Studies have indicated that both genetic and environmental causes of addiction have severe effects to children living with addicted parents. Many children around the world are alcoholic, most of them aged below 18 years. This figure might even triple in case those affected by parents impaired by other drugs that are psychoactive (Wilson, 2007; American Psychiatric Association, 2000). As a result, this research paper outlines addiction impacts and symptoms, importance of early interventions, therapeutic objectives and intervention strategies.
What Is Addiction
Addiction’s Impact on the Family
Addiction has been defined as “physical and psychological dependence on psychoactive substances for example alcohol, tobacco, heroin and other drugs which cross the blood-brain barrier once ingested and then alters the chemical milieu of the brain temporarily” (Wilson, 2007). Others like Tennant & Elsa (1988) have taken it to be a continual involvement in a substance or activity regardless of its side effects. Most causes of addiction involve pleasure as well as enjoyment (Steier et al., 1982).
When people become addicted, those in close relations suffer. Apart from ruining someone’s finances and careers, it can also ruin family relations. One might abandon his or her marriage partner, who may at times feel much betrayed (Billing et al., 1985). However, in most cases spouses have endured the pain caused by the addict because they somehow understand what is going on. Addicts’ kids at one point will also start their own families. However, they might continue living with childhood scars. Such children face lots of feelings which are unhealthy.
Addiction brings fear in a family; this is because family children and spouses are always afraid of one thing or the other. Such family members might be physically hurt, sexually abused, or even beaten up without any major reason. As a result, such members always suffer from insecurity. This makes them feel that they are of no value as there is nothing good that comes in their way. This particularly affects children.
According to Nunes et al. (2000) and Powis et al. (2000), addiction brings lots of confusion in families. Children being brought up by parents who are addicts find it much hard particularly in defining their lives. Such children never experience normal life; hence they do not know what it means. They are always living in unsteady homes, and there is no way they can predict what every hour will result to. They are always worried about their treatment in the next minute, will it be poor or good. Families having addicted parents have more conflicts as compared to those having no addiction. In many families, disruptions are mainly as a result of addiction especially drinking.
Symptoms Exhibited by Children in Families of Addiction
Bailer (1994) states that there are symptoms exhibited by children brought up in families of an addict. For instance, such children are always acting out and very hyper-vigilant. These children usually develop coping skills which include being fearful as they are always beaten up by their parents. Another skill to cope up is being angry always. This is because they hate their parents and are always upset as a result of harms done to them by their parents. They always think no one is friendly, as one might be friendly this minute and the next minute is worse. Such children also exhibit sleeping difficulties, irritability and anxiousness as a result of stressful moments they experience day-in-day-out in their life. Numbing of general responsiveness also occurs in such children as a result of extreme trauma exposures. Nevertheless, behavioral impulsivity is also exhibited as a reaction to some events that caused their parents to either harm, hurt or even abuse them (Gerra et al., 2008).
Importance of Early Intervention
What Are the General Life Experiences of Children Who Come from Families of Addiction
As suggested by Chapman, Leung & Lynch (2008) children coming from addict families have difficult, volatile and confusing life experiences. There are those who are of the view that addiction is their mistake. They usually experience home disorder in the families; as a result, their home life is always unpredictable as they keep on receiving inconsistent messages from parents. At this minute, they are being beaten next they are being praised. Most of them have learnt ways of keeping family secretes, but they end up being ashamed and guilty. Most of them lack parental love since parents are always away hence they feel abandoned. In addition, their parents have not provided discipline structures in their life, but they are expected to be much competent in different areas at very young age (Merrick, 1985).
What Is a Therapeutic Intervention
As a result of these hard life experiences, children of addicts need therapeutic interventions. Therapeutic interventions mean measures of remediation that have been applied to health problems. In medicine, the phrase means treatment, while in psychology, the phrase means psychotherapy (Bruce & Dibb, 1977).
Why Might They Need Therapeutic Interventions
According to Carroll Rounsaville & Keller (1991) therapeutic interventions to children or family members of addicts serve as the first step in the process of recovery. Therapeutic interventions might be of great help to children brought up in addicted families (Shapiro, 1995). They might be helpful because some interventions are educational; hence help to understand addiction disease. Such interventions may involve group meeting, discussions as well as activities which help family members in developing deeper knowledge about the cause, impacts as well as addiction treatment (Hillel, 1992).
In addition, therapeutic interventions are needed to reduce the chance of such children becoming addicts too. This is because the children have higher chances of becoming drug abusers as a result of environmental and genetic effects (Wilson, 2007). Through therapeutic interventions, children will learn ways through which they can live a positive life without being addicts. Therapeutic interventions will help in filling love gaps, reduce stresses and even bring a sense of worthiness in children of addicts. In case, this is not done in time, children of addicts will seek refuge in drugs abuse. As stated by Steier, Stanton & Todd (1982) therapeutic interventions provide space for family members to address issues affecting them, which is a very important step in healing them and their loved one. Moreover, since parents may be allowing drug use, there is a need for therapeutic interventions to ensure that children do not start using drugs.
What Enhances the Therapeutic Quality of the Care Experience
There are many issues that enhance therapeutic quality of care experiences: listening and communication skills on the side of a social worker. The social worker should allow children to tell or talk to him or her about their feelings and experiences. Similarly, the social worker should not make assumptions that he or she knows what such children, addicts and spouses are experiencing. So the social worker should wait to be told, if not then let him or her ask what their experiences are.
Therapeutic quality of care experiences is also enhanced by the simplicity of the process. There are higher chances that children and spouses are fearful and gloomy due to the problems they experience at home. There are those who even feel they are responsible, abandoned or even receiving embarrassment from their peers and friends (Tennant & Elsa, 1988). The major objective of therapeutic intervention should concentrate on how they feel, but not to outline addiction specifics as well as the addict. The therapy should bring out the issue of how they are loved by the society as well as the addict as this is very important in addressing the problem. It should also bring out the real meaning of addiction. It should show them how they are neither responsible nor guilty for addiction. It should also show that the feelings they are having are normal. Finally, it should encourage them that the problems they are experiencing are just normal and that they are also experienced by other families (McKay & Bannon, 2004).
What Is Needed for Therapeutic Interventions to Succeed
The success of therapeutic interventions relays on some factors. Amongst them is the availability and access of the therapy administer. This is because; addicts and family members might be reluctant to engage in therapy, so taking advantage of any available resource whenever such people are ready for it. Some patients might go away in case the therapy is unavailable or cannot be accessed.
For therapeutic intervention to be successful, the strategy used should not only deal with the problem of addiction, but other individual needs. There should be other sociological, legal as well as psychological issues addressed. Nevertheless, it should be appropriate to gender, age as well as cultural values of that family (Bechara et al., 1997).
The intervention should be given for appropriate period. Time availability as well as therapeutically duration, depends on the degree of the problem at hand. The best period for therapeutic interventions is about three months. This time availability and duration affect the level of success. Michael et al. (2009) stated that better results occur after a very long time. They argued that recovery from addiction or addiction effects is a process that takes a long time to occur and may call for multiple episodes of interventions. On the other hand, it is not proper for the patient to leave the program while still premature. Thus, patients should be kept for the appropriate time (Bailer, 1994).
For the success of therapeutic interventions, patient-therapist connection is a very important factor. The two should trust each other, feel much comfortable when together particularly when talking about problems one is encountering, as some of them are secrets. The bond between the two is very significant leading to the success of therapeutic intervention.
How Can Therapeutic Interventions Be Evaluated
In evaluating therapeutic interventions, therapist experience is of great importance. One reason of seeking therapeutic intervention other than talking to friends is establishing an experienced person. In case the involved therapist is involved, then the intervention is of high quality as experienced therapists have seen problems associated with addiction for many years. For this reason, they have the ability of broadening intervention views to give more details. In some cases, therapeutic intervention can be evaluated by assessing the therapist area of focus, as some calls for specialist (Carroll et al. 2004).
Therapeutic interventions can also be evaluated by assessing the therapist-patient relationship. For a good intervention, therapy partnership should be well connected. The patient and the therapist should all be involved in the process of recovery. In case there is no collaboration between the two parties, then that intervention will not work. That is if the other party is left with the responsibility of recovery, then the intervention is not working.
Therapy safety is another issue as stated by Miller & Rollnick (2002). Though there are unpleasant situations at times, as the process might be challenging, patients and therapist should always be feeling safe. In evaluating the intervention, things relating to overwhelming and dreading should be looked at (Vogelmann-Sine et al., 1998).
How Are Outcomes Assessed
It is true that change is very difficult, so one should not expect changes immediately or on a silver plate. However, after therapeutic intervention, one should start seeing positive changes in someone’s life. For that matter, in assessing the therapy outcomes, according to Carroll et al. (2004), the following points are of great significance:
- Evaluating if one is meeting his/her goals they both set with the therapist.
- Evaluating the individual to find out if he/she now understands him/her-self in a better way.
- One should evaluate his/her confidence and empowerment.
- Evaluating the improvements made in one’s relations.
Therapeutic Objectives in Treating Children in Families of Addiction
Tell the Family Narrative
One of the objectives is telling family narratives which assume that every story ideological and represents what is happening in the real world. This objective aims at influencing children’s life as they give meaning. Some of them may include lessons defining morality and how one can become moral. According to Foa et al. (2001) some family narratives are of great help particularly in developing expanded stories which might be coherent. In such situations, the character is painted agent end role. Hence helps in mapping the influence (Allison, 1971).
Decrease Secrecy in the Family
Admittedly, therapeutic interventions also decrease secrecy in the Family. This will help children trust their parents and other people. The addict can also feel relief when he/she tells about his problems openly. Therefore, the addict can be supported by those he/she loves, instead of hiding and lying.
Increase Openness in the Family to Talk about Addiction in the Family
Therapeutic interventions also increase openness in families hence encouraging them to talk about addiction within the families. This aims at helping children of the addicts to understand the meaning of addiction, its causes / effects and ways of dealing with it. This will make them feel that addiction is not their mistake and there are ways through which they can cope with the situation (Bateson, 1972).
Child Centered Play Therapy
Child centered play therapy has been considered as being the most effective intervention strategy that can be used in treating children of addicts through counseling. It helps kids overcome bad emotions, behavioral problems and psychosocial difficulties. In this intervention, safe child-therapist relationship is of great importance as it creates trust. Such therapies are conducted in playrooms that contain several play toys. The child is given the freedom of selecting the toy he or she uses to play. This gives them room to express their minds, feelings, behaviors as well as experiences. Therapists are also encouraged to join children play whenever invited by the child. However, there should be limits to enable children become self responsible. This therapy ensures that children are always happy (Hembree-Kigin & McNeil, 1995).
Child-Parent Relationship Therapy
Child-parent interaction therapy combines different therapies like play and behavioral therapies. Parents and caregivers are trained on different and effective techniques of discipline that can be used in improving parent-child relations. This therapy is divided into child directed and parent directed interactions. The major aim of child directed interactions is the development of love and nurturing the relationship between parents and children through play. On the other hand, parent directed interactions train parents on effective ways of administering discipline to children in a play manner (Naik-Polan & Budd, 2008).
Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy
Cohena et al. (2010) and Carpentier et al. (2006) agree that Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy is a psychotherapy model that deals with issues of depressed children, children having behavioral difficulties among other problems associated with traumatic events. This strategy involves the provision of psycho-education to children and parents concerning trauma effects and their reactions. This entails individualization of management of stresses and relaxation of children as well as providing effective skills of parenting (American Psychiatric Association, 2000).
The Theory behind EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) Treatment
The theory behind EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) means that perceived information through human senses can be stored after being coded in the brain for future use as stated by Vogelmann-Sine et al. (1998). However, in case the perceived information is traumatic in nature, this can have negative effects on future capabilities in distinguishing threatening events from unthreatening ones. There are those events whose retrieval is much easy as compared to others. Absence of memory does not imply that there are no symptoms of traumatic stresses. In most cases, any traumatic happenings lock up in human minds hence it can be triggered now and in the future whenever one is reminded of closely associated circumstances. This can lead to lots of discomfort as well as fear (Vogelmann-Sine, 1998).
Eye movement used in EMDR unlocks nervous system permitting brains to start processing such experiences. This is what is assumed to be happening in REM, or even during dreams. In addition, eye movement is also concerned in the operations of processing materials that seem to be unconscious. However, Shapiro (1995) states that it is vital to remember that it is only one’s brain that will help in healing this, as it is only the affected person who is in control of the situation. This is because it is through brain stimulation that will make the brain process traumatic events (Allison, 1971).
Addiction has brought lots of negative impacts in families, particularly to children of addicts. Some of them have even led to family breakages, confusion among family members and a feeling of being insecure. There are various symptoms exhibited by children of the addict, some of them include anxiousness, difficulty in sleeping as well as behavior impulsivity. As a result, to save such children therapeutic intervention is of great importance, particularly in reducing the risk of such children becoming addicts. To enhance the quality of intervention care experience, the process should be simple and the therapists should not assume that they are aware of patients’ experiences. However, for this process to succeed there are factors like time availability, patient commitment and multiplicity of intervention strategy should all be considered. It is good for any therapeutic intervention and its outcome to be evaluated after some times, to assess if the process is of good help.
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