How Social Workers Can Aid the Families of Addicts

man standing outside of building, smoking

Struggling with an addiction is massive strain on more than an individual; it feeds into a cycle of stress and heartbreak that deeply impacts the lives of everyone in that person’s vicinity. This is why treatment has to extend beyond addict; an addict’s family needs as much support as he does, and when families aren’t brought into the picture they often face greater struggles than they can handle on their own. This can lead them to become addicts themselves, and worse outcomes can’t be ruled out. An addict’s household is a time bomb, and it’s a social worker’s job to make sure it’s disarmed before worse damage can be done.

It’s Better Than it Looks

An addict who seeks help has taken the first steps toward change. It’s a long road, but it means there’s hope that he will reform. It also means that if he has physically, psychologically or financially abused his family he is remorseful and wants to stop hurting them.

Hope Isn’t Enough

One thing that tends to be true of people in intimate relationships with addicts is that they’re prone to abuse. They won’t stand up for themselves even during the worst of times for fear that an addict might turn violent or they would never find anyone else. An addict who is trying to heal can’t get what he needs by maintaining unhealthy relationships, and sometimes the only solution is for the other person to walk away. Social workers can’t make anyone do anything, but they can provide counsel when people have tough decisions to make. It often takes an impartial person to step in and give advice in order for someone to do the right thing, and sometimes just knowing that someone is out there is enough to help a person make the right decision.

Counseling

Social workers can dispense valuable advice but they’re not counselors. Their job is to push things in the right direction. Once they’ve made an assessment of a family’s situation they can suggest therapists and 12-step programs intended to treat both the family and the individual. In cases where families separate from the addict it’s still a good idea to seek counseling, and a social worker can direct them to something that fits within their budget. She can also inform them of any financial aid programs they’d be eligible for in case they need to get back on their feet.

Life After Addiction

Families are in a rough position regardless of what happens. When addiction enters the fray trust is broken and it’s hard to get it back. Kids end up becoming damaged because their father or mother exposes them to a side of the world through the worst means possible: By modeling behavior they are likely to imitate. It’s easy to forget what life is like without an addict in the house, and once that happens it’s easy to give up on change.

A social worker’s most important job is to show addicts and the families of addicts that there’s something better at the end of the ordeal. There are programs and people that won’t give up on them as long as they won’t give up on themselves.

Brent Davis writes for education blogs nationwide. If you are interested in a career that helps others, consider going back to school for a degree in social work such as those offered by University of New England and NYU.

Image courtesy of colros via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.

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