Family Behavior Therapy (FBT) in Addiction Treatment

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Addiction impacts every part of a person’s life, from their mental and physical health to their financial and social wellbeing. Left untreated, addiction can make a profound impact on a person’s ability to be a healthy, functioning member of society.

Addiction can also prevent people from having healthy, meaningful relationships with the people in their lives, including their families. People with addiction may have behavioral changes or become more isolated. Family members may react in a variety of ways. They may try to cover up the addict’s behaviors, blame themselves, or deny that there is a problem.

When one person in a family is addicted, the whole family is affected. Since addiction is a whole-self and whole-family disease, the whole family must get help and support.

Many addiction treatment programs include family behavior therapy (FBT) in their treatment plans. This essential part of addiction treatment can lead to better treatment outcomes.[1] Families who go through therapy together have better communication, less tension, and are healthier supporters of their addicted loved ones.

The goal of addiction treatment is to help people overcome their addictions and learn how to live healthier, more fulfilling lives in sobriety. When families work together to learn and heal, they are better able to support their loved ones in their lifelong journey in recovery.

What is Family Behavior Therapy (FBT)?

Generally, therapy is a formal relationship between a client and a therapist in which the client can process emotions and experiences, and set goals related to their behaviors. In family therapy, family members–or very close friends–attend therapy sessions together to work through their feelings and experiences in a safe environment.

In addiction treatment, family therapy can be integrated into a person’s individual treatment plan, if appropriate. People in addiction treatment may begin family therapy during rehab and then continue afterward, or it may be limited to their time in treatment.

During sessions, a trained therapist will work with family members in a variety of ways, including:

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)–this therapeutic approach can help people explore how their thoughts and beliefs affect their behavior
  • Journaling
  • Role-playing
  • Coping skills practice
  • Communication skills education
  • Holistic therapies

The goal of family therapy in addiction treatment is to help families reframe their feelings of shame, anger, guilt, and pain and learn how to move forward together.

Benefits of Using Family Therapy in Addiction Treatment

Family behavior therapy gives people a safe, supportive environment to do the hard work of identifying and correcting their destructive patterns, roles, and habits. Some of the benefits of using family therapy during addiction treatment include:[2]

  • Better communication
  • Healthier coping mechanisms
  • Conflict resolution
  • Better family functioning
  • Improved listening skills
  • A safe place to process and heal trauma
  • Identification of harmful family roles
  • Healing grief

When family members are involved in their loved one’s addiction treatment, they learn healthier ways of coping and communicating. The result? Less stress, better relationships, and a more supportive environment for the addicted loved one.

Why Should Families Participate in Therapy During Addiction Treatment?

Addiction can be a very emotional condition for the addict and their family members. Blame, anger, guilt, shame, and hopelessness–and other feelings–commonly surround the addict and their family members.[3]

In family behavior therapy, people have an opportunity to voice their feelings in a safe, therapeutic environment. A skilled family therapist will help family members talk about their feelings and experiences and identify patterns and family roles that contribute to the addiction.

Some examples of common roles that a therapist might identify include:

  • The Hero: The Hero solves problems and creates the appearance of everything being OK. They may deny that there is a problem and work harder to make up for the addict’s behaviors. The Hero often has high stress and may have health problems related to it.
  • The Scapegoat: The Scapegoat takes much of the blame for the family’s problems. They may engage in negative or attention-seeking behaviors to distract the family from its real problems.
  • The Caretaker: The Caretaker enables the addict by making excuses for their behavior or doing work to fix their mistakes.

A family therapist can help families identify and correct harmful patterns, roles, and beliefs. This can create a healthier, higher-functioning family environment for the addict.

Learn More About Family Behavior Therapy at New Jersey Addiction Interventions

If you or someone you love requires addiction treatment, you are not alone. Please reach out to the staff at New Jersey Addiction Interventions for information about the comprehensive addiction treatment programs we offer. If you are a family member of someone struggling with addiction, we can support and assist you as you help your loved ones get the help they need.

We believe that anyone can recover from addiction if they have the right support and treatment. Our programs are adaptable and effective. Don’t wait another day for the treatment you need and deserve. Call today to speak to one of our admissions counselors about getting started.



Medically Reviewed: December 30, 2021

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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