At Sunspire Health Hilton Head, executive director and therapist Danielle LaPointe firmly believes family therapy is a key part of addiction treatment. Family therapy can improve communication among family members and rebuild relationships. But those aren’t the only benefits. Below are some of the ways Sunspire Health Hilton Head helps families and patients overcome addiction together.
Helping Families Work Through the Stigma of Addiction
There are a lot of misconceptions about addiction, and helping families and patients see past the stigma isn’t always easy. Most medical professionals now recognize addiction as a chronic disease. And when patients realize they have symptoms that can be managed, it can be empowering.
But for families, accepting addiction as a disease can be complicated. It’s true that people can have a genetic predisposition to addiction. In some cases, addiction is a learned behavior. When families learn about these genetic and environmental factors, they may start to blame themselves or become defensive.
According to LaPointe, these feelings aren’t uncommon and can be worked through with the help of a family therapist.
“A dynamic family therapist, in addition to somebody working with the client, is key,” LaPointe says.
“The family needs their own treatment goals. They need to work on the denial, the defensiveness, and maybe even the codependency as these things tend to come up in the treatment process.”
While patients work to get better, Sunspire Health Hilton Head works to get families in tune with the progress the patient has made. By aligning a patient’s progress with their support system, both families and patients can step forward in recovery with a positive outlook.
Educating Families about Addiction Triggers
Cravings are chemical reactions in the brain, typically triggered by something in the person’s environment. Substance use triggers can come in a lot of different forms, but the most common trigger is exposure to the substance.
Unfortunately, families can be the source of that trigger. For instance, family gatherings that always include alcohol can be difficult for someone in recovery to attend. These types of situations can increase a person’s chance for relapse, even after they’ve received treatment.
“When you take somebody out of a treatment center and put them back into a ‘routine’ environment of a household—and if alcohol and drugs are a part of that routine—it’s almost easier to slip back into the routine than to avoid it and maintain abstinence,” LaPointe explains.
Family therapy serves to educate families on what the triggers are for their loved one so they can be successfully avoided. For a person with an addiction, working through triggers and cravings can be one of the biggest challenges in recovery, and families can play an important role in helping a loved one sidestep these triggers.
Helping Families Set Reasonable Expectations
The transition from residential treatment to sober-living at home can leave families uncertain of what to expect from their loved one. Many families think their loved one will be ready to jump back into daily life, get back to their job, perform better in school, and more. But according to LaPointe, a lot of patients don’t have those immediate results.
“We’ve found that early recovery—that six months to a year span where someone has first made a commitment to stop using drugs or alcohol—is one of the most difficult times,” she says. “There are going to be days when somebody in early recovery wants to lay on the couch all day because their brain chemistry is still normalizing. It’s like a spring; it’s bouncing back.”
According to LaPointe, educating families on what to expect is key. This can help families meet their loved one where they’re at in the recovery process and provide the best type of support.
Getting Everyone On Board with the Patient’s Aftercare Plan
Family therapy encourages family members to get involved in their loved one’s recovery and play a positive role in helping their loved one stay sober. This could mean joining their loved one in a healthy sober activity or driving them to appointments or meetings.
Sunspire Health Hilton Head can also work with each patient’s primary care provider to establish a plan of action for aftercare once residential treatment is over, and—with patient consent—help families get involved with this aftercare plan. The facility has two full-time physicians on staff who work to establish this personalized aftercare plan.
“Our physicians are extremely involved from admission to discharge, and they collaborate with the therapists and nurses throughout the course of treatment,” LaPointe says.
This allows them to provide patients, and their families, with the attention they deserve both during and after the treatment process, she adds.
Hilton Head’s Approach to Family Therapy
Upon arrival at Sunspire Health Hilton Head, patients and their families will be assigned a designated family therapist. These therapists can conduct family therapy sessions over the phone, so family members can stay involved no matter their location.
If they wish, families are welcome to visit the Hilton Head center and participate in family therapy on-site. Families can also visit during Hilton Head’s family event, where they can listen to education panels with the on-site addiction specialists, take part in group discussions, and spend time with their loved one.
“Overall, we know that addiction impacts the entire family and therefore recovery does, too.” LaPointe says. “This is why we provide such high-quality care for the client and the family. It’s where we see the greatest impact!”
Sunspire Health Hilton Head is an upscale treatment center offering evidence-based addiction treatment for drug and alcohol use and co-occurring disorders. To learn more about this center, please visit sunspirehealth.com.