Family Counseling in Methadone Treatment Programs: Is Family Involvement Really Necessary?

People recovering from chronic opiate addictions face a myriad of challenges in the recovery process. The damaging effects of opiates can impair a person’s mental, emotional and physical well-being long after he or she stops using drugs. Methadone treatment programs have ample experience in addressing the challenges addicts face in recovery.

The long-term effects of opiate abuse on brain function make it especially difficult for those in recovery to maintain abstinence for any length of time. Methadone, the most widely used medication therapy for treating chronic opiate addiction, offers a range of benefits to those who’ve had little to no success with other forms of treatment, according to the American Family Physician.

Methadone treatment programs administer methadone as well as offer a range of psychosocial treatment services, one of which being family counseling. As support systems play a pivotal role throughout the treatment and recovery process, family involvement can make a tremendous impact on a person’s progress in recovery. For this reason, methadone treatment programs encourage families to take an active role in the addict’s recovery process.

The Purpose of Methadone Treatment

Chronic opiate addiction alters brain functions on a cellular level, creating an unstable chemical environment within the brain. Over the course of drug use, opiate’s force brain cells to over-produce neurotransmitter chemicals on an ongoing basis. These interactions cause cell deterioration over time, leaving cells unable to produce needed neurotransmitter supplies on their own.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, methadone works as a synthetic opiate agent, producing the same effects as other opiate drugs at a controlled rate. In effect, methadone supports damaged brain cell functions by prompting the release of needed neurotransmitter chemicals, which works to restore normal brain chemical levels and functioning.

Methadone Treatment Programs

As one of the most regulated treatment drugs in existence, only authorized healthcare providers can use methadone as an addiction treatment. Methadone treatment programs specialize in administering methadone treatment in combination with psychosocial treatment interventions.

According to the National Institute of Justice, methadone effects provide relief from uncomfortable withdrawal effects and drug cravings for up to 24 to 36 hours. As an opiate drug, there’s still a potential for abuse so methadone treatment programs require patients to frequent the clinic on a daily basis for treatment. Daily visits also provide opportunities for patients to receive behavioral-based treatment interventions, such as:

  • Drug counseling
  • Drug education
  • Group therapy
  • Support group work
  • Individual psychotherapy
  • Family counseling
  • Family therapy

Challenges in Recovery

Opiate addiction not only impairs the brain’s physical functions, but also creates its own patterns of thinking, emotions and behavior. According to the U. S. National Library of Medicine, these effects combine to form a tendency towards the addiction lifestyle that can stay with a person long into the recovery process.

In effect, the brain has come to view opiate effects as the sole source of contentment and joy, making drugs the only motivating force in a person’s life. Methadone treatment programs use psychosocial treatment interventions to help addicts replace this mindset with healthy thinking and behavioral patterns.

The Family Dynamic

methadone addiction

The family often plays an important role in an addict’s Methadone addiction and recovery.

Family holds a place of high importance in terms of the addict’s sense of self and how he or she interacts with others. As the home environment has an ongoing influence on the addict’s success in recovery, it’s important to ensure family members understand what recovery entails for the addict as well as for the family. Methadone treatment programs act as an educational resource in this respect.

A family functions much like a system where each member’s well-being affects the well-being of the others. A family also abides by certain patterns of communication that work to maintain a sense of balance in terms of what individual members come to expect of one another.

This means changes in one family member inevitably affect the family system. Unless the family works together as a unit, the recovering addict’s efforts in recovery may be for naught. Methadone treatment programs work to ensure the family system can support the addict’s recovery efforts.

The Role of Family Counseling in Methadone Treatment Programs

According to the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, the health of the family system determines the health of its individual members. As addiction recovery essentially works to return the addict to a state of physical and psychological well-being, it’s essential that the family be working towards these same ends.

As the addict faces the day-to-day challenges of recovery, individual family members experience this process in their own ways. Ultimately, any major change in a family system can cause upheaval for the family as a whole and/or for individual family members. In this respect, methadone treatment programs provide support for the family as well as for the addict.


It’s not uncommon for families to be unfamiliar with how addiction works. Understanding the cues that trigger drug-using behaviors, being able to spot early signs of relapse and eliminating enabling behaviors can go a long way towards helping the addict maintain abstinence for the long-term. Methadone treatment programs provide drug education counseling to families to help them better understand the effects of addiction and the types of changes that must take place in order for the addict to succeed in recovery.

Establishing Healthy Relationships

Family relationship patterns play a pivotal role in the recovery process, as some family members may take on the role of the enabler in the addict’s life. Methadone treatment programs work to establish healthy relationship patterns within the family and help members redefine their roles within the family system.

Saving Families

As addiction can cause considerable hurt and pain to those closest to the addict, some family members may distance themselves regardless of his or her attempts to get well. Others may harbor feelings of guilt, anger or shame over the addict’s behaviors in the past. Methadone treatment programs use family counseling as a means for helping members discuss difficult issues and resolve hurt feelings so the family unit can heal and move forward.


Considering the devastation and havoc that comes with addiction, it can be easy for a family to view the addict as “the problem.” It’s important to keep in mind that addiction’s effects also reach into the lives of those closest to the addict. Ultimately, both the family and the addict must go through the recovery process in order for the addict to get well. Methadone treatment programs work to facilitate this process.

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