Apex Recovery offers a variety of counseling services to meet the needs of each client we serve. In addition to individual therapy, our trained clinicians also provide couples and family counseling services to clients entering alcohol or substance abuse treatment with a familial support system. Family counseling services can be beneficial in supporting an individual’s recovery while in residential treatment and during our Intensive Outpatient Program. The primary goal of family counseling while in substance abuse treatment is to provide increased support for sobriety. Increased support of the family may be accomplished by identifying and changing harmful patterns of interaction and communication within a family system, identifying and communicating specific support needed during treatment and after discharge, or setting boundaries among family members. Family counseling during treatment may also include identifying long-term counseling needs and providing additional resources to continue work within the family system after discharge.
There are a variety of family counseling theories available to help meet the needs of the individuals and families participating in our treatment program. By working within a particular theory of change, the therapist is able to conceptualize areas of concern and problematic patterns of behavior within the family unit and then utilize particular treatment interventions or skills to bring awareness and change to the family unit as a whole. During family counseling services, the family as a whole is seen as the patient rather than a specific family member.
Family Systems Theory
Family systems theory stems from a perspective of the family as a unit and observes and evaluates the parts of a system (each individual family member) in relation to the whole. Family systems theory identifies that individual behavior is often informed by and originates from the functioning of the family of origin. Murray Bowen was a family therapist who suggested that rather than only focusing on the inner world of the individual, it is beneficial to address the structure and behavior of the larger relationship system. Based on this theory, when an individual changes their behavior, the entire system will experience the shift and may be influenced over time. Several approaches to family systems theory exist and most fall under one of the following:
Structural Family Therapy
Structural family therapy is a method of psychotherapy developed by Salvador Minuchin which explores problems in the overall functioning within a family rather than focusing on changing only a particular individual. It is a strength-based, outcome focused treatment modality with the primary goal of improving communications and interactions among family members to create a healthier family structure.
During treatment using a structural family system, the counselor “joins” the family system to understand the unspoken but followed rules which run the family system, map or understand the relationships between family members or smaller subsets of the family. In doing so the clinician is able to identify structural problems and provide tools and interventions to help restructure the family. In joining the family, the clinician may disrupt the dysfunctional relationships in the family directing the system towards healthier patterns of behavior.
Strategic Family Therapy
Strategic family therapy was developed by numerous individuals including Jay Haley, Milton Erickson, and Cloe Madanes and observes family processes and functions by evaluating the behavior outside of therapy sessions. The clinician seeks to understand the communication and problem-solving patterns that exist within the system and take a goal-oriented, collaborative approach to solving the behavioral problems the family is facing.
Strategic family therapy is strength-based and focuses on the strengths already present in the system in order to increase connectedness and change within the system. This modality is intended to be time-effective and focused on the present concern rather than analyzing historical problems.
Intergenerational Family Therapy
Intergenerational family therapy was designed by Bowen as an approach that acknowledges influences of generations on the family system and individual behavior as part of the greater system. Primary to this modality, the clinician and family identify patterns of behavior and interactions in the intergenerational family system and how those are manifesting presently related to treatment goals.
Interventions in Family Therapy
There are numerous interventions within the family systems model which a clinician may use to help a family system move towards change. Of note, several of the therapy models include some form of mapping or studying the family structure in the immediate system or across generations. Family systems clinicians may work with the individual or family to create a genogram to map patterns of interaction or behavior within the system and use it to bring attention to current dysfunction or repeating mental health concerns in the system. Other interventions include education and building of communication skills including language to communicate individual feeling or experience rather than placing blame on another person within the system. Within the family systems theory, individual and families are also encouraged to identify and implement appropriate boundaries within the system to support healthy and safe interaction.
Family therapy is always tailored to the needs of the particular individual and family seeking treatment and will be discussed as goals are set during the initial treatment planning phase. Families are encouraged to offer insight into current functioning that is working well within their system and that which they hope to change when visiting a family counseling center. Mental health and substance abuse treatment is always viewed as a collaborative process between the counselor and individual or family.