The Role of the Family in Alcohol Use Disorder Recovery for Adults

Alcohol Res. 2021 May 6;41(1):06. doi: 10.35946/arcr.v41.1.06. eCollection 2021.


Alcohol use disorder (AUD) and family functioning are inextricably bound, and families are impacted negatively by AUD, but families show substantial improvements with AUD recovery. Family members can successfully motivate a person with AUD to initiate changes in drinking or to seek AUD treatment. During recovery, family members can provide active support for recovery. Several couple- or family-involved treatments for AUD have been developed and tested in rigorous efficacy trials. Efficacious treatments based in family systems theory or cognitive behavioral approaches focus on the concerned family member alone, or they engage the couple or family as a unit in the treatment. However, most treatments have been studied in fairly homogeneous, heterosexual, White, non-Hispanic populations, limiting the potential generalizability of these treatments. Substantial gaps remain in our understanding of family processes associated with the initiation and maintenance of AUD recovery among adults. This review outlines the existing literature and describes opportunities for future research to address knowledge gaps in understanding the mechanisms by which these treatments are efficacious, use of family-based treatments with diverse populations, integration of pharmacotherapies with family-involved treatment, role of families in recovery-oriented systems of care, and how to improve treatment development and dissemination.

Keywords: adult; alcohol; alcohol treatment; couples; family therapy; recovery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholism* / therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy*
  • Family
  • Humans
  • Treatment Outcome