Celebrating the Family in Recovery

September is National Recovery Month. It is a time designed to bring awareness and increased understanding of mental and substance use disorders and celebrate those in recovery.

At Timberline Knolls we have the greatest respect for those women and girls who have completed treatment, and sustained their commitment to their recovery months and years after discharging from our program. But it is not only the individual that we honor throughout the month—it is the scores of families who have entered our care. Because make no mistake, though a single person may admit to our treatment facility, the family is also on the receiving end of our intentional, compassionate therapy.

Often, families fall victim to two myths:  the first is that the identified patient—the daughter, wife, mother or sister—is the only one in need of treatment. Certainly, the person in residential treatment is the member who is affected the most by an active disorder and requires the most intensive level of care. However, the entire family system is impacted by the active disorder as well. Successful recovery requires that family members participate in the change process. We look at communication patterns – how did the disorder play a part in dysfunctional exchanges with one another and how can we create functional positive interactions? We look at family roles – did someone have to take on a caretaking role with the active disorder and what does that family member need to feel safe enough to let go of that responsibility once recovery is started?

The second myth subscribed to by many families is that when their loved one returns home, she will be “all better.” Family members often don’t realize that, like musicians learning the notes to a new piece of music, the person in active recovery will need practice and support to master the score of healthy behaviors as she transitions back into her life. Residential treatment is just the beginning of the recovery process, with family members having an integral role in supporting their family member through a well-designed relapse prevention plan once she returns home. Family members will often need to learn how to trust that the active disorder is no longer a threat in order to allow their family member to practice her recovery skills. While in residential treatment, each family therapist works with the resident and her family, healing together and learning the tools to support each other in early months of recovery.

Recovery is about family members reconnecting, against the active disorder, with the person who is impacted by the disorder the most. Early recovery requires honesty and vulnerability, with a realization that everyone has an important part in the solution. This month, we celebrate the courage and resilience that all families who are impacted by an active disorder demonstrate as they work together towards healing and wellness. Lasting recovery is not only possible, with the family involved, treatment works!