Supporting Loved Ones Struggling With Addiction

Available with English captions and subtitles in Spanish.

When someone you care about is living with an addiction, there are many obstacles to address and overcome—both separately and together. When someone has an addiction, it can impact all parts of their lives, as well as the lives of those around them.

Knowing the best way to help a loved one with an addiction can be confusing and complicated. So how can we navigate recovery with those we care about while also looking after ourselves?

Audience Questions

Dr. Julie McCarthy shares ways to remain compassionate in difficult times, explains the external factors that can help or hinder the recovery process, and provides advice on facing the ups-and-downs of addiction that all members of the family can benefit from.

  • What are the key things we should know about family dynamics relating to addiction and recovery?
  • What are some of the physical warning signs that someone is struggling with addiction?
  • What are some of the social and psychological warning signs that someone is struggling with addiction?
  • How do we respond when someone insists that they do not have a problem with substances?
  • Can you discuss the concept of enabling? At what point are we enabling? What are some of the concerns around doing so?
  • How can colleagues, friends, and other important individuals in a person’s life take part in supporting an individual experiencing substance addiction?
  • What do you do if loved ones have different ideas about how to approach helping an individual experiencing substance misuse?
  • What are some roadblocks that might emerge in trying to get a loved one into treatment and keeping them engaged in treatment?
  • Is it a myth that an individual needs to hit rock bottom before they are ready to get help?
  • What are the roles loved ones can play when an individual is going through detox or inpatient care?
  • How can family members support loved ones while they are in residential treatment?
  • How do you support a loved one who is in a mutual help program?
  • What are some dos and don’ts for family members when a loved one has just gotten out of treatment and is back home?
  • Should the home environment be entirely free of substances for someone post-treatment?
  • Do you find that resentment can develop over recommended changes to the home environment?
  • What should we know about substance use co-occurring with other mental health conditions?
  • If someone has a co-occurring mental health condition, how do you determine which symptoms or changes are attributable to substance use versus another diagnosis?
  • How do you cultivate compassion? What do you do if you, as a family member, are having difficulty feeling compassion towards a family member struggling with addiction?
  • What are some strategies family members can use to take care of themselves?
  • Can you tell us about support groups for family members?
  • What are additional resources for family members of individuals struggling with addiction?

The information discussed is intended to be educational and should not be used as a substitute for guidance provided by your health care provider. Please consult with your treatment team before making any changes to your care plan.


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About Dr. McCarthy

Julie M. McCarthy, PhD, is a clinician-scientist in McLean’s Division of Psychotic Disorders. Her research aims to identify neurobiological and psychosocial treatment targets and develop/evaluate treatments for individuals and families experiencing co-occurring psychotic and substance use disorders.

She is a clinical psychologist specializing in evidence-based treatments—like cognitive behavior therapy—for individuals with schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, and for families who are interested in helping someone with addiction.

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Originally aired on December 13, 2022