Uploaded by drrosrobertson

CJHS425 Family Dynamics Live Chat # 1 July 2022

Family Counseling
Live Chat #1
Family Dynamics: Impact
of substance use on family
members, friends and
Dr. Ros Burton-Robertson
PhD, PsyD, ThD, DBA
(ABD), EdD (ABD)
• When someone has problems relating to their
substance use, the attention is focussed on that
person, how to help them and, for some people,
what type of intervention is available for them.
• A number of interventions involve family
members/ friends/carers – usually these are
focussed on how those family members can
support their friend or relative with the
substance problem.
Introduction (cont.)
• Far less attention is paid to the impact the person’s
substance use is having on family members and the
support they need in their own right.
• This lecture focuses on the impact of
substance use on family
members/friends/ carers and what
to consider in your discussions with
them, however brief. For brevity,
‘family member’ will be the term
used to represent these relationships
throughout this resource.
• It also links with other resources
focussing on How to support family
members, The impact on children of
parental substance use and
Who may be affected
• There are a range of people who can be affected
when someone they love or care for has problems
relating to their substance use. These include:
• Parents of substance using children
• othis could be children of any age, be they
11 or 51!
• Brothers and sisters
• Partners
• Carers
• Extended family members, e.g. Grandparents
• Friends
Negative impact?
We tend to think problematic substance use (be that alcohol or other drugs) will
automatically have a negative impact.
While this is likely when someone’s substance use is consistently problematic,
people do report some positive aspects of using substances, e.g. sociability or
expressing themselves more openly under the influence of a substance.
The positive aspects of use need to be heard in order for it to inform any further
discussions about challenges to change and what support the person may need to
offered in different aspects of people’s lives.
However, this resource will focus more on the negative impact of problematic
substance use on family members.
Types of impact
Living with, or being close to, a person with
problematic substance use can result in a range of
social and health problems for the family member.
These include:
• Physical health problems
• Psychological and mental health problems
• Financial problems
• Emotional problems
• Relationship stress and breakdown
• Loss of employment
• Domestic violence and abuse
Impact: research
Copello et al.’s (2000) research shows that the health
and wellbeing of family members living in the
household with someone with substance problems
can be negatively affected.
This stress has been found to heighten risk of mental
and physical health problems and also worsen preexisting health problems.
Watch Prof Alex Copello talk about the impact of the
experience of family members and the stress they
Impact: research
evidence (cont.)
Orford et al. (2005) found evidence of family
members being exposed to “multiple and often
chronic stressors” resulting from the problematic
use of close relatives.
Barnard’s research (2005) focussed on the impact on
families where one child was using problematically
Barnard identified feelings of loss, sadness and
anger within the family. It led to tensions between
parents and other children in the family as well as
between parents.
Factors affecting
A number of factors can affect the type of impact,
and extent of the impact, a person’s substance use
can have on other family members.
As a reflective practitioner it is helpful to ask yourself
the following questions to consider what the impact
might be:
• Is the family member responsible for the wellbeing of the person
with the substance problem, for example, due to the person’s age
or a disability?
• Does the family member live in the same household/ family home?
• If so, is the family member in a position to walk away or leave the
relationship or situation to get some respite or space?
• If not, how is this lack of respite going to impact on the person’s
Factors affecting
impact? (cont.)
Other questions to consider in determining impact
on family members include
Has the individual’s problematic substance use
resulted in problems at school, work or in the
community for other members of the family?
• If so, in what way?
• Are finances or other practical responsibilities shared?
• If so, are there debts, for example, adding to stress levels?
• Has the family member’s health and well being suffered as a
result of their loved one’s problematic substance use?
• If so, what support or treatment are they receiving?
Factors affecting
impact? (cont.)
Does time spent trying to help the person with the
detract from time spent with other members of the
• What type of additional stress and strain does this put on other family
relationships and communication?
What other support does the family member have to
draw on?
• Are there family and friends outside the household the family can go to
or talk to or are they dealing with this on their own?
Is their loved one’s problematic substance use leading to,
or exacerbating, other problems they may have?
• How is their physical, emotional and mental health?
impact? (cont.)
Co-use of substances
• Some partners or family members may
be using a substance with the person
identified as having problems relating
to their use.
• This could be as a result of coercion, as a
coping mechanism for the stress of living
with someone with problematic substance
use, or because they also choose to use
substances....or all of the above!
• Consideration needs to be given to
whether the family member is in need
of specialist substance use services in
their own right, as well as support as
someone who is affected by the
problematic use of their loved one.
• They may not realize that using when
the person with the problem is around
is unhelpful – even if their own use is
Factors affecting
impact? (cont.)
Domestic abuse and child-to-parent abuse
• Conflict and arguments are often a feature among
families where a person has a substance problem.
• This is not the same as domestic or child-to-parent
abuse which is frightening and controlling.
• However, domestic abuse, from child to parent/
grandparent, from sibling to sibling, or between
partners is also common among people with
substance problems.
• This can add to the negative impact on the family
members’ health and well-being, particularly their
psychological and emotional well-being.
• Use the following link to take you to the resource
focussing on Domestic Violence and Substance use
Barnard, M. (2005) Drugs in the family. The impact on parents and siblings.
Final report. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation
Copello, A., Templeton, L., Krishnan, M., Orford, J. and Velleman, R. (2000) A
treatment package to improve primary care services for relatives of people
with alcohol and drug problems. Addiction Research, 8, 471-484.
Copello, A., Orford, J., Velleman, R., Templeton, L., &
Krishnan, M. (2000). ‘Methods for reducing alcohol and drug related family
harm in non-specialist settings.’ Journal of Mental Health, 9, 329–343
Orford, J., Natera, G., Copello, A., Atkinson, C., Mora, J., Velleman, R., et al.
(2005). Coping with alcohol and drug problems: The experiences of family
members in three contrasting cultures. London: Brunner-Routledge.