Facing the Storm: Healing the Entire Family System
Interacting with a family member who has a behavioral issue is never easy. Issues with substance use, processes like gambling, acting out sexually, or complicated relationships with food or mental illness can all take a toll on a family. They can take a toll on relationships as well, because the affected individual isn’t the only one experiencing consequences. This is a main reason we at FRrē like to work with whole families to start the healing process and take a systemic approach to intervening on a problem.
To help families process these issues, I often use the analogy that the person you love with a behavioral issue has become a storm in the family. Some storms are worse than others; some can be pretty exciting while others cause a lot of damage. By the time a family calls us and “reports the weather,” as it were, it’s already a pretty dangerous or damaging storm.
Healing from emotional damage
Families are quick to talk about the problem itself: the wind, the rain, the lightning. It’s been difficult. But if the family is going to heal, eventually the focus must turn to the damage caused by that wind, rain and lightning.
Can you imagine coming out of the cellar after a tornado, seeing your car upside down in the neighbor’s yard, the garage in toothpicks, the roof missing from one side of the house and saying, “It’s okay. The wind stopped blowing?”
Of course not! That would be silly. But that is what happens all too often when a family convinces a loved one to get help. That person goes to treatment or starts therapy and the family breathes a sigh of relief. “It’s going to be okay now ‘cause Sparky went to treatment.” The problem is that, staying with this analogy, the car never gets replaced, the garage doesn’t get rebuilt, and the roof never gets fixed. In the end, that’s what the family lives with. And it’s also what Sparky comes home to after treatment.
When your loved one goes to treatment, it just means the wind isn’t blowing anymore. It’s great! But that’s all it is!
Family recovery services
These are the dynamics we at Family Recovery Resource Experts are passionate about. We take a systemic approach to these issues to initiate healing for all parties. We use the term “initially identified individual” to describe the person a family is pointing their fingers at. They are the thunder, the wind, the storm that brought the family to us, and we are good at getting that individual to accept help. But we also want the whole family to experience healing and recovery. We want to be the general contractor that assists in getting the car to the body shop, the roof back on the house, and the garage rebuilt. These are the things that will make a real difference in the quality of life for the entire family going forward.