Alcohol dependence usually has a profound impact on many aspects of an individual’s life as well as those around them. Given its complexity, it is interesting that alcohol treatment programs are multidisciplinary to meet the patient’s diverse needs (social, psychological, professional and even legal aspects, while being more effective in changing behavior patterns such as cognitive processes and social functioning.
Patient assessment may involve several health professionals, such as clinicians and psychiatrists, psychologists, occupational therapists, physical educators, social workers and nurses. When diagnosed, it should be followed up long term to ensure treatment success, which varies according to the progression and severity of the disease.
Abstinence should be the goal of treatment, but for many reasons this may not be achieved at the beginning or even over time. Despite this, the individual can still have benefits of remaining in the process, with minimization of psychosocial impairments, treatment of clinical and psychiatric comorbidity, and other addiction-related conditions. It is also noted that the greater the number of people involved in the process (family, friends, teachers, co-workers), the greater the chances of adherence to treatment and recovery.
The family in particular is a key player both in preventing the harmful use of alcohol and in cases where the problem is already in place. In fact, it is not often that treatment starts with the family, mainly because the alcohol user does not accept their problem and may not recognize that the use of alcohol brings negative consequences or is unmotivated to seek help.
Specific and targeted follow-up for family members is essential if they are to understand the disease and its consequences In addition to Family Counseling the purpose of which is to provide information about the substance, guide the family on how to deal with addiction, and provide means for them to become aware of the problem, there are two other frequently applied models:
Systemic therapy: it is aimed at the interdependent nature of the family relationship and how these relationships influence (positively or negatively) the illness, from the perspective of the family as a system. The focus of alcohol treatment programs is to intervene in the complex patterns of relationships between family members to the point of generating positive changes for the whole core.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (family and couple): considering that behaviors associated with alcohol misuse can be reinforced through family interactions, this approach presents a main objective to change behaviors that act as a trigger for alcohol use, to improve communication of family members and strengthen and expand social skills.
It is worth noting that often the family suffers with the dependent – a phenomenon called codependency. In general terms, it is described as a dysfunctional relationship between the patient and the relative, in which the relative becomes more concerned with the dependent than with himself, feeling dominated by his needs and desires. Over time, this pattern of thinking and behavior can become compulsive and harmful. In these cases, the psychotherapy approaches mentioned above may help the family; however, there are specific mutual aid groups for family members.
In short, the family plays an important role in the treatment of alcohol dependency, since it helps in the adherence and overcoming difficulties arising from the process and in establishing a new lifestyle without the use of alcohol.