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The Importance of Support for Families of Addicts

family therapy session

Unfortunately, addiction is not an isolated disease. It can have a big impact on the people closest to the individual, even when they do not have a drug or alcohol addiction themselves. Often the relationships that become the most strained are those with family members like spouses and children. In response to the addiction, a family member will become the caretaker who tries to make everything better, but this can take a lot out of a person. If you’re struggling to cope with a loved one’s drug or alcohol use, below is more on the importance of support for families of addicts. There is also information about how our drug rehab in Langhorne, PA, can help you. 

Understanding Family Roles in Addiction 

Substance abuse can stress the family to the breaking point, destroying even the closest relationships. The addict’s behavior creates a ripple effect on their loved ones, impacting the family unit mentally, physically, and financially. Living with addiction puts family members under unusual stress, which can have a dangerous impact on both adults and children involved.  

To cope with the addict’s behavior, family members may adopt certain dysfunctional behavioral patterns or roles. The roles in a family struggling with addiction are the addict, the caretaker, the hero, the scapegoat, the mascot, and the lost child.   

  • The Addict: In these situations, the addict is the focal point of the family. Whether they realize it or not, family members typically start spending more time and energy dealing with this individual. This could be helping them, enabling them, or covering up their behaviors to preserve the status quo. As the addict continues to carry out his/her behavior, family members may take on more roles within the family without even realizing it. 
  • The Caretaker: Also known as the enabler, this person often covers up the addict’s problems and takes responsibility for the addict’s actions to keep everyone else happy. The caretaker is also known as the martyr of the family because he/she not only supports the addict’s dysfunctional behavior but shields the individual from the consequences of his/her actions.  
  • The Hero: Similar to the caretaker, the hero is a person who devotes his/her time and attention to covering up the addict’s mistakes to maintain the appearance of a “normal” family. The hero will do whatever he/she can to restore the dysfunctional home life behind closed doors. This individual is typically over-responsible, self-sufficient, and even a perfectionist. They may also be described as the “golden child/parent,” which can put a lot of pressure on the individual. 
  • The Scapegoat: The scapegoat is the “problem child” that, through acts of defiance or hostility toward family members, provokes negative attention that ultimately distracts from the addict’s behavior, thus diverting the family’s attention away from the problem at hand.  
  • The Mascot: Known as the comedian of the group, this person tries to lessen the tension and stress caused by the addict’s behavior with humor and silliness. He/she feels powerless over what’s happening and aims to prevent any further family unpleasantness with antics or comedy. The negative aspect of this role is that the mascot is in constant motion and is likely to become anxious or depressed when he/she slows down.  
  • The Lost Child: The lost child refers to the quiet individual who flies under the radar as the other family members play out their newly adopted roles. The lost child stays out of the way, avoiding all interactions, and eventually disappears.  

Benefits of Family Therapy for Addiction  

As you can imagine, as a loved one playing out these roles and navigating an addict’s behavior can be challenging and stressful. Multiple roles can also fall on the same person when the family is smaller or if there is only one parent or spouse involved, making this experience even more difficult. As a parent, spouse, or child who’s trying to care for and support an addict, you may struggle physically, emotionally, and even financially.   

What’s more, enabling and codependent behaviors are also common in relationships affected by addiction, which can cause further distress. For this reason, our Banyan Philadelphia rehab offers support groups for families of addicts that includes individual counseling and group counseling with the addict to not only help rebuild relationships but also to promote individual healing for all those involved.  

During family therapy, the addicted individual and loved ones will focus on defining family roles, identifying how addiction is present in the family unit, and learning how to forgive and move forward. During family therapy, family members will understand and identify the difference between enabling and helping. They will get a chance to voice how addiction has personally affected them.  

It’s important that each member gets the opportunity to share how they feel so that communication during the recovery process is completely transparent. As a therapist leads the discussion, each family member and the patient are encouraged to share any issues they are facing or things they wish to work on in a judgment-free setting. 

Some major benefits of family support groups for addiction include:  

  • Easing feelings of fear, anger, stress, and confusion related to the addiction 
  • Improvements in family communication skills 
  • Keeping the addict engaged and motivated during treatment 
  • Learning about addiction, its effects on the family, how treatment works, and what to expect when it’s complete 
  • Offering a loved one support after treatment 
  • Offering family members a safe space to voice their feelings and concerns and to ask questions about a loved one’s addiction 
  • Providing family members the chance to develop skills and strategies to help the addict stay on the path to recovery 
  • The opportunity to address any mental health issues within the family system, such as depression or anxiety, which can hinder family communication and contribute to relapse 

Not only does a family recovery program benefit the parents, spouse, siblings, and children of the addict, but it also puts loved ones in the position to properly be there for the individual as they undergo drug or alcohol treatment. Family support for addiction decreases the chances of relapse, aids in the development and maintenance of positive behavioral changes and promotes long-term recovery of the individual in substance abuse treatment. Family recovery support also helps family members establish trust and encourage forgiveness for past behaviors. It can also enable peace and resolve conflict or feelings of anger, frustration, and sadness.  

Finding Meetings for Families of Addicts Near Me 

Family therapy helps to regain trust and strengthen the family unit as a whole. Addiction can cause separation and dishonesty among loved ones, and it may be hard for family members to move past the deception. Ultimately, every individual needs time to heal before they can move forward, and family therapy is the right platform for this to take place. 


If you or a loved one is suffering from a drug or alcohol addiction, family therapy will contribute to long-term recovery. Call Banyan Treatment Centers today at 888-280-4763 to learn more about our Philadelphia substance abuse programs and how we can help. 


Related Reading: 

How to Handle Unsupportive Family in Recovery 

Best Books on Addiction for Loved Ones 


If you or a loved one is suffering from a drug or alcohol addiction, family therapy will contribute to long-term recovery. Contact Banyan Treatment Center in Philadelphia today. We can help you and your family truly recover. Call our treatment center today at 888-280-4763 for more information on how we can guide you through recovery.

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
The Importance of Support for Families of Addicts
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