Multiple Family Group Therapy

at Oakleigh Treatment Center

Durham, North Carolina

1995 By David May


    He was an older man, well dressed and articulate, who had identified himself as a family member of one of our chemically dependent inpatients.  Not until our closing wrap-up did he further describe himself as a pastor.  His only comment in response to our customary invitation to share briefly 'What you got from the group' was, "I have felt more love in this room tonight than I have experienced in my church during my twelve years there."

    After almost three years of co-facilitating our multiple family therapy group, I'm still surprised (and humbled) by the startling transformation which takes place during the ninety minutes of interaction.  Each Thursday night a remarkably diverse group of folks, mostly strangers to one another at 6:15 P.M., laughs, cries, confesses, and loves its way to "family," community, healing, and hope by 7:45 P.M.

    Because this 90-minute metamorphosis happens so frequently, my wonder, curiosity and careful observation have led me to the following conclusions:

    1.  When people gather out of their common pain, anger, and longing or healing, and are courageous enough to speak openly from the heart, healing takes place in all.

    2.  When family pain is given voice in the group community, the isolation and self-centeredness of addiction is cracked.

    3.  When family members hear other families unloading the spectrum of their feelings associated with addiction there is instant relief and bonding with those "who know us in our pain."  The barriers of secrecy and loneliness are broken through.

    4.  When we speak our truth among those who long for freedom and that truth can be received without judgment, we are all transformed.

    5.  When we (even strangers) speak openly from the heart with others who long for relief and release we discover we are much more alike than different, and therefore are less fearful of one another.

    6.  When we are not afraid, most people are loving, compassionate listeners, and healers.

    7.  When we recognize we are in a safe place, and know we will be heard, each of us has something important to share that would not be missed.

    8.  Family and community are wherever we find patience, concern, compassion, forgiveness, identity, and acceptance (the ingredients of love).

    9.  For those of us of the Christian tradition, some of these components of "transformation" are recognized as descriptions of the early Church, but often forgotten relics in our churches today.

    10.  When we claim our vulnerability, our areas of powerlessness, and our need for help in community, we begin to uncover the true resources of the power and freedom of the real self.

David May is a Clinical social Worker at Oakleigh an inpatient/outpatient chemical dependency treatment center at Durham Regional Hospital.  the multi-family group is for inpatients, intensive outpatients, former patients, and family members or other supporters.  This article was published in the Summer of 1995 issue of "The North Carolina Multiple Family Group Therapy Networking Newsletter," Natalie Boorman, Editor.

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