In The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, there is an analogy that compares an alcoholic…
Getting Family on Board With Therapy
There has always been a stigma attached to the need to see a therapist. Whether the reason is a little anxiety, a deeper mental illness, an addictive disorder or anything else, needing psychological help has long been seen as a weakness. The tides are turning and more people are accepting mental illness and addiction as genuine diseases requiring medical treatment. Still, many people needing therapy face a stigma from the worst possible source: family. If you have a family that opposes therapy, it may be particularly difficult for you to take this needed step.
Stigma Within the Family
If you have been through rehab already, and are now fighting the battle to stay sober, therapy can be one of your most powerful tools. Too many people go through rehab expecting it to be the final answer to their problems. The truth is that addiction requires lifelong treatment. You need tune-ups from time to time, as well as regular therapy sessions to remain sober and to resist those powerful urges to relapse.
Unfortunately, there is a stigma attached to getting therapy or counseling. It isn’t only addicts who often think rehab is supposed to be a cure. Your family may assume you are all better after rehab and that therapy is not necessary. Worse, you may have a family culture that assumes all therapists are quacks or that therapy implies weakness. Overcoming societal stigma and choosing to get help from a therapist is difficult for anyone. Overcoming a family stigma can be nearly impossible. It is tough to break out of the family mold on anything, let alone mental health care.
Breaking Through the Stigma
You can’t change anyone else’s mind about therapy, but you can get help regardless of family opinion. You should be able to rely on family members for support, but if you can’t, don’t feel alone. Research has found that many people with a mental illness face stigma from family as well as peers. You are not the only one going through this and recognizing that fact is the first step to breaking the barrier of a stigma. Connect with these other people. Join a support group, 12-step or otherwise, that will help you meet other people who are still struggling with addiction. This is a powerful way to feel better about what you are going through.
If you have just one family member who you feel might support your decision to continue with therapy, make that person your ally. Don’t waste time trying to convince anyone else that what you are doing is right. At the same time, don’t hide it. Talk openly about what you’re doing and how it’s helping you. With time, the idea of therapy may start to sound more normal to your family members.
Is Family Therapy Possible?
For many struggling addicts, troubles began at home. Your family dynamic is an important aspect of the choices you have made. While blaming your family for your battles is counterproductive, working with family members to heal can be intensely productive. Suggest the idea of having family members come to therapy sessions with you and let it be known that the door is always open. Start with your one receptive family member and go from there.
Remember that you can’t force anyone. Be open to the possibilities of how therapy can help you, and others around you may start to notice the positive changes you’re making. Overcoming stigma takes time and for some people may never happen. The most important person in this scenario is you. Continue your positive work and allow your family to come around with time.