Importance of Family in Treatment

“Every person belongs to something. We didn’t grow up like little mushrooms in the dark… They find support in some people they met along the way. And that becomes the family” (Drake, 2014).

Most interventions focus solely on the identified client whether it is an addiction or mental health issue. After treatment, the client becomes sober or mentally healthier and goes back home. It looks simple enough, as clinicians create a discharge plan for the client. But it misses the big point, the client is one piece of a larger system. Every client we work with is related to someone or some community somewhere.  Intervening to help the client change without changing where he/she will go back is one piece of the pie. To create change that would last will require a bigger bite of the pie.

Systems Theory explains human behavior as the intersection of the influences of multiple interrelated systems (Forder, 1976). If we look at the client problem being the problem behavior, it was influenced by those around him or her. Since it takes a lot of legislation to change communities, we can look at a smaller unit: the family.

Family involvement in treatment is crucial to lasting recovery, not just to create the awareness for the family to understand the “underlying issues” behind the problem; but to also be part of the solution. The influence exerted by the family on the individual in the form of support could easily become enabling behaviors. And if a biological family or family by marriage is not available, we have to look at the friends or support system that the client sees as their “family.”

- Melinda Drake, LCSW (CA, NY & HI), LISW CP & AP (SC)



Drake, M. (2014). Addiction Professional, Family Dynamics in Addiction Treatment - Orange, Calif. Retrieved from

Forder, A. (1976). Social Work and System Theory. The British Journal of Social Work, Volume 6, Issue 1, 1 January 1976, Pages 23–42.

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