Alcoholism has an effect on all family members. Even after an alcoholic stops drinking, the effects of alcohol abuse can still be felt. Anger, guilt, loss of trust, and other emotions may cause problems within the family structure. Family counseling treats the family structure as an organism in which each individual plays an important part. Instead of focusing on any one person, it helps each person to identify the role they play in the family.

Goals of Family Therapy

Family therapy works to rebuild trust and positive feelings that have been lost or damaged over the course of the addiction. Family therapy helps all family members understand alcohol addiction in general, so that they can understand how the alcoholic person’s addiction has affected their relationship. The goal of family counseling is to help all family members develop tools for healing and moving forward.

One counseling methodology commonly used to treat addiction is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is generally short term and results-oriented, and based upon the premise that in order to change behavior, one must first change one’s thoughts. Therapy focuses upon the thoughts and feelings that trigger unwanted behaviors, and works to correct destructive or inaccurate patterns of self-talk.

Research by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has found that various approaches to psychological treatment have been equally effective for long-term recovery from alcoholism, that is, different approaches work for different people. There are varying types of individual or family counseling available. When interviewing a potential therapist, ask about the methods in which he or she is trained, and how those methods will be used to help your situation. The NIAAA states that “getting help in itself appears to be more important than the particular approach used, as long as it offers empathy, avoids heavy confrontation, strengthens motivation, and provides concrete ways to change drinking behavior.”

Individuals whose drinking has negatively affected their family relationships, and who seek to heal these relationships alongside their recovery from addiction.

Contact your primary care physician or insurance provider for a recommendation or referral for a therapist in your area.

Getting Started with Pharmaceutical Treatment or Counseling

Other resources for finding a therapist include:

American Psychological Association (APA)

American Counseling Association (ACA): Find A Counselor

National Association of Social Workers (NASW): 202-408-8600

Find A

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)Center for Mental Health Services: (click on Mental Health Services Locator)

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD)

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)


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