the safety and health protocols outlined by the Oregon Health Authority— including social distancing, mask wearing, and the restriction of non-essential visitors—we believe it can be managed effectively.
We regularly communicate the necessity of following safety protocols with our staff, patients, and volunteers through emails, posted signage and in-person meetings. Our Director of Nursing meets weekly with patients to address concerns, communicate new rules as needed, and explore creative ways to help patients be safe and comfortable.
We are grateful for the cooperation of our patients and families. We know it is difficult to be separated during an already challenging time, however, we also know that your support and encouragement of adherence to this guidance can make a difference in effective engagement in treatment for everyone involved.
Serenity Lane has a special responsibility for the well-being of our patients, and as CEO I am also responsible for our staff and volunteers. We take seriously the trust placed in us to provide treatment during these times. Do not hesitate to reach out to us with questions or concerns about our safety protocols.
Together, we ensure we safely do the important work we have been doing for almost 48 years—saving lives and putting families back together.
President and CEO
FAQs About Family Support and Help
How to support a family member with addiction?
There are a lot of ways to support those who are struggling with addiction. It is important though, to make sure how you support them prioritizes not only their well-being but your own and that you do not fall into codependent relationships. Our program will teach you all the skills you’ll need to help support your loved one in a safe and healthy way. For now, here are some short do’s and don’ts.
- Don’t try to initiate conversations when either of you are under the influence of any substances
- Do make sure that everyone is in a safe environment and a trusted space for open and honest communication
- Do call for help if things escalate
- Do set limits and boundaries for each other and for the course of treatment and stick to them
Again, these are only a few things you can do but our program will cover more in depth all the methods of supporting someone with an addiction without leading to codependency.
Why is family support important for addiction recovery?
As we said before, family support is critical for recovery because all things can lead back to our families and addiction is known as a “family disease”. Since it impacts the family it is important that everyone in the family gets support and learns safe and healthy ways to cope and handle conflict.
Call Serenity Lane to Get Help with Addiction Support for You and Your Family Today
Come and see the difference family programming makes in an addiction treatment journey. Any of the Serenity Lane locations across Oregon can and will provide you with unparalleled care that uses family programming as a cornerstone of treatment. Don’t wait any longer, call us today at 800-543-9905