Many people are aware of addiction support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) for people living with an active or former drug addiction.
But support groups aren’t just for those struggling. Addiction is a condition that affects everyone in a person’s social circle—including friends, spouses, and family.
Family support groups, including those associated with the Alcoholics Anonymous fellowship, can offer peer support, access to addiction resources, as well as validation and community.
What Are Family Support Groups?
Family support groups are groups that offer support services for family members affected by a loved one’s substance abuse or mental illness.
Within these groups, addiction is treated not just as a problem of one person—but a problem that affects, and can sometimes begin within, the family.
Examples of family support groups include:
- Adult Children of Alcoholics
- SMART Recovery Family and Friends
Support groups for families of addicted individuals are also frequently offered within communities through community centers or other drug and alcohol recovery programs.
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Support Group Approaches
Family support groups can take different approaches to addiction and recovery, based on who organizes the group and other factors.
A common approach offered in support groups for addiction is the 12-step approach. However, there are also family support groups that do not follow this model and may offer an AA alternative.
Family support groups can also differ in their primary purpose. For instance, many support groups offer a space for open process: sharing thoughts, feelings, successes, and set-backs.
This type of open process is the basis for the standard “self-help” group model. But there are also different types of family groups.
Other types of family groups include:
- behavioral therapy groups
- skill learning groups
- educational groups
- grief and loss groups
Broadly speaking, the goal of family support groups is to provide a sense of community for loved ones affected, as well as information about addiction and the road to recovery.
Who Can Get Help At Family Recovery Support Groups?
Some family support groups, not all, can be designated specifically for certain types of family members or other loved ones.
Common types of family addiction support groups include:
- support groups for parents
- support groups for children
- support groups for spouses
- support groups for siblings
- support groups for friends
Most groups designated for the “family” are open to any and all family members. But for some, it can also be helpful to find a group that’s specifically intended for parents or children of addicted individuals.
What Can Family Support Groups Offer?
Generally speaking, support groups can offer families reassurance that they’re not alone. They can also provide tips, tools, and strategies that family members can take home with them.
Addiction is a complex disease. It can strain relationships, cause hurt, and cause family members to question themselves, their own emotions, and their relationship with their addicted loved one.
What family support group may be able to offer:
- peer support
- tools and strategies for responding to addiction
- positive coping strategies for family members
- access to support services and resources
- a safe space to talk about thoughts, emotions, and challenges
- insight from others who have dealt with this for a long time
- inspiration and hope
For many, support groups can be a powerful experience.
It’s common for family members of those with an addiction to stay silent and hide the addiction from others, including friends, for fear of ridicule, judgment, ignorance, or pity.
Support groups by and for families, on the other hand, are made up of those who are in a similar boat. This can help families find people who can relate to and offer compassion for the struggles they are going through.
How Attending Support Groups Can Help Your Loved One
Another key point about the benefits of family support groups is how this can help not only you, as a family member, but also your loved one.
For instance, attending support groups may help by:
- improving families’ understanding of addiction
- offering a safe space for families to ask for advice or insight
- allowing families to air grievances or concerns
- providing families with tips on how to support their loved one in addiction recovery
- connecting families with addiction and recovery resources
- reducing shame or embarrassment associated with your loved one’s addiction
Where To Find Support Groups And Addiction Therapy For Families
Family support groups can be found almost anywhere. Although support groups may not be available in all communities, many can be found online.
Where to find family support groups and addiction therapy for families:
Through A Drug Rehab Center
Inpatient centers, residential facilities, or outpatient treatment centers all offer family treatment services.
Family treatment options may include:
- family therapy as part of a rehab program
- aftercare planning with families
- addiction education for families
Family treatment through rehab centers is typically offered as part of a full rehab program. If this is the case, the consent of your family member may be required in order for you to participate.
Community Support Groups
Self-help groups for families can also be offered within communities. These groups can likely be found through county health departments, substance use counselors, schools, or other health centers.
Common venues for community family support groups include:
- counseling centers
- community centers
Online Support Groups
For families who don’t have access to support groups in their communities, there are also a wide range of virtual support options.
Family support options might include:
- online self-help groups
- online discussion forums
- virtual family treatment services
- virtual addiction therapy services (i.e. telehealth or telemedicine)
Call To Find Addiction Treatment Services For Your Family
If you’re looking for a family support group or an addiction treatment program for a loved one, one of our treatment admission specialists may be able to help.
Call our free and confidential helpline today to learn more about family support options or to find an addiction treatment program for families at a rehab center near you.
Published on October 14, 2021
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — Resources for Families Coping with Mental and Substance Use Disorders
- U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — If Your Adult Friend or Loved One Has a Problem with Drugs: Support Groups
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: NCBI Bookshelf — Substance Abuse Treatment: Group Therapy