Family Therapy and HeadWaters at Origins

Dr. Bob Lynn, Ed. D – Chief Clinical Advisor, Origins Behavioral HealthCare

The Family is a natural context for healing the executive adult and for finding recovery. Family therapy is a significant part of the treatment process at HeadWaters for adults caught in the insidious web of alcoholism and addiction.

Family therapy can be described as the art of a therapist joining with a family to become an agent of change while working within the constraints of the family system to produce a more productive way of living. Family therapists help families utilize their own resources to develop a better quality to their lives.

As families develop, individual members with high-end fast-paced lives find themselves on the outside looking into the family system. They may be accustomed to being in control and do not easily accept that they need support. The demands of a high-end modern life often separate individuals from their families particularly when drug and alcohol use is involved. This can result in feelings of isolation and depression.  These adults then become even more isolated as family members, employees and friends tend to avoid high wealth addicted adults. Their position in life may cause them to be less open and available to interventions as a result of their status in organizations and the community. Those with means often find creative ways to isolate which produces a breeding ground for their addiction to progress. This downward spiral may leave one feeling like they are no longer in the family dance. The frequency of drug and alcohol use tends to increase as isolation and depression take over. The intervention must view the family as the patient or the high-end adult will become the focus of the family’s challenges and change will be difficult.

One often has difficulty looking beyond the individual when problems surface. Focusing on the patient alone creates an artificial boundary drawn between the individual and their social context. When the resulting treatment is focused exclusively on the individual apart from their surroundings, for the fast-paced adult who is recovering from addiction, this is a clear pathway to relapse.

The family will generally identify one member as the location of the problem.   In Family Therapy, by broadening the focus, the options for change become greater. The family must begin to see the problem as broader than the individual using drugs or alcohol. This can be a challenge as so often we are reminded of the role successful people have and the image they strive to maintain.  By broadening the focus, the therapist raises the hope that a different way of looking at the problem will bring new solutions. The identified patient is only the “symptom bearer”- the cause is dysfunctional family transactions, i.e. the way the family is organized around their definition of the problem. Family and therapist form a partnership to: reduce conflict and stress for the entire family, learn new ways of coping and free the symptom bearer of symptoms.

Therapy is the process of challenging how things are done. Sometimes simple conversation is intense enough to produce change, while others require higher intensity. Since some with means are not accustomed to confrontation, they may have a discriminating sense of hearing with areas of selective deafness. The therapist joins the family not to educate or socialize it, but rather to repair or modify the family’s own functioning so they can perform these tasks.

Families have self-perpetuating properties.  Any change will be maintained by the family’s self-regulating mechanisms.  The family will preserve the change producing a new way of operating, altering the feedback which continuously qualifies or validates family members’ experiences. The result, coupled with the therapeutic program designed for Executive Adults at Hanley Center at Origins, results in long term recovery. Over time, this produces changes in the way one lives and in fact even changes neuropathways in the brain.

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