By Janet Fluker, MEd, MS, LPC

Addiction is an isolating disease, both for the addict and those who love him or her. Family support groups are a powerful way to end the isolation and shame caused by a loved one’s addiction. Therapist-led groups create a safe environment for participants to talk about the pain of living with addiction and uncover the secrets that family members have lived with for so long.

At MARR, it is our goal to teach families how to be healthy in mind, body, and spirit – regardless of what the addict chooses to do. Emotional health requires a supportive environment of other individuals who are on the same journey, who can offer guidance and assist in decision making. Although everyone in a support group is inevitably at a different point on the coping continuum and grows at a different rate, participants receive hope and inspiration when they see others overcome similar obstacles.

Members of the support group who have successfully managed difficult problems demonstrate appropriate coping skills for the newcomer, which reinforces healthy behaviors. What’s more, there is power in feeling understood by others with comparable issues. It breaks through the isolation people often experience in stressful situations. As group members share information and tips, it creates a feeling of connection, belonging, and acceptance.

What to Expect
The therapist who leads the support group will want to speak to you beforehand to ensure the group is a good fit for your needs, as well as answer any questions you might have. The therapist will discuss the rules of confidentiality either at this time or during the first group session. Group members are expected not to discuss the information shared in the group with others (and may be required to sign a confidentiality agreement).

You will also learn whether the group is open or closed. A closed group is limited to a certain number of sessions with the same group of people. An open group varies in the number of people who attend week by week and is ongoing. The therapist facilitates the effective functioning of the group. Depending upon the group’s goals, sessions may be structured or relatively undirected. Typically, the leader steers a middle course, providing direction to keep the group on track, while allowing members to set their own agenda. An effective group is one that not only creates a sense of safety so participants feel free to share but also meets the individual’s need for personal growth.

Help for Families
MARR’s Family Recovery Center offers a number of different open groups for families struggling with the addiction of a loved one. We provide therapist-led groups specifically for spouses, as well as a general group for all family members. And, our volunteer-led spiritual group is centered on the 12 Steps. For more information on family support groups at MARR, call our Family Recovery Center at 678-805-5169. For helpful literature on family recovery, visit our Family Resources page.