Addiction is a far-reaching and complex disease that disrupts lives and families. According to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), approximately 21.5 million American adults suffered from addiction in the year leading up to the survey. It is also estimated that around one in 10 children under the age of 18 lives in a home with an adult battling addiction, the journal Social Work in Public Health publishes.

When a parent struggles with not being able to control their drug and/or alcohol use, their children and the entire family unit are impacted. Trauma related to problematic drug and/or alcohol use and addiction may include loss of a job, criminal activities, domestic violence, and child neglect or abuse, which can have a lasting negative impact on a child. Guilt, shame, isolation, and secrecy are typical components of addiction, which can make people less likely to seek treatment.

Where Do Parents Seek Rehab and Recovery?

Parents may experience some unique barriers to treatment, as they worry about losing their children or are concerned with who will care for their children if they attend a treatment program. Fortunately, there are specialty rehab options available specifically for families and parents who suffer from addiction. A comprehensive treatment plan that fosters abstinence and recovery does not just improve the life of the person battling addiction, but also the lives of their loved ones and families.

Treatment Options for Parents

In general, there are two main types of addiction treatment programs: those that are residential, meaning a person stays on the premises throughout the program, and those that are outpatient, where the person goes home each day. Outpatient programs may be more appealing to parents who need to return home each night to be with their families and children. These programs are more flexible in nature, allowing for individuals to schedule meetings and sessions around existing familial obligations. Intensive outpatient programs are often very similar to residential ones in their offerings, schedules, and structure, with the main difference being that an individual returns home each evening.

Children thrive on routine and structure, and treatment facilities may work closely with parents to find alternate accommodations with an extended family member for the duration of treatment to ensure a stable home environment. Treatment providers will work closely with these family members to ensure that the needs of the children are fully attended to, thus removing the burden from the parent in treatment and allowing them to fully focus on their own recovery. Addiction treatment specialists work closely with families to design a plan for recovery that includes making sure that all children are well taken care of during treatment and beyond.

Focused Therapy

Addiction treatment should be comprehensive, and the entire family is often included in a treatment plan as all of the members of a family are impacted by the disease and its ramifications. Therapy is an essential part of any addiction treatment program, and parents may benefit from several types of therapy and educational programs, including:

  • Group therapy with other parents
  • Individual therapy to work through personal struggles
  • Family therapy
  • Therapy focused on issues pertaining to parenting 

Parenting can be a stressful job, and therapies that help people manage these stressors and better regulate their emotions can be very helpful. Group therapy sessions may focus on issues that pertain specifically to parents and teach people how to cope with possible triggers to relapse. With group therapy, similar people in a treatment program (such as other parents) may be grouped together to work through negative thought and behavior patterns and learn to modify them.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) publishes that group therapy and counseling can provide positive social reinforcement for addiction recovery. Individual sessions are often helpful for both the individual suffering from addiction and for family members who are impacted by the disease. During a therapy session, behavioral therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), are often employed to improve upon self-destructive behaviors and harmful thought patterns that may lend themselves to substance abuse. Children and spouses may attend therapy sessions on their own without the affected loved one in order to improve their own understanding of the disease of addiction and work through any personal concerns. Families play an important role in recovery, and educational programs and therapy sessions can expound on how to best support a loved one going forward.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that Family Behavior Therapy (FBT) has shown promise in helping individuals and family members learn new behavioral strategies and life skills during sessions that can then be applied to life at home. Family therapy sessions may include all members of an immediate family. These sessions can uncover unhealthy family dynamics and work to improve communication methods and the functions of the family unit in general.

During an addiction treatment program, parents, children, and the entire family are supported through therapy and counseling sessions catering to each family’s specific circumstances.

Ongoing Support for Families

There are many different types of support groups and 12-Step programs designed to help specific populations. These groups offer peer support and encouragement to minimize relapse and sustain abstinence. They can provide a healthy social outlet and safe place for families and loved ones alike to share their personal stories in a nonjudgmental forum with others who can relate and understand.

Ongoing Support for Families

Groups, such as Al-Anon for families of those struggling with alcohol addiction and Nar-Anon for families of those suffering from drug addiction, help to support families in recovery. Other 12-Step and additional types of support groups exist specifically for those battling addiction themselves, and local groups may have chapters whose members are all parents. These groups often offer childcare during meetings as well. During an addiction treatment program, providers can help individuals to find a helpful support group that they can then attend both during treatment and after its completion.

Transitional services, like sober living homes, are often an option for people who complete treatment and are not quite ready to fully reenter society. These residences offer a supportive environment of others who are also in recovery and focused on remaining abstinent. Many of these residences have openings for parents with children. In a sober living home, people will generally continue to attend counseling, therapy, and support group meetings while putting some of the new life skills learned during treatment into practice. This environment can allow time for these healthy habits to become second nature without the full pressures of society bearing down. Aftercare and alumni services can also promote a network of others in recovery who have similar life goals, and these individuals can work to support each other in recovery.

Many different types of addiction treatment exist for all types of people in variable stages of life. Addiction treatment specialists can help families to design and implement a treatment plan that will benefit the family as a whole and help both parents and their children to heal and move forward into a life without drugs and/or alcohol.