Back2Basics Family Workshop Weekend Promotes Healing

Back2Basics Family Workshop Weekend Promotes Healing

By The Fix staff 09/27/17

“We want [family members] to own those behaviors and recognize ways that they might have contributed to the addiction."

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Family members and patients gather together in a living room.
Back2Basics employs a therapy model that includes and promotes family interaction to get at the core of addiction.

Addiction isn't always an illness endured by one person but by entire families. It is a disease of relationships, affecting everyone in the life of the addicted person. Often, family dynamics are twisted and bent to accommodate the addict, and family members can take on unhealthy roles that are codependent or enabling.

Because of that, it’s important that families be involved in treatment so that the unhealthy patterns can be recognized and amends can begin. That’s the goal for Family Workshop, a weekend of education and therapy for family members of clients at Back2Basics Outdoor Adventure Therapy, a program that combines wilderness therapy and traditional residential inpatient treatment in Flagstaff, Arizona.

“We’re trying to bring everyone together to start a conversation about what went on and what we’re doing to move forward,” said Roy DuPrez, founder of Back2Basics.

Back2Basics offers a year-long program which consists of six months of inpatient care and six months of a transitional program. Family Workshops typically happen when a client has been at the treatment center for about three months.

“At that point clients are usually more ready for a dialogue that will start the healing process rather than a week of finger pointing,” DuPrez said.

The weekend typically involves three families who participate in a series of therapy sessions individually along with sessions that include the larger family group. One of the highlights and components of the workshop weekend is the psycho-education group, where Natalie Randolph, a primary clinician at Back2Basics, teaches family members and clients about the biological roots of addiction and the well-documented effects that the disease has on families.

“Some families have no idea about addiction as a disease model,” Randolph said.

Learning about the disease model is empowering for families, but it’s only one part of the weekend. Much of the work happens from families being around others who have the same issues, and speaking openly about taboo topics and family secrets.

“Within addicted family systems there’s so much going on that they’re not talking about,” Randolph said. “There’s so much shame and guilt about the addiction and their role in it. Often these families are operating in isolation, so the group is an important component of healing. They realize they’re not operating in a silo.”

Therapists and clinicians at Back2Basics help parents work to identify dysfunctional behaviors that are enabling or codependent.

“We want them to own those behaviors and recognize ways that they might have contributed to the addiction,” Randolph said.

DuPrez said that many parents enable their children because they think it will help them. However, many addicts take advantage of the financial support and the parents end up doing more harm than good by continuing it. That can be frustrating for parents to realize.

“You might think you’re doing the right thing but you are hurting,” DuPrez said. The family workshop helps parents recognize that and move toward setting healthy restrictions. “They get the message: you’re dealing with addiction. There is no standard script to follow but holding some boundaries and getting some clarity for yourself is a good start."

The parent process group is a chance for parents to meet without their children and discuss the challenges of parenting an addict. In that group parents who have more experience with addiction often become mentors to the rest of the group, which can be very empowering, Randolph said.

The weekend is equally important for the young men in recovery, who have the chance to come clean to their families and speak honestly about their addiction. They are also able to hear — perhaps for the first time — how their addiction affected the people they love. That can be a powerful tool for recovery.

“As an alcoholic/addict, you will continue to go on thinking your actions aren’t hurting others,” said DuPrez. “If you’re not hurting anyone else, it’s not a big deal. They need to hear that it is a big deal and that they can’t go on doing what they have been doing.”

Ultimately the weekend is designed to give families a chance to come together and begin healing for what will hopefully be a lifetime of sobriety. One of the highlights of the weekend is an activity where parents and addicts write down negative feelings that they have been holding on to. The papers are shredded and buried in a garden, symbolizing the regrowth of the family.

“We want to get rid of components that are barriers to moving forward as a family system,” Randolph explained. “We want to make amends on both ends. There has to be some level of accountability for family members and the addict so that they can move toward healing overall.”

Get more information on Back2Basics Outdoor Adventure Therapy at https://back2basics-soberliving.com/core-program/outdoor-adventure/, and visit them on Facebook.

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