Family system theory – Term Paper

Family as a social unit

A family is a social unit that brings people with the same blood ties together. It is the system that can hold one together when others have no patience or any consideration for them. It becomes the work of the family to collect the pieces left behind by victims of drug and substance abuse. If anything happens as a result of the victim involved in drug and substance abuse, the family suffers as well.  The family goes through psychological, emotional and traumatic stress as because of the incidences that occur when the victim is under drugs. In cases of drug and substance abuse, the family is always at their best to ensure that the victim in question recovers.

1. What may be advantages or disadvantages of the systemic intervention based upon whether the family or the individual is the focus of treatment?

Marni Low a licensed marriage and family therapist, who is a certified substance and alcohol abuse counselor has written a journal on how family systems can be used to address substance abuse.(Oliver, 2011) Marni brings to the table a systematic recovery that revolves around the family and not the affected individual. The recovery process by Marni comes with its own merits and demerits. One of the most important merits of this system is that the family will be able to hold each other together even when times get tougher. It is possible that one in the family might give up on the abuser but the not everyone will. this therefore gives a solid support system. The family is given a very heavy burden to carry and children especially who assume the roles of the scape goat and the mascot go through a lot of pain. such pain is not good for their growth and they might grow up with a lot  of bitterness. The abuser is not allowed to face reality, this is because the roles of the enabler and the hero. This roles give freedom to the abuser to continue doing what he is doing, further more their are people to clean up his or her mess after.

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2. How does the family intervention fit within a model of addiction? 

This system fits perfectly within the model of addiction. Once members of the family realize that one has a problem with drug and substance abuse, in the cases of alcohol especially. It automatically comes to their mind that the abuser needs help. They need social, mental and medical help. Upon the realization of the intensity of their addiction then the family cannot be of any great help to them.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism gave the statistics that out of three people one ends up having an alcohol problem (Rebecca, 2007). The statistics further reveal that one out of eight people eventually become dependents of alcohol. From these statistics, one can roughly estimate the number families that are directly affected. According to Marni Low once a family has discovered that they have to deal with the issue of addiction. They have to establish or in other words organize a new system that is set to revolve around the addict. Everything in the family including family rules, the roles and responsibilities and relationships should all be centered upon them (Jay, 2010). 

3. How applicable is the intervention to diverse families and couples?

This intervention is applicable even in diverse family settings. In most situations the most important roles are carried out by the enabler and the hero. In almost every family setting that has an abuser of drugs and alcohol there has to be someone that will go out of their way to ensure that the rest of the family is doing well. This clearly shows how strong the family unit is. The journal talks about five roles, these roles involve other members of the family. The roles has been named as follows; the enabler, the hero, the scapegoat, the mascot, and the addict. These are not permanent, they are fluid and can change as time progresses due to some factors. 

The enabler

This role is taken in most cases by the spouse or if it is a single parent home the eldest child or the person closest to the abuser. The enabler does everything in their power to do what the abuser is supposed to be doing. They work to ensure that they paint a good picture to the world that everything is under control. They ensure bills are paid; children go to school as expected, and they even make up excuses for the abuser in business and social setups. The enabler is in most cases in denial of the severity of the addiction this consequently makes them have excuses for the addict. This role shows fear, shame, and concern that has internalized.

The hero

One in the family that appears to be serious and confident with life. The hero takes up the role of parenting. This role in single parented families, where one of the children has to fit into the roles of the parent. However, this role has proved to be hard to maintain as the hero is needed to take up more responsibility as time progresses. The hero goes through an array of emotions and feelings like guilt, stress and being anxious. 

The Scapegoat

It is the child in the family that is seen to be notorious and always gets into trouble at school and home. The behavior of the child is used to deviate attention from the negative experiences that the abuser is brought to the home. The person that assumes this role feels a lot of anger and resents the abuser.

Somedian in the family

The mascot

This is the comedian in the family. This role is taken up by the child that feels the need to relieve the family of the stress by making the home lively. This child takes up the responsibility and sacrifices their needs to ensure that there is a balance at home. 

The lost child

The lost child is completely withdrawn from the family. They keep to himself and instead build up a fantasy about their life to disassociate themselves from the reality that is going on at home.


Drug and substance abuse is a problem that begun to be addressed decades ago. The use of drugs and substances has not only become a point of concern in the world today it has become major crises. Through drug and substance abuse a lot of people have lost their lives, other have become blind, are suffering from long-term illnesses like cancer. The roles described above show how much families go through to protect, accommodate and be there for the addict.


Farrell T. (2009) Treating Alcohol Problems: Marital and Family Interventions. Guilford Press. New York. Print

Jay J. (2010) Love First. Hazelden Publishing. Ohio. Print.

Oliver M. (2011) Family Interventions in Substance Abuse: Current Best Practices. The Haworth Press. New York. Print

Rebecca S. (2007) Drug Abuse Prevention through Family Interventions. Diane publishers. Chicago. Print.