Family and Substance Use Disorders


The treatment of substance use disorders is a sensitive process since a poor implementation of treatment interventions may lead to a relapse where individuals go back to drug abuse (Mignon, 2015). This further worsens the treatment process and the achievement of healthcare goals as it becomes more difficult to treat the affected individuals. One of the effective ways of implementing treatment interventions is involving family members in the treatment process since the family is the closest unit to an individual (Mignon, 2015).

A family shares biological, social, and economical aspects and is dedicated to ensuring the wellbeing of all members in various aspects. Family members have the advantage of understanding one another that may help counselors in developing effective interventions best suited for one of the family members through collaborating with other family members (Mignon, 2015).

The Family as a System of Roles

The family consists of different members who play different roles that are aimed at ensuring the success of the family in diverse aspects.

An example involves a father and mother who are responsible for ensuring that the family has access to important resources such as food, clothing, and shelter (Shehan & Duncan, 2016).

Siblings have also the responsibility of taking care of one another, as they are able to relate due to shared aspects such as a common social environment and economic status. For a family unit to be functional, every member should play his/her roles effectively which will help in maintaining a balance within the family system (Shehan & Duncan, 2016). These roles define how family members should interact with one another and if one member fails to perform his/her roles effectively, this may affect other members of the family due to the interdependence between family members.

How Family Systems Vary From Culture To Culture

Cultural values and perceptions impact the structure and functions of a family system. A Family structure defines the number of family members that constitute a family, their connection, and the roles of each member. One family structure is the nuclear family which is a common family structure composing of two generations (Wright & Benigno, 2019). This family system consists of a mother, father, and children. The main function of a nuclear family is emotional and financial sustenance to ensure that all members have complete wellbeing in diverse aspects. In this family setting, every member contributes to the success of the family in different roles. This type of family structure is common in Europe and United States (Wright & Benigno, 2019).

Another type of a family structure is the extended family that extends beyond the nuclear family structure to include other relatives. In this family structure, the grandfather is the head of the family with other members having other roles to support the family unit (Taylor, 2015). This type of family structure is common in Germany. However, these are not the only family structures as more family structures are coming up that include unmarried families, marriages between same sex individuals, and divorced families. These family structures are influenced by the accepted cultural and moral values in different areas across the world (Taylor, 2015).

Religious aspects also impact family structures and the functions of a family where a Christian setting allows only for two individuals of the opposite sex to marry. However, the Islam religion allows polygamy where a man can marry more than one wife. In religious countries, communities do not allow same-sex families (Shehan & Duncan, 2016). The function of families is also an aspect that may bring a difference of families in diverse cultures. Modernization has influenced family structures and the function of family systems. In same-sex marriage, both partners may head the family where making decisions and providing for the family is a role for both individuals (Shehan & Duncan, 2016).

Counseling Interventions That Can Be Used When Working With Families

One of the successful interventions that can be used by counselors when working with families that have teenagers suffering from substance use disorder include family therapy that involves family members during the counseling process (Ahluwalia, Anand, & Suman, 2018). This helps counselors to collaborate with family members to make effective treatment decisions. The family is important in playing various roles to help one of their members to address any health issues including substance abuse. This is because the family provides important resources and a support system for its members enhancing the achievement of healthcare goals (Ahluwalia, Anand, & Suman, 2018).

For healthcare issues that require continuing treatment interventions such as addressing substance use disorders, the family plays a key role in ensuring effective monitoring to achieve the desired healthcare goals and prevent the patient from relapsing (Szapocznik, Muir, Duff, Schwartz, & Brown, 2015). Another intervention that can be used by counselors when working with families having a teenager that suffers from substance use disorder is brief therapy. This intervention uses evidence-based practices to motivate individuals suffering from substance use disorders to adopt positive behaviors (Szapocznik et al., 2015). Counselors also engage family members to develop more effective solutions and inform them on how they may help and support the affected member to address this issue.


Although families may have the same characteristics, no two families are alike as each unit has different patterns in the distribution of roles, power hierarchy, or behavioral aspects that form the family’s long-term habits (Wampler, Blow, McWey, Miller, & Wampler, 2019). Due to this, a counselor cannot impose his/her perceptions in developing treatment interventions on a client as this may fail to work due to unique family differences. However, bringing on board the members of a family of the patient will help the counselor to understand family issues that may have contributed to the development of the health issue affecting one of their members (Wampler et al., 2019). The counselor will also involve the family members in developing effective treatment interventions to achieve the desired health outcomes.


Ahluwalia, H., Anand, T., & Suman, L. N. (2018). Marital and family therapy. Indian journal of psychiatry, 60(Suppl 4), 501–505.
Mignon, S. I. (2015). Substance abuse treatment: Options, challenges, and effectiveness. New York, Springer Publishing Company.
Shehan, C. L., & Duncan, M. (2016). The Wiley Blackwell encyclopedia of family studies. Chichester, West Sussex, UK; Malden, MA, USA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Szapocznik, J., Muir, J. A., Duff, J. H., Schwartz, S. J., & Brown, C. H. (2015). Brief Strategic Family Therapy: implementing evidence-based models in community settings. Psychotherapy research: journal of the Society for Psychotherapy Research, 25(1), 121–133.
Taylor, O. (2015). The substance abuse counseling sourcebook for counselors: The road to certification and licensure. Denver, Human Services Consultants LLC.
Wampler, K. S., Blow, A. J., McWey, L. M., Miller, R. B., & Wampler, R. S. (2019). The Profession of Couple, Marital, and Family Therapy (CMFT): Defining Ourselves and Moving Forward. Journal Of Marital And Family Therapy, 45(1), 5–18.
Wright, B. M., & Benigno, J. P. (2019). Autism Spectrum Disorder and Sibling Relationships: Exploring Implications for Intervention Using a Family Systems Framework. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 28(2), 759–767.

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