The focus of family therapy treatment is to intervene in complex relational patterns and to alter them in ways that bring about productive change for the entire family. Family therapy rests on the systems perspective, which proposes that changes in one part of the system can and do produce changes in other parts of the system, and these changes can contribute to solutions. Family therapy in substance abuse treatment has two main purposes. First, it seeks to use the family’s strengths and resources to help find or develop ways to live without substances of abuse. Second, it reduces the impact of chemical dependency on both the patient and the family. In family therapy, the focus of treatment is the family, and/or the individual within the context of the family system. The person abusing substances is regarded as a subsystem within the family unit—the person whose symptoms have severe repercussions throughout the family system. The familial relationships within this subsystem are the points of therapeutic interest and intervention.

Family is a key resource in the care of patients in India as its culture of inter-dependence gives the family a pre-eminent status. Psychoactive substance abuse and dependence has a significant deleterious impact on the family of the substance user. This impact can then lead to a chain of events which can not only spiral out of control but also spiral downward. In a study carried out in India, family burden was found to be moderate to severe in families with a substance dependent person. The burden was characterized by disruption of family interactions, disruption of family routine, disruption of family leisure and financial burden. According to Kumfer, since substance abuse is a ‘family disease’ of lifestyle, including both genetic and family environmental causes, effective family strengthening prevention programmes should be included in all comprehensive substance abuse prevention activities.