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May 30, 2018

Families and Substance Use Disorders: a Relational Paradigm in Addiction Treatment


Rachel Russell
Rachel Russell is Chief Clinical Officer at Freedom Institute, a nonprofit, outpatient recovery centre that has been operating in New York City since 1976. Freedom Institute...


Traditionally, the family component of addiction treatment centres around concepts of “co-dependence” and “boundaries” with a heavy emphasis on teaching family members to identify and avoid “enabling” behaviours.

The underlying premise is that one person in the family has a problem, and that problem is causing problems for everyone else. Families are usually treated separately from the person with the substance use disorder, and it is not uncommon to hear “the family shouldn’t be involved” or “the client isn’t ready to deal with family work.” This presentation will offer an alternative framework that: contextualises addiction as a problem that affects the family as a whole, challenges blame, cultivates collective problem-solving and emphasizes a relational paradigm. Such an approach offers an opportunity for families to be involved in recovery at any stage of individual treatment, and builds on family strengths to support individual (and family) recovery in a unique way.