Coming into residential treatment represents a massive change in the life of someone who is struggling with addiction.
When they finally get here their first week is generally dominated by anxiety, mixed with a sense of relief that they are finally somewhere where people understand what they are going through. The first priority is to settle in and form bonds with the community (the other people in treatment).
A typical characteristic of someone just coming into treatment is denial and during the first week it is often used as a defensive shield. By the second and third week this denial will have been broken down and after that they have to face up to their feelings — and this can be the hardest phase for them.
Many patients come into Castle Craig with a family member and we always sit down with them and help them understand what their loved one will be going through. We show sympathy for the tough time they will have had, explain the value of Family Therapy and advise them about what they can do. Most families follow our advice about Family Therapy and some have issues with codependency.
Contact during the first week is discouraged so that the patient can make bonds with the community, but the patient’s personal therapist will call the family to update them. This lack of contact gives the family a breathing space and gives the patient a chance to settle down emotionally.
Addiction results in severe communication problems within a family. The alcoholic or addict are often unable to tell the truth, the sense of trust breaks down and the inevitable result is shame, anger and recriminations.
Normal communication breaks down — the only thing being communicated is the frustration — and there is no resolution. They end up going round in circles. Our job with the families is to improve communication with the families that come to us.
When the patient enters treatment the family are often relieved as they know the person they love is safe for the time being. Family involvement is vital and the patient’s therapist will begin to engage the family in treatment.
With the patient’s permission we send out a family questionnaire which helps the family think about, and begin to process, some of their emotions. Self-help groups such as Al-Anon are available in the community and if the family wants they can access this source of help.
Family therapy will be arranged as soon as is practical, this helps the family understand the treatment process and also what they can do for themselves to recover from the trauma of addiction.
Castle Craig also offers a short programme facilitated by our specialist family therapist. This is a valuable exercise, families meet others who have also suffered the consequences of addiction. It helps remove the sense of isolation and stigma and also gives family members a sense of direction for the future.