Family treatment has become an ongoing component of most alcoholism treatment programs. The main emphasis of such treatment is on the affects of alcoholism on family roles and enabling patterns. However, many programs lack clear goals and objectives for involving family members or provide the same type of treatment for each family. This may be due to the fact that there is no universal or routine model of family treatment for alcoholism.
Most proposed interventions focus on individual family members and do not address interactions and roles among members. Whats more, treatment is often provided without a through assessment of the familys unique needs. Alcoholism is a progressive illness that occurs in stages. In broadening this definition to include a progressive family illness, the first step in intervention and treatment for the alcoholic family is to determine its stage of adjustment to the illness.
As with individual alcoholics, different stages of family illness require different interventions, and the right intervention at the right time improves the chance for a successful treatment outcome. This paper offers criteria for diagnosis and intervention with three stages of family alcoholism-early, middle, and latter-and conducts with helpful interventions on treatment resources for alcoholic families. Early Stage Family Alcoholism: Early stage family alcoholism is characterized by denial.
Drinking episodes are minimized, rationalized, and discussion about alcoholism is avoided. Most often during this stage, family members experience no great adjustment in their roles and expectations because of the alcoholic members drinking. Anger and resentment toward the drinking person or other family members is repressed, and disagreeing goes unvoiced for fear of causing a drinking episode. The family adopts other means to cope with the illness, yet to the outside world, the early stage alcoholic family is the looking good family..
Case#1: Jack is 27 years old and an alcoholic. His parents, John and Mary, are both professionals, John an accountant, and Mary a teacher. Jack was recently arrested for his second DWI (driving while intoxicated) charge in three years, and John and Mary agreed to undergo counseling as significant others of an alcoholic. The familys obsession taking case of Jack has put a strain on the marriage. Mary denies any negative feelings, yet becomes angry when the discussion turns to Jacks alcoholism. Jack was raised well, she states. Hes not really an alcoholic.
Her need to deny the severity of the problem and to repress her feelings is further revealed by her refused to go to Al Anon meetings. The entire family has been disrupted by alcoholism yet denies the problem. By rescuing and controlling his alcoholic son, John has neglected his wife and daughter and has kept Jack from recognizing the severity of his illness. The shame and humiliation felt by both parents has led each to deny their real feelings. Middle Stage Family Alcoholism: During the middle stage, the family system begins to adjust to the illness.
Family roles begin to shift and members often change their expectations of each other and of the alcoholic. Also during this stage, the family recognizes that a problem exists and attempts to solve the problem either through outside assistance or internal change. The family carries a significant amount of stress, tension, and guilt, but it is not fully explored or personalized. They may be expressed in terms of abuse, resentment, isolation, and greater responsibilities of other family members.