03 May HOW FAMILY SUPPORT NETWORKS CAN MAKE OR BREAK TREATMENT SUCCESS
A question I’m frequently asked is, ‘what increases the likelihood of a client getting better during treatment’? Although there are several factors to take into consideration, the one clear leader is having a solid family-based support network. Ensuring that a clients’ support network is aligned with their outcomes is a clear winner in treatment success.
The truth is that by the time the client reaches us, their family, or partner, has often had enough. Family and partners have had to deal with the fall out of a client’s unhealthy behaviours sometimes for years. So, by the time the client reaches treatment, their timeline is different to their family or partner. Family can sometimes expect (or rather wish!) that treatment will be able to deliver gains immediately, but realistically, the client has only just started their journey of recovery and has a long way to go. This timing difference can often result in conflict and leave the client feeling that “they’re throwing stones at me while I’m climbing the mountain”.
The family, or partner, can also unwittingly be partaking in unhealthy behaviours because of the differences in communication style to the client – both of whom are normally coming from a place of frustration and anger. Therefore, the communication style of both parties needs to be addressed because it’s creating additional conflict that can then trigger the client. This is why clients and their family, or partner, are often ‘arguing about an argument’ – rather than being able to resolve underlying issues.
Another area of great frustration for family and partners is the lack of boundaries, or porous boundaries. The guilt around installing boundaries, even if it’s in the clients best long-term interests, can be significant. This can result in the whole family becoming compromised and unhealthy. Sometimes it can also create conflict with siblings or family members, because they each differ in opinion about what is enabling unhealthy behaviours, rather than being focused on resolving them.
At the Whitehaven Clinic, we recognize that family and partners are an important part of the support network and they each have their own unique treatment needs. Our Family Program and Partner Program is designed to specifically address the unique issues that each relationship faces, and provide alternative strategies that work to creating a more positive outcome.
When working with family and partners, we recognize that what got the relationship to where it is, is not knowing what strategies work best to get the outcomes that they each want. Part of our work with the client and their family or partner, focusses on repairing important relationships by improving their communication style and recognizing, and improving, their approaches to conflict resolution.
When we first engage with family or partners, we do this in sessions that are separate to the client. This is because when family or partners are working with us, there is a lot of hurt, frustration, anger and despair that needs to be processed first, before they can engage in meaningful communication with the client. Separating their treatment plans, allows family and partners to learn strategies that work so that when the two parties come together, that they have better skills and communication to increase the chances of a positive connection moving forward.
Working separately in the initial phases of treatment also allows the family and partner to learn about their own personality profile and communication style, as well as their own buttons that get pushed by the client. Then they’re able to learn where the trouble-spots and strengths are in their relationship. This helps the family or partner to understand exactly what the best support strategies are for the client.
By the time we have joint sessions between the client and their family or partner, we find that much of the negative emotion has dissipated and that they can then focus on creating healthier relationships moving forward. This includes co-creating a relationship vision and boundaries that both parties agree to, and understanding the consequences of certain behaviors. This has a greater success outcome because it’s been chosen by both parties.
We find that this process results in closer family networks and healthier relationships. We’re constantly astonished at how far a relationship can progress in a six to eight week period. It’s why we do what we do!
To learn more about our family and partner programs, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or see our website at Our Services (https://www.whitehavenclinic.com.au/services-2/#fp).
All the very best, Tabitha
If you or a family member are experiencing issues with addiction of any kind, please reach out. We would love to chat to you. We are here to support not judge.
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