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What Is Family Systems Therapy?

What Is Family Systems Therapy?

Family systems therapy (FST) is an approach to treating teen substance use disorder (SUD) that addresses the family dynamic as a whole. While addiction affects the entire family, the family members often enable the addicted individual to continue using substances. 

In FST, the family is seen as a system made up of interconnected parts, and each family member is seen as playing an important role in that system. By understanding how each member contributes to the problem, FST can help identify and change dysfunctional patterns of behavior. 

FST can help break down the barriers that keep the addicted individual from seeking help. In addition, it can help to improve communication and build new coping skills within the family. 

The 4 Subsystems in FST

There are four main subsystems in family systems therapy:

#1. Spousal

The first subsystem is the relationship between the husband and wife. This system sets the tone for how all other relationships will be in the family.  

#2. Parental

The second subsystem is the parental system, which includes parents and their children. This system teaches children how to form future relationships outside of the family.  

#3. Sibling

The third subsystem is the sibling system, the relationship between brothers and sisters. This system helps children learn how to resolve conflict without violence.  

#4. Extended Family

The fourth and final subsystem is the extended family system which includes grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. This system helps individuals see themselves as part of a larger group. 

The four subsystems help you to understand how a family functions as a whole. Each of these subsystems has its own set of rules and patterns of behavior. For a family to function well, all of the subsystems must be balanced. 

If one subsystem is out of balance, it can cause problems in the other subsystems. For example, if the parent-child relationship is not working well, it can cause problems in the marital relationship. FST helps families find balance by working on each subsystem separately. By doing this, families can learn how to function as a whole and how to support each other through difficult times.

FST Promotes Unity

Family systems theory posits that family members are interconnected systems and impact each other’s behavior. This theory is often used in family therapy to help families improve communication and resolve conflict.

It can also be applied to teen addiction treatment, as family unity is crucial for a teenager’s recovery. Addressing family dynamics can help break down the barriers that enable addiction, such as enabling behaviors and family disagreements. In addition, family therapy can help family members learn how to support a teenager in recovery, promoting unity within the family system.

Focus On Being Human

Family systems therapy is a form of counseling that focuses on the family unit as a whole rather than individual family members. The theory behind this approach is that families are systems, and each family member plays a role in the system’s functioning. This means that when one member of the family is experiencing problems, it can have an effect on the entire family dynamic. 

FTS teen addiction treatment addresses these issues by helping families understand their roles within the family system and learn healthy coping skills. This approach can benefit individuals as it helps them focus on being human rather than being mentally ill or an addict. By understanding the family system and learning how to cope with its challenges, families can begin to heal and move forward in a more positive direction.

Focus on Teamwork

Family systems therapy promotes teamwork within families. Family systems therapy aims to help family members understand and support each other to function more effectively as a unit. 

This type of therapy can be particularly beneficial for families dealing with addiction, as it can help them communicate more openly about their experiences and work together to find solutions. By promoting teamwork within families, family systems therapy can help to create a stronger foundation for recovery.

Fosters Accountability

Family systems therapy is a form of counseling that views problems within a family as being caused by the interactions between family members. This therapy promotes accountability by helping family members understand how their actions and words contribute to the family dynamic. 

In the context of addiction treatment, family systems therapy can be extremely helpful in getting teens to take responsibility for their recovery. By understanding how their behavior affects the family as a whole, teens can begin to see the need to change their habits and make healthy choices. 

In addition, family systems therapy can help families to support and encourage their teen’s recovery by teaching them how to communicate and resolve conflict effectively.

Family systems therapy posits that the family is a complex system with many interconnected parts and that family dynamics play a significant role in individual behavior. This theory has a number of implications for teen addiction treatment. First, it suggests that family unity is essential for promoting recovery. By working to improve communication and strengthen family bonds, teens can create a supportive environment that promotes healing. In addition, family systems theory can help to identify underlying issues that may be contributing to addiction. By addressing these issues, families can help to reduce the risk of relapse and promote long-term recovery. FST promotes accountability and teamwork within the family unit, which can have a great effect on teens’ ability to stay sober. For more information on family systems therapy for teenage substance use disorder treatment, call Clearfork Academy today at (888) 966-8604.

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How to Break the Family Cycle of Addiction

How to Break the Family Cycle of Addiction

For many children and teens, addiction is a disease they have seen affect family members. They may have watched their grandparents struggle with addiction or live with parents that struggle with drug use. It is important to look at family history when addressing a child’s chances of addiction and what risk factors are in their life.

How Addiction Is Passed Down

Certain risk factors could lead to someone developing an addiction, and family history plays a big role. Studies show that family dynamics heavily influence adolescents and their behaviors, along with predispositions to things such as drug use and addiction. The most influential factors that contribute to drug use are a person’s genetics and environment.

Genetics and Addiction

There is often a misconception that drug and alcohol use is a choice. However, genetics play a part in whether or not someone is susceptible to developing an addiction. Having a predisposition to addiction means that there is a strong chance you will develop it too.

In families where the parents are chronic substance users, they risk passing down genes that make their children more susceptible to having a high preference for a particular drug. It can also impact a person’s ability to quit using by causing withdrawal symptoms to be more intense, which makes it harder to stop.

Environmental Factors

A child’s greatest teacher in life is often their parents or caregivers because children learn most of their behaviors in the environment they grew up in. Kids who grow up in an environment where they are constantly watching their parents or loved ones abuse drugs can develop learned behaviors of also using drugs in the same ways they have seen.

If alcohol or substances are lying around the house, it gives the child easier access to obtain and consistently use them. In addition to drug use, other environmental factors that can occur in the home include:

Breaking the Cycle of Familial Addiction

Addiction is a complex disease that almost always requires outside help for a person to recover. When you are raised in a family that struggles with addiction, as a child, you can begin to feel like breaking that cycle. The responsibility of overcoming addiction can be emotionally and mentally overwhelming for children and teens; therefore, outside help is necessary for successful treatment. If you are a teen looking for ways to start breaking the curse of family addiction, here are a few tips to help you get started.

  • Acknowledge that you need help. The first step towards overcoming addiction is admitting that you or your loved ones need help. If you are struggling with heavy substance use, don’t be afraid to reach out to a trusted family member, friend, or adult. They can help you find the right resources, which may involve a residential treatment center or speaking with a mental health professional. You should always seek professional assistance when managing addiction to ensure that you are taking the right steps towards sobriety.  
  • Create boundaries. Addiction can cause codependent relationships with family. This can happen due to the lack of boundaries between the enabler and the codependent person. Setting boundaries with a person battling addiction will not only help prevent developing a codependent relationship. Boundaries help create rules about how you would like to be treated.
  • Educate yourself on addiction. It is easy to judge the ones you love who use drugs, but addiction is a disease, and educating yourself on it will help you understand it. Many risk factors can cause someone to use drugs, and if addiction runs in your family, then chances are these risk factors apply to you as well. Substance use is extremely common as a co-occurring disorder. Take some time to research what causes addiction, its symptoms, and the best way to treat and prevent future use.
  • Learn coping strategies. One of the most common reasons why people begin to use drugs is to self-medicate, which is especially true for teens. Each person who uses substances has their reasons, but there are common causes. Drug and alcohol use in teens is often used as a way to cope with: mental health disorders, stress, trauma, peer pressure, death or loss of loved ones, and boredom. Learning healthy coping strategies can be used to eliminate drug use and prevent the possibility of developing full addiction. The sooner you find help for your teen, the better chance they will have at lasting sobriety.

If you have a history of family addiction and see your teen going down the same road, it’s time to take the first step towards breaking the cycle. As a parent, this is not a task you should have to do alone, which is why Clearfork Academy is here to offer the professional treatment your child needs. Our priority in treatment is to get your child clean of all drug use, which we do through our medically supervised detoxification program. After detox, we transition them into our residential program, where they will meet weekly with our therapist and start working on the journey to long-term sobriety. Family involvement is essential to teen recovery not only because it offers a support system, but family members can learn how to create and maintain a drug-free environment for everyone involved. To get your teen the help they deserve, call Clearfork Academy today at (888) 966-8604

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What is a Family Contract? How Do I Make One?

A family contract can be one of the most critical steps in getting your family back on track after treatment, especially for your kiddo who is trying to re-adjust at home. But family contracts aren’t just for families discharging from a treatment facility–a family can benefit from one at any stage of the recovery process.


What is a Family Contract?

In short, a family contract is an agreed-upon set of boundaries, rules, and expectations for your household and family dynamic. How do you want to treat each other? What are your expectations for your child as you move forward together? The family contract is a great way to put everything on the table immediately. It takes the guesswork out of maintaining a healthy parent-child relationship during the recovery process at home. It does not have to be a lengthy document–contracts are typically one to four pages in length, depending on the family. Write down whatever feels best for you!


Why do we need a Family Contract?

Setting these boundaries will add a sense of accountability and responsibility for your teen and give them tangible goals to aspire towards as they continue their recovery. Create a list that incorporates your family values, and don’t forget to establish consequences or accountability measures should expectations fail to be met. Drafting a family contract will help your family avoid the common pitfall of going straight to accountability measures without first laying out the boundaries you expect. 


How do I make a Family Contract?

It is important when drafting a contract that you have an open panel discussion. Your child should have buy-in to the contract, as well as a trusted counselor/therapist (if applicable). Allowing input from these sources will help facilitate real changes and adherence to not only what you want but what your teen wants for themselves. Opening the floor to discuss the contract rules will encourage conversation and allow self-expression from your kiddo on their feelings. Everyone has different aspects that they deem to be the most important–talk about the boundaries you value most and allow your kiddo to do the same. 

Practice active listening regarding the items your child suggests; they may even have boundaries and goals for you as a parent! Avoid shutting down their suggestions and allow them to share their perspective. Remember: you aren’t just their parent, you are also their biggest advocate and supporter. 

A successful family contract that follows these guidelines will bring your family together and establish open lines of communication right from the start. The goal is never to make your child dread signing the bottom. Everyone should sign with a clear conscience and a light heart as it represents the collective.


If your child is struggling with substance abuse or mental health, we’re here to help. Our clinical admissions specialists are available 24/7 to help with your unique situation. Please call us at 888-966-8604, email us at, or visit our website at

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Families Matter at Clearfork Academy

As a therapist, you know when a teen is struggling with substance abuse the whole family is affected. At Clearfork Academy, we know this is not something that can be overlooked. Having the support of family is critical for a teen to recover. 


When you’re looking for a treatment facility to refer clients to, we realize it’s important for you to know how the entire family is included in the recovery process. Here are just a few of the ways Clearfork Academy includes and takes care of our client’s families.


1. The first thing you should know is that we have a full-time Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist on staff. We want to therapeutically embrace the entire family system so each perspective is heard, and the entire family unit can begin to heal.


2. The families of addicted teens are often unaware of their role in the recovery process. For that reason, we offer a Multi-family Education Group on Saturday mornings. This group is led by one of our therapists, and different topics are presented each week regarding the family system and recovery. We educate on things such as boundaries, codependency, dysfunctional family roles, and more. The families are also able to ask questions, discuss and learn from each other during this time. This has proven to be an invaluable resource for many of our clients.


3. We also offer a Family Support Group to the families of our teens. We connect with these families beginning at the time of enrollment, and we stay connected! Our family support group meets every Tuesday. It is our goal to support the families of our patients, and to stay engaged with them. This support group is for the families of current patients, and for the families of our alumni. We continue to offer family support through our parent Facebook group well after graduation.

4. Speaking of alumni, Clearfork Academy actually has a full-time Alumni Relations Coordinator. Their main focus is staying engaged with alumni families. These families often need additional care and support after their teen has returned home from treatment. We are here for them as long as they need us!


When you refer a teen to our program, you can rest assured we will take care of the entire family. Not only that, we will also keep you –  the referring therapist, informed too. Within 48 hours of admission, the primary counselor for the enrolled teen will contact you. After the initial exchange of information, the counselor will update you on a weekly basis (or whatever schedule works best for you). We love collaborating with other professionals to ensure that these teens and their families are well taken care of throughout the entire recovery process.


“As a clinician for nearly 20 years, I’ve been hard pressed to work with such a team as Clearfork Academy when collaborating with a program that can help teens and families find help in their most dire of days. Clearfork and their team are unique based on their responsiveness to the population and our industry. In the five years I’ve been working and referring with Clearfork, they have asked fantastic questions of their constituents, been responsive for their program growth and the results of which have propelled Clearfork to a renowned Texas treatment facility that embraces core values, unique continuum of care for teens and a family program that is robust. It has been my honor to be called a clinical partner, problem solver, connector and case manager alongside Clearfork’s staff these past several years and can strongly recommend their milieu/programming to help with your most complex cases.” – Joseph A. Dias, M.Ed., LPC-S


If you’d like to learn more about what Clearfork Academy can offer, we’d love to connect with you! Please give Missy a call at (214) 592-7012 to schedule a lunch, a campus tour, or even a Zoom meeting. You can also email, or visit our website at for more information.



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6 Dysfunctional Family Roles

Does someone you love have a substance abuse problem? Addiction is a vicious cycle. Unfortunately, when someone struggles with addiction, there is a ripple effect that leaves no one in the family untouched. How well is your family coping? Is your family managing the stress of addiction in a healthy way? 

There are six dysfunctional roles we often see within the family system of addiction. In order to break the cycle of dysfunctional family roles, you must first understand each role and the part it plays in the family unit. Take a look at this list, and see if you can identify any of these roles within your family:


#1: The Addict:
The entire family life revolves around the addict or alcoholic. Each codependent role has been taken on in order to “make sense” of, and handle, the dysfunction in the everyday life of the family.

If the dysfunction within the family unit is not acknowledged and addressed, the addict is more likely to continually relapse. This is why we believe strongly in family therapy. Family therapy is critical in helping teenagers recover from substance abuse.

#2 The Caretaker:
The caretaker will often cover up the addict’s problems and responsibilities to keep everyone happy. The caretaker role often enables the addict. 

Enabling may look like : Disbelief and denial of addiction, covering up the problem due to parental guilt and shame, attempting to make life easier as a solution by giving money or gifts not earned, expecting less, removing responsibilities, etc., overlooking bad behavior to keep peace, trusting the promises of an addict, inconsistency – not following through with logical consequences, preventing natural consequences, forgiving too quickly, blaming his or her peers, believing lies.

The caretaker works hard to keep everyone in the family happy, for fear that if the real issues are realized, the family could fall apart. What the caretaker doesn’t understand is that their fear of addressing painful issues is actually preventing the family from operating as a healthy unit.

#3 The Hero:
The Hero devotes time and attention to making the family look “normal” and without problems. By overachieving and being successful in school, work or social activities, the Hero feels he/she can mask or make up for the dysfunctional home life. 

Many times the Hero feels pressure to keep the family’s success and image afloat. This is a huge burden for one person to carry!

#4 The Scapegoat:
The Scapegoat often acts out in front of others. They will rebel, make noise, and divert attention from the person who is addicted and their need for help in addiction recovery. The Scapegoat covers or draws attention away from the real problem.

#5 The Mascot:
The Mascot’s role is that of the jester. They will often make inappropriate jokes about those involved. Though they do bring humor to the family roles, it is often harmful humor, and they sometimes hinder addiction recovery.

#6 The Lost Child:
The Lost Child is the silent, “out of the way” family member, and will never mention alcohol or recovery. They are quiet and reserved, careful to not make problems. The Lost Child gives up self needs and makes efforts to avoid any conversation regarding the underlying roles.


Were you able to identify a few of these roles within your household? If your answer is yes, you’re probably thinking “what now?” As we said, family therapy is so important! It not only helps the addict find recovery, but it also helps his/her family recover! 

At Clearfork Academy, we know addiction is a family issue, and we want to support each family member throughout the process. In addition to family therapy sessions, we have support groups for parents of kids in treatment, and for parents of alumni. We also have a private Facebook page just for parents, to help you connect, and have a safe place to ask questions and find support. 

If your son is “The Addict”, don’t try to cover it up or struggle through it alone any longer! Get him the help he needs, so everyone can begin to heal. We’ve helped thousands of boys find recovery, and we’d love to help your son too! Our clinical specialists are available to take your call any time of day, and offer professional guidance on your son’s unique situation. Please call us at 888-966-8604, email us at or visit our website at!