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Family Involvement in Substance Use Counseling: Part Two (The Solution)

In our Facebook Live last week, we discussed family involvement in the problem of substance use. This enabling, codependent, and involuntary participation in manipulation is a major concern for any family system trying to heal from substance use. Returning to pre-crisis equilibrium will require participation, work, and growth from all of those involved in this systemic problem. 

Family Involvement

So, what can family do? First, family need to be involved in the treatment process. The substance user may attempt to block this, but family typically hold leverage and can work their way into involvement. Clients may need money, food, shelter, or other logistical concerns. These can be used as leverage to open the door for family involvement. It may be difficult to cut your loved on off, but this may be a necessary and scary step to take if they are not willing to accept help on the family's terms. In this case, they should not be provided with assistance from the family so they can feel the consequences of their behavior.


There is a large portion of treatment that needs to be focused on educating all parties. Parents cannot stop enabling, or even realize they are doing this behavior, if they aren't educated. The same goes for codependency and involuntary participation in manipulation. Unfortunately, deep rooted denial on both sides of this issue may make education, counseling, and ultimately change, extremely difficult. Thankfully, counseling can help eliminate this denial from all involved parties using approaches like Motivational Interviewing. We strongly encourage families to seek out their own counseling, either individually, or as a family. We are more than capable of providing this service. Head over to our Get Started page if you are interested in speaking with us and learning more. This is imperative, because if change does not occur within the family, the substance user is likely to revert back to their old behavior patterns.


Codependency is an issue that we run into quite regularly when working with family. Interestingly, this issue was most likely developed earlier in life and probably predates the substance user’s behavior. The substance user, being in a crisis state, becomes a perfect target for the codependent’s needs. In this case, this behavior existed long before substance use, and can continue long after the substance user has successfully implemented behavior change. The main implication of this is that the family member’s codependent behavior will not clear up simply because the substance user is abstinent. One major concern is that if the codependent’s behavior does not change, they may sabotage the substance user’s recovery process so that they can continue to care for them, thus being able to act out on their codependency. In this way, codependency is very similar to substance use, in that it is feeding a behavioral obsession/compulsion. Just as substance users who are currently abstaining from substances will gravitate towards other behaviors (sex, gambling, relationships/love, food), so too will the codependent.


Obviously, we can address all of these issues in counseling. The substance user can receive counseling, while the family is concurrently receiving their own counseling. Counseling can be conducted in family sessions, both with and without the substance user. All of these layers may be necessary, and a coordinated effort of the family and all professionals involved will be essential. Counseling alone will be effective, but there other options that we suggest adding to a robust and well-rounded family recovery plan.

Support Groups

The support group format is also a helpful format for both the individual and the family. These may be formal counseling groups for family or substance users. However, additional options exist. Codependency Anonymous (CoDA) is a 12-step fellowship for working on codependency with others who have recovered from their codependency. This is a great format and can benefit both families and individuals who use substances and are also codependent. However, additional options still exist within this category. Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, Alateen, and Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACoA) are all 12-step support fellowships for family and children of substance users. These social solutions can provide support while helping the family to feel they are not alone and identify with others who understand. We highly recommend these fellowships for all those in counseling, though they could be used solely by anyone that has a loved one that uses substances.

Self-Help Books

The previous two options may not be attractive to some. Often times, those attempting to make change will try exhaustively to do so on their own. Self-help books and the Internet are frequently used for this purpose. If you do wish to try this route, we obviously recommend that this is done in conjunction with counseling. We typically recommend all three options to our clients. Regardless, if you wish to educate yourself, Melody Beattie is an industry recognized leader on codependency. Her book Codependent No More is known by many professionals, and is our recommended book for self-help. Find her book online or at your local library. 

Independent Recovery and Families

At Independent Recovery, we think it is imperative for all parties involved to participate in the healing process together, and independently. If you want to learn more, or want to setup a free consultation, head on over to our Get Started page, submit the form, and let us know you want to work on family systems issues, with or without the substance user. What are you waiting for? Let's get started!