How Do I Heal From Family Trauma in a Treatment Program?

Trauma is an umbrella term that describes lasting symptoms of a problematic event, circumstance, or set of circumstances that occur over time. Unfortunately, we are all at risk of experiencing traumatic events throughout our lives. A particularly uncommon experience that individuals must process, navigate, and overcome is family trauma. If you are looking to heal from family trauma, Alter Behavioral Health is here to help. 

Understanding Family Trauma

“Family trauma” is an umbrella term that encompasses all types of traumatic events that impact an entire family unit. It is important to understand that family trauma may or may not occur within the home environment, consist of all family members, or affect all members in the same way. Still, understanding family trauma and the influence that it has on the development of mental health disorders, substance use disorder (SUD), and other mental health problems is necessary for preventing such consequences and establishing healing for all family members. 

Lasting Consequences of Family Trauma

According to a publication by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network titled “Trauma and Families: Fact Sheet for Providers,” “Traumas can cause traumatic stress responses in family members with consequences that ripple through family relationships and impede optimal family functioning.” Some common consequences of untreated family trauma include:

  • Feeling neglected and misunderstood
  • Lacking self-worth and neglecting personal self-care
  • Worsening family dysfunction and impaired family relationships
  • Issues with identifying, expressing, and managing emotions properly
  • Increased likelihood of internalized or severely externalized stress reactions toward family members
  • Fearing repeated traumatic experiences

Such consequences also place family members at greater risk of:

  • Using alcohol and other drugs to self-medicate
  • Isolation
  • Risk-taking behavior
  • Mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Impaired attachment

Every type of traumatic event affects the family unit, as well as each family member, differently. Factors such as age, culture, knowledge of trauma, social support system, and relationship with family members can all impact whether or not you develop lasting symptoms of family trauma. 

Regardless of how symptoms of family trauma may present themself, it is necessary that you and your family work to heal from family trauma. It will reduce the risk of SUD and mental health disorders for you and your family members and ensure that traumatic experiences are properly integrated into your life for lasting wellness.

Heal From Family Trauma With Professional Treatment

Working to heal from family trauma is a process that takes time. This process will likely involve the professional aid of a mental health therapist, as there are many obstacles that are likely to surface over the course of treatment and recovery. For example, a common obstacle that you may face is having family members who are unwilling to participate in treatment. There is no doubt that you can work to heal from family trauma alone. However, to ensure lasting healing for your entire family, it is necessary that all members are willing to be vulnerable and engage in treatment together. 

As researchers continue to acknowledge the impact of trauma on the family unit, more treatment facilities are beginning to offer services for the entire family. Each family member can consider participating in individual, trauma-informed therapy sessions in addition to family services, increasing the potential for lasting recovery for the whole family unit. Some examples of family services to help you heal from family trauma include group psychoeducation, group and family therapy, and family support groups. 

Benefits of Family Therapy

According to a publication by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “Research suggests that behavioral health treatment that includes family therapy works better than treatment that does not.” Some specific benefits of family therapy include:

  • Medication adherence (when members are prescribed mental health medications)
  • Reduced rates of substance use and relapse
  • Stress reduction
  • Reduced psychiatric symptoms
  • Encouraged treatment entry for members with addiction or SUD
  • Improved family dynamics
  • Reduced burden of stress on other family members

What to Expect From a Treatment Program

Although you have likely grasped the value of family services in healing from family trauma, you may still wonder what to expect from treatment. More than likely, you will be recommended to participate in individual therapy sessions in addition to family and group therapy. 

In individual sessions, you will work with a therapist to identify and overcome the root causes of your mental health distress and lasting symptoms of trauma. A variety of therapeutic approaches may be utilized to instill new coping skills and reduce any potential for re-traumatization. Some approaches we utilize at Alter Behavioral Health include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Prolonged exposure therapy
  • Cognitive processing therapy
  • Stress inoculation therapy
  • Mindfulness strategies, such as meditation 

These approaches may also be utilized by the therapist leading your family therapy sessions. In these sessions, you will work with your family members to develop a variety of new communication, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills. Depending on the unique needs of your family members, the therapist may also utilize trauma-informed approaches to help your family work through past trauma together. 

Family trauma poses complex challenges that can be effectively navigated with the help of professional treatment. As you work to heal from family trauma, it can be beneficial for your family members to participate in family treatment services, including family therapy. This ensures that all family members have the best chance at securing lasting recovery from family trauma. At Alter Behavioral Health, we offer a number of mental health treatment programs for individuals as well as their families. We are passionate about helping you uncover the root causes of your family trauma and supporting you as you integrate those experiences into your life. To get connected with trauma treatment, call us today at (866) 691-4386.