The University of Arizona

Treatment Modalities and Treatment Settings for Illicit Drug Abuse
Psychosocial Treatment:
Family Therapy

Family therapy encourages family members to provide support in order to maintain abstinence, preserve marital and family relationships, and improve treatment adherence and long-term outcomes. Family therapy may be indicated in circumstances in which a patient’s abstinence upsets a previously well-established but maladaptive style of family interaction, and in which other family members need help adjusting to a new set of individual and family goals, attitudes, and behaviors. By addressing interpersonal and family interactions that lead to conflict or enabling behaviors, family therapy can reduce the risk of relapse for patients with high levels of family involvement.[1-3]

There are different theoretical orientations of family therapy including structural, psychodynamic, systems, and behavioral approaches. Family interventions can focus on the nuclear family; on the patient and his or her spouse or partner; on concurrent (conjoint) treatment for patients, spouses or partners; on siblings; on multifamily groups; and on social networks.[1,4-6]



  • (1) American Psychiatric Association. Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Substance Use Disorders. Arlington, VA: APA; 2007 Apr. Report No.: 164.
  • (2) Stanton MD. Family Treatment Approaches of Substance Abuse: a Review. Family Process 1979;18:251-80.
  • (3) Stanton MD, Thomas TC. Family Therapy of Drug Abuse and Addiction. New York: Guilford; 1982.
  • (4) Galanter M. Network therapy for addiction: a model for office practice. American Journal of Psychiatry 1993;150:28-36.
  • (5) Heath A, Atkinson B. Systematic treatment of substance abuse: a graduate course. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy 1988;14:411-8.
  • (6) Stanton MD. Course-work and self-study in the family treatment of alcohol and drug abuse: expanding health and Atkinson's curriculum. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy 1988;14:419-27.