Navigating Genograms and Family Systems in Addictions Counseling

Exploring Genograms, Group Therapy, Self-Help Meetings, and Family Systems in Addictions Counseling

The average length of each part is 500 words.

Part 1:

The left- hand column is a list of roles played by spouses or significant others of addicts. The right- hand column represents the thinking patterns or rationale for these behaviors but shows them in random order. In the first part of this activity, please match up the roles with the thinking associated with each role. In the second part of this activity, discuss how any of these roles apply to a case in which they are or have been involved. In addition, consider whether the spouse or significant other vacillates between two of these roles or is transitioning from one to another. You also should consider if and how this role deviates from the traditional role of spouse or significant other in their culture of origin.

Rescuer“It wasn’t that bad. He didn’t really mean it.”
 “Don’t drink more than one drink tonight.”
Caretaker“I just don’t feel well at all.”
 “Love conquers all.” 
Long- suffering martyr and saint“Poor me, I do it all myself for their sake.”
Overextended super- responsible one“You’re ruining our lives!” 
Chief enabler“The poor man, he needs my help.” 
 “We’d all be better off if she’d just give up the booze.” 
Scapegoat“I don’t care. After that last fiasco, I’m not having any more to do with my family.”
Hypochondriac, somaticizing“I love you, but I can’t be with you until you start getting better.” 
Joiner in addiction“Let’s get high and stay together.” 
 “I’ll take care of it.” 
Placater or peacemaker 
Blamer, conscience 
Battler, limiter 
Disengaged and hostile 
Recovering from codependency, lovingly disengaged from addiction, and/ or attempting to achieve referral into treatment 

Part 2:

Create your own genogram, or that of a family member or friend. What patterns of relationship were uncovered because of the genogram? What questions were helpful in eliciting information for the genogram? Were there times that you or your interviewee were uncomfortable, and if so, why? Discuss the information noted on the genogram and how this information might be useful in addictions counseling.

Part 3: 

Discuss the social behaviors and interactions a counselor should see in a therapy group?

Part 4:

Attend a minimum of three different types of self-help groups and compare your experiences in these meeting.

Part 5:

Describe how families are considered systems. What are the parts of the system, and how does addiction change the system?

Sample Solution

Part One

Role: Rescuer Thought: “I must help him because he needs it.”

Discussion: The rescuer partner believes it is their responsibility to assist their addicted partner by seeking available help. This aligns with traditional expectations of providing support during difficult times.

Role: Caretaker Thought: “I’ll take care of everything.”

Discussion: Caretakers feel obligated to handle all the consequences of their spouse’s addiction, even if it should be their partner’s responsibility. This deviates from traditional relationship roles that allocate specific responsibilities to each member.

Role: Long-suffering martyr and saint Thought: “Love can overcome anything.”

Discussion: The long-suffering partners endure their partners’ addictions and their resulting effects, remaining loyal despite having reasons to leave. This is in line with the expected role of spouses, although seeking help for their partners is essential.

Role: Overextended super- the responsible one Thought: “I love you, but I need you to get better before we can be together.”

Discussion: Despite their love for their spouses, they may consider leaving the relationship or taking a break to give their partners the necessary time and space to overcome their addiction. This deviates from the expectation of unwavering support when someone is struggling.

Role: Chief enabler Thought: “Let’s indulge in the addiction together and stay connected.”

Discussion: Chief enablers, who are also addicts, encourage their spouses to engage in addictive behaviors as an expression of love. This deviates from the norm as spouses should support their partners in seeking help to overcome their addiction.

Role: Scapegoat Thought: “Our lives would be better if she gave up drinking.”

Discussion: Scapegoats use their partners’ addictions as an excuse for problems within the relationship and family. This deviates from the expectation that couples should support each other through addiction and maintain optimism about change.

Role: Joiner in addiction Thought: “Let’s indulge in the addiction together and stay connected.” Discussion: Out of frustration, partners may become addicts themselves, joining their spouses in self-destructive behaviors instead of encouraging them to overcome their addiction. This deviates from the expectation of couples motivating each other to improve.

Role: Blamer, conscience Thought: “Your addiction is ruining our lives!”

Discussion: Blamers attribute relationship difficulties to their partners’ addiction without providing constructive help. This approach is unhelpful and may exacerbate addiction. It deviates from the expectation that couples should be supportive and understanding.

Role: Disengaged and hostile Thought: “I don’t care anymore. I want nothing to do with my family.”

Discussion: Some spouses may give up on their loved ones, feeling that their efforts to improve their partners’ situation are unsuccessful. They choose to disengage from their families and move forward with their lives. This deviates from the expectation of offering support and understanding.

Role: Battler, limiter Thought: “Just have one drink tonight, no more.”

Discussion: Battlers try to limit their partners’ substance use after unsuccessful attempts to make them quit entirely. This aligns with societal norms of being supportive

Create your own genogram, or that of a family member or friend. What patterns of relationship were uncovered because of the genogram?

Part Two

Genograms are essential tools for analyzing family relationships, providing insights into physical, hereditary, and psychosocial aspects that shape family dynamics. They reveal the genealogy and transfer of character traits among family members, shedding light on shared attributes. By examining relationships within the family, particularly between couples, the genogram helps explain family closeness and the impact of various situations on the family. The genogram also reveals the number of children in the family, their relationships with their parents, and the level of parental closeness. This information allows for exploration of the effects of addiction on family relationships and provides possible explanations for different relationship dynamics.

Lifespans and causes of death can also be examined in the genogram, offering insights into the psychosocial impact of addiction. However, discussing the deaths of family members due to addiction can be uncomfortable. Additional information, such as mental conditions and addictions, can be included in the genogram to further understand the relationships and outcomes within the family. Overall, the genogram helps unravel the connections between genealogy, character traits, mental conditions, addictions, and family relationships.

Additionally, the genogram serves as a valuable tool in exploring the effects of addiction on family dynamics. It allows for the examination of the relationship between addiction and various negative behaviors within the family, such as emotional abuse, conflict, and indifference. By mapping out the relationships and intimacy levels, the genogram provides a visual representation of how addiction may contribute to these dynamics.

Moreover, the genogram provides insights into the lifespan of family members and can be used to investigate the psychosocial impact of addiction. By analyzing the age of death and identifying any connections to addiction, researchers can gain a better understanding of the consequences of addiction within the family. This aspect of the genogram analysis may evoke discomfort, especially when confronting the reality of loved ones who have passed away due to addiction-related issues.

The genogram symbols can also include additional information about family members, such as mental health conditions like depression, as well as specific indications of addiction. This information helps to elucidate the relationships within the family and the potential outcomes resulting from these conditions. For instance, the genogram may reveal a pattern of early deaths due to mental conditions, leading to subsequent addiction issues that ultimately contribute to the demise of the individual being investigated.

In summary, through the utilization of a genogram, one can gain a deeper understanding of the interplay between genealogy, character traits, mental conditions, addictions, and family relationships. It provides a comprehensive view of the family system, highlighting the complexities and potential factors that contribute to the development and perpetuation of addiction within the family. This knowledge can be instrumental in guiding interventions and treatment approaches in the context of addictions counseling.

Discuss the social behaviors and interactions a counselor should see in a therapy group?

Part Four

The counselor’s observations during group therapy sessions can reveal various behaviors among participants. Resistance and cooperation are commonly observed. Some individuals may be attending therapy under pressure and may not be receptive to group therapy, possibly due to denial of their addiction (Myers & Salt, 2013). On the other hand, those who have voluntarily sought counseling and intervention are more likely to be cooperative and actively engage in group therapy, leading to more positive outcomes.

Within the therapy group, there may be individuals who exhibit social behaviors and willingly interact with others, while others may display antisocial tendencies and resist participating in group activities that require interaction (Myers & Salt, 2013). Counselors should prioritize creating a comfortable environment where group members feel at ease, encouraging socialization and active participation. Socially inclined individuals are more amenable to influence and change within the group therapy setting, and it is essential for counselors to foster a supportive atmosphere to facilitate their progress.

It is important to note that not all participants have genuine intentions in seeking help for their addictions. Some may pretend to seek assistance merely to complete their mandated therapy sessions or satisfy external expectations (Myers & Salt, 2013). This is often observed among individuals compelled by court orders or family pressures. Conversely, there are genuine individuals who voluntarily seek therapy due to recognizing the detrimental effects of addiction on their lives and relationships. These individuals are more likely to be sincere in their engagement, demonstrating social involvement and a lower likelihood of relapse once the program is completed.

Furthermore, counselors should consider that certain individuals may benefit more from one-on-one therapy sessions before transitioning to group therapy. This approach allows for the individual’s personal challenges and underlying factors contributing to their addiction to be addressed first (Myers & Salt, 2013). Once these root causes have been tackled, group therapy can be effective in addressing additional issues. It is crucial for therapists to conduct thorough assessments and determine the most suitable intervention approach for each individual, considering their unique needs and circumstances.

In summary, group therapy can elicit a range of behaviors from participants, including resistance, cooperation, socialization, and pretense. Counselors should create a supportive environment, tailor interventions to individual needs, and differentiate between genuine seekers of help and those who may be less committed to change.

Describe how families are considered systems. What are the parts of the system, and how does addiction change the systems ?

Part Four

Families are considered systems due to their shared origins, relationships, and common goals (Afifi & Harrison, 2017). They function as a unit, seeking satisfaction and happiness through their interactions and endeavors. Furthermore, families develop their own cultures and sub-cultures, distinguishing them from other families in society. These cultures often encompass socioeconomic and political beliefs. Relationships within the family, including blood ties and additional bonds, define the family systems.

However, the presence of addiction within a family disrupts the system in various ways. Addicts, being self-destructive, hinder the family from achieving its goals and may distract other members. Consequently, the family must divert attention and resources towards helping the addicted individual, thereby deviating from their original objectives. The existence of an addict can also lead to disturbances and chaos within the family, potentially causing conflicts and violence. Addictions can strain relationships, as the cognitive impairment associated with addiction affects interpersonal dynamics. Family members may distance themselves from the addicted individual, resulting in a decline in closeness and affection within the family.

The impact of addiction on family systems goes beyond disrupting goals and relationships. It also affects the emotional well-being of family members. The presence of addiction often creates a sense of fear, anxiety, and instability within the family. Loved ones may constantly worry about the well-being of the addicted individual and experience emotional distress as they witness the negative consequences of addiction.

Furthermore, addiction can lead to role changes and role confusion within the family. Family members may find themselves taking on new roles, such as caretakers or enablers, to cope with the challenges posed by addiction. This disruption of traditional roles and responsibilities can create tension and conflicts within the family system.

Additionally, addiction can contribute to a cycle of dysfunctional behaviors and patterns. The family may develop enabling behaviors, attempting to protect the addicted individual from the consequences of their actions. This can perpetuate the addiction and prevent the necessary steps towards recovery. It is common for family members to experience feelings of guilt, shame, and powerlessness in the face of addiction.

Understanding the systemic impact of addiction is crucial in addiction counseling. By recognizing the interconnectedness of family dynamics, counselors can address not only the individual struggling with addiction but also the entire family systems. Interventions and therapeutic approaches can be tailored to support the family in overcoming the challenges associated with addiction. This may involve promoting open communication, setting boundaries, and fostering healthy coping strategies for all family members.

In conclusion, addiction disrupts the functioning and dynamics of family systems, affecting goals, relationships, emotional well-being, and roles within the family. Recognizing the systemic impact of addiction is essential for effective interventions and support in addiction counseling.


Afifi, T. D., & Harrison, K. (2017). Theory of resilience and relational load (TRRL):
Understanding families as systems of stress and calibration. In Engaging theories in
family communication (pp. 324-336). Routledge.

Boyce, M., Munn-Giddings, C., & Secker, J. (2018). ‘It is a safe space’: self-harm self-help
groups. Mental Health Review Journal.

Cavaiola, A. A., & Smith, M. (2020). A Comprehensive Guide to Addiction Theory and Counseling Techniques. Routledge.

Myers, P. L., & Salt, N. R. (2013). Becoming an addictions counselor: A comprehensive text.
Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

Wilson, S. R., Lubman, D. I., Rodda, S., Manning, V., & Yap, M. B. (2019). The impact of
problematic substance use on partners’ interpersonal relationships: qualitative analysis of
counselling transcripts from a national online service. Drugs: Education, Prevention and
Policy, 26(5), 429-436.

Read more: Navigating Genograms and Family Systems in Addictions Counseling
Family Systems

Is this question part of your assignment?

Place order