Understanding Family Dynamics

Aug 23, 2021

Shea Barakatt, LCSW, LCDC – Clinical Director

Family dynamics can be complicated and time-consuming.

Many facilities dismiss the importance of understanding family dynamics as a framework for understanding the individual. The “identified” patient with the addiction is the one sent away for therapy. Most expectations of the family system are, “If the problem gets fixed, we will be just fine.” Misunderstandings arise until the entire family system recognizes it needs to change and consistently grow. When working with families, I always say, “If you don’t do anything different, why should they?” and also, “If you do something different, eventually they will do something different.”

Families all have things that work well.

In the face of addiction, you do not have to identify what is working well to determine what isn’t working well. If things were working, the individual or family would not be seeking help in the first place. Still, many people may ask why it is necessary to look at the negative. It is not that it is good, bad, correct, or wrong. It just may not be working. Families all have patterns in communicating, interacting, playing, arguing with each other, and dealing with or avoiding adversity. All players – in addition to the identified patient – are crucial when it comes to recovery.

“We don’t know what we know until we know.”

Most families continue to function the way they always have because it is comfortable. Change is never comfortable. When working with a family system, I always suggest that everyone begin their own “individual” work to understand and gain insight into why they do what they do. I encourage them to explore how they show up in this world and what they would like to do differently. They can accomplish this through therapy, 12-Step programs, and being open to feedback. Without a spirit of understanding, awareness, ownership, and the right tools, most family sessions are not very productive.

The family must first separate, then learn, and finally, come back together.

The work is not simple. Understanding loved ones and learning to listen is not easy, especially when hurt or betrayed. However, there is a solution if the family system allows itself to be vulnerable. When running a family workshop, there will always be a theme that the group creates. It is essential to have other family systems together in the workshop to learn from one another and identify patterns that may not be working. It is vital to get feedback from others with whom you identify, as this will create the process of the change with more enthusiasm. Patients and family members usually hear the language of their peers better than a therapist telling them what they “should” do, another reason the group setting is essential.

Origins Recovery & Counseling in Dallas, Texas, made available by a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety. For information on our programs, call us today: 866-671-4124.

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