Family Therapy for Addiction

Addiction treatment is best treated with several different types of therapy. One type of therapy that is often especially helpful to people with addiction is family therapy. 

Family therapy programs can add an additional layer of support to treatment as well as allow people to address issues in their home life that may be making their substance use worse. 

Keep reading to learn more about the different types of family therapy and when they are used, and more about your options for therapy while at Otter House Wellness in North Carolina. 

About Family Therapy for Addiction

Family therapy is a special type of psychotherapy that treats groups of people who are related to each other in some way and often living together. 

This treatment approach is often called for in situations where one of the family members is a child, adolescent, or teen who is engaging in high-risk behaviors, like alcohol or drug use, and these behaviors are affecting family functioning.

The goals of family therapy are to work on family problems within a safe and supportive environment while inspiring important behavior changes that can help to improve the dynamic. 

And while it may be the actions of one individual that calls for the need of family therapy, it is not uncommon for other family members to find a sense of healing and recovery as well. 

Key Facts on Family Therapy

  • Types of family therapy: functional family therapy (FFT), multidimensional family therapy (MDFT), brief strategic family therapy (BSFT), psychoeducation, narrative family therapy, strategic family therapy, structural family therapy, systemic family therapy, community reinforcement and family training (CRAFT)
  • Issues best treated with family therapy: marital problems, communication problems, grief or bereavement after the death of a loved one, substance use disorders (SUD), behavioral issues in young people, major life changes, problems between siblings, problems between parent and child
  • Key ideas of family therapy for addiction: treating the individual by treating the whole family, improving relationships and the family environment at home, taking accountability or responsibility for harm caused to self or others through substance abuse, learning better ways to communicate with one another, finding compassion and understanding for the situations of others
  • Benefits of family therapy in addiction treatment: improved relationships between family members and relatives, improved communication skills between household members, better outcomes from addiction treatment, family members have a better understanding of their strengths as well as areas that need improvement
  • How to pay for family therapy: insurance (private or state-funded), private savings or cash, financial assistance 

How Does Family Therapy Work in Addiction Treatment?

Addiction is a powerful condition that does not just affect the individual who is abusing drugs or alcohol but which strongly affects their loved ones as well. 

For this reason, it is important to look at a person’s family relationships when treating their addiction, and to encourage direct family involvement in their treatment whenever possible. 

People in addiction treatment or who have completed an addiction treatment program need support when they return home, and family therapy is often healing for both individuals and their family members who attend. 

Family therapy is, however, just one component of addiction treatment, and this type of therapy is usually combined with other substance abuse treatments. 

Other services found in addiction treatment include:

  • Medical detox
  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid/alcohol use disorders
  • Support groups
  • Individual therapy
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Individualized treatment plans
  • Aftercare 
  • Relapse prevention support

When family therapy is incorporated as part of a person’s larger treatment plan for addiction, their treatments also tend to work better and provide more lasting results. 

What Types of Programs Offer Family Therapy?

Family therapy is often available in both residential rehab and outpatient rehab programs of various levels. 

Inpatient Rehab Programs 

Inpatient rehab treatment, also known as residential treatment, involves 24/7 care and supervision while people are undergoing addiction treatment and living side by side with other residents of the program. 

This is the most intensive form of addiction treatment program available, and family members would have to take part in family therapy while visiting their loved one onsite. 

Outpatient Rehab Programs

Family therapy can also exist as a component for an outpatient program, where the person is likely to attend other types of therapy as well, including individual therapy. 

Furthermore, these outpatient treatment programs can come in different levels of intensity depending on how much care and supervision a person needs. Some examples include intensive outpatient programs (IOP) and partial hospitalization programs (PHP).

Group Family Therapy Sessions

Group family therapy can also be available as individual sessions, during which various combinations of family members meet together with a single therapist. 

A group family therapy session usually lasts between 50 and 60 minutes, and all family members are encouraged, though not required, to participate. 

Types of Family Therapy

There are numerous types of family therapy available, depending on what the situation calls for. 

Functional Family Therapy (FFT)

Functional family therapy (FFT) is a type of therapeutic intervention that is specifically for teens and their families where the teen is struggling with troubling behaviors such as substance abuse. 

The goals for this type of therapy are to both improve the teen’s behavior and improve the family dynamic. FFT is often offered as an in-home therapy option. 

Marriage Counseling/Couples Therapy

Marriage counseling or couples counseling can be useful in situations with either one or both of the people involved are struggling with alcohol or drug abuse.

Addiction can have a huge impact on intimate relationships, and partners will likely have to rebuild trust, improve communication, and set boundaries for each other moving forward. 

Narrative Family Therapy

Narrative family therapy is a unique approach in that it encourages each family member to tell their own version of their family story. In turn, this allows the therapist to understand the family’s story as an objective whole. 

This type of therapy can help a lot with symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as with substance use disorders. 


Psychoeducation is an important type of therapy which has education at its foundation. It operates under the idea that people can benefit from knowing as much about their condition as possible. 

Psychoeducation as a family therapy educates both family members and individuals so they can provide better support, have increased awareness and understanding, and have a smoother dynamic at home. 

Strategic Family Therapy

Strategic family therapy is most often used in families with children and adolescents who are experiencing behavioral issues like truancy or substance use. 

This type of therapy aims to both improve the behavior in the involved children and create healthy patterns for the family dynamic. Strategic family therapy provides individualized treatment and restructuring in a short-term model of around 12 sessions. 

Structural Family Therapy

Structural family therapy (SFT) is a type of outcome-oriented treatment that specifically looks at the rules or structures that exist within a family unit. 

Therapists who work in this type of therapy often strive to “join” the family and gain a better understanding of them while also presenting ideas for positive change. 

Systemic Family Therapy

This type of therapy treats the entire family as a single unit, and is sometimes called family systems therapy. 

The idea behind this therapy is that when one member of the family is affected by something, all members of the family are affected by it. Thus, they all must be treated together in order for treatment to be effective. 

Components of Family Therapy in Addiction Recovery Programs

Family therapy has the ability to address multiple aspects of a family’s well-being, including when one or more family members is engaging in drug or alcohol abuse. 

Ideally, family members will come out of family therapy with increased awareness, understanding, and empathy for one another, as well as with the right tools to address future issues more effectively and appropriately. 

Key components of family therapy in addiction treatment programs include:

  • A sense of accountability for both the individual with addiction and their family members
  • Validating each person’s experience no matter how they may differ
  • Education and learning about substance use disorders from varying perspectives
  • Improving communication and daily family interactions 
  • Rebuilding trust and repairing damaged or strained relationships
  • Identifying strengths within the family unit and building off them
  • Educating all family members about resources, like Al-Anon, that are available to them outside of therapy
  • Learning coping skills, conflict resolution skills, and problem-solving skills that can be applied in different contexts 

How Effective Is Family Therapy in Drug and Alcohol Treatment?

Family therapy is considered to be one of the most effective and valuable forms of treatment that can be found in substance abuse treatment.

Many people simply progress faster and stick with treatment longer if they have the support of their family behind them or if they are able to address negative aspects of their home environment. 

Benefits of family therapy in drug and alcohol treatment include:

  • Can increase the amount of family support that people receive in and out of the home
  • Can provide a clearer understanding of relapse and help individuals and their families to better prepare
  • People often experience better treatment outcomes and stay in treatment longer if they have family support
  • Can improve relationships among family members
  • It provides family members with coping skills and resources for difficult situations 
  • Can help family members to understand their roles and create healthier boundaries

Family Therapy vs Group Therapy

Family therapy and group therapy are both incredibly valuable components of addiction treatment that can offer some similar benefits.

Main differences between family therapy and group therapy include:

  • Family therapy typically addresses the family as a unit whereas group therapy addresses each person as an individual within the collective group
  • Family therapy treats family members together while group therapy treats people with common conditions or common issues
  • Group therapy encourages peer support and making new social connections, while family therapy encourages the strengthening of existing bonds and relationships. 

Both family therapy and group therapy are highly beneficial for the recovery process in that they promote supporting one another while also taking accountability for one’s actions. 

For this reason, it is not uncommon for a person’s treatment plan to incorporate both types of therapy into their recovery. 

Cost of Family Therapy

The cost of family therapy can have a wide range but has a general average between $100 and $200 per session. 

These costs can, however, often be covered by healthcare insurance, though people still may be required to pay for copays or other out-of-pocket fees. 

Factors that can affect the cost of family therapy include:

  • Types of insurance accepted by the program
  • Type of insurance policy and plan that is held by the patient
  • The length of therapy sessions
  • Whether the family therapy is part of a larger inpatient or outpatient program
  • Location of the treatment center

Many facilities do offer flexible payment options or payment plans, as the goal is always to make treatment as accessible as possible to those who need it. 

Contact us at Otter House Wellness to learn more about our payment options as we work with families to help them access recovery care. 

Find Compassionate Family Therapy in North Carolina

If you are looking for family therapy and alcohol and drug addiction treatment in North Carolina that is both compassionate and evidence-based, look no further than Otter House Wellness. 

We offer several levels of outpatient substance use disorder treatment to suit your needs as well as multiple types of family therapy and behavioral therapies. 

You can start your recovery journey with a single phone call to Otter House Wellness — our patient advocates can answer any questions and help you get started right away.

Frequently Asked Questions

What role does family play in addiction?

Family plays a large role in addiction as family members can either provide a place of support for their loved one or they can be a trigger or contributor to their addiction. There is also plenty of evidence to suggest that addiction and substance misuse is in some part hereditary. People who battle addiction often grew up around it or still have a parent or family member who struggles as well. 

How do you treat families or groups with addictive disorders?

When treating families or groups with addictive disorders, it is common for the entire family or group to meet with a therapist together, or in smaller groups with select family members. In some instances, individual family members may be treated separately, then come together for family sessions.

What is the family therapy technique?

Family therapy is a type of talk therapy that focuses on the relationships between family members, and particularly on improving them and reducing strain. This technique can involve any family member or combination of member members and emphasizes the role that families play in mental health.

What is the best family therapy approach?

There is no single best family therapy approach, as what may be best for one family is not necessarily what is best for another. A few of the best and most well-known types of family therapy are psychoeducation, family systems therapy, and supportive family therapy.


Cleveland Clinic. “Family Therapy.” Retrieved from: Accessed on May 3, 2024. 

Department of Human Services. “Functional Family Therapy (FFT).” Retrieved from: Accessed on May 8, 2024. 

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). “Treatment and Recovery.” Retrieved from: Accessed on May 8, 2024. 

National Library of Medicine. “Family Interventions: Basic Principles and Techniques.” Retrieved from: Accessed on May 8, 2024. 

Psychology Today. “Structural Family Therapy.” Retrieved from: Accessed on May 3, 2024. 

Psychology Today. “What Is Family Counseling?” Retrieved from: Accessed on May 3, 2024. 

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). “Resources for Families Coping with Mental and Substance Use Disorders.” Retrieved from: Accessed on May 8, 2024.

we work with most insurance companies

Insurance coverage will vary across plans, fill out our insurance verification form and we'll provide you with all the details.

Check Your Coverage