Communication in Families with Addiction and Mental Health




I thought today was going to be a tough day teaching for me, and it was, but it was the most meaningful lesson I’ve ever taught. For the first time, I added in my family communication class a week regarding addiction and mental health in families—Something extremely near and dear to my heart.

Bringing addiction issues into the open is an important step in removing the stigma of addiction and to understanding that addiction is a treatable disorder. Hopefully, this posting will bring information and compassion to those impacted. There is hope!

Addiction changes and rewires the brain, making it hard for people to quit, even when addiction is destroying their lives. Even when they try again and again. Addiction hijacks our brain—meaning the person’s judgment and impulse control are now altered and not working properly. This is what defines addiction medically, an inability to stop despite negative consequences due to changes in the brain’s system that regulate the stop and go of decision-making.

A healthy relationship between partners is the single biggest predictor of long-term recovery for those impacted by addiction. Severe substance use and compulsive behavioral problems create significant damage to family rituals and roles in the couple relationship. An approach that supports couple recovery highlights the importance of both individual recovery, as well as relationship recovery. Couple recovery involves conversations on how to provide support for each partner’s recovery (wellness) as well as relationship recovery.

I also want to thank my Family Communication students at Utah State University for allowing me to have this conversation.

I dedicate this class and my research interest in studying communication in families with substance dependent family members and mental health to my friends I’ve lost over the past 9 years. Love and miss you all! Keep resting in paradise.

-Dr. Samantha J. Shebib (3.24.21)

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