Our Approach

Supporting Recovery Supporting Ourselves

The power and strength of the family to motivate generational change through their own changed behaviour is unparalleled.

A Trauma Informed Approach

Witnessing someone we care about engaged in active addiction is a traumatic process.

When trauma becomes chronic, we forfeit our own values, needs, emotional experiences and guiding principles in an effort to maintain order and balance in the family system.

This reorganization around the crisis of active addiction is known as survival mode, and these prolonged periods of neglect strip us of our sense of self, significantly diminish self-worth, promote deep exhaustion and burnout, and contribute to a host of stress related disorders that leave us debilitated.

Witnessing active addiction is a source of chronic stress and emotional dysregulation that impacts neurophysiology and impairs functioning over time. For some, the adrenal stress response has been activated as far back as childhood and even in utero.

This level of cumulative, chronic stress dysregulates the nervous system and directly affects our ability to communicate effectively, set healthy boundaries, acknowledge and care for our own needs, and contributes to significant physical symptoms and stress related disorders.

Without healing and awareness, the coping strategies that develop to survive the trauma of witnessing active addiction will inadvertently contribute to the progression of the illness for those we love.

For this reason, Somatic Experiencing techniques are incorporated throughout our programming to allow for the safe deactivation of traumatic shock from the nervous system without the need to relive or re-tell our story.

At Legacy West, we understand that personal health does not have to be contingent on the wellness of those we love, and our ability to care for others is directly related to the capacity in which we are able to care for ourselves.

A diagnosis of substance use disorder for someone we love does not require that we abandon all hope for a balanced life of mental, emotional and physical wellness for ourselves.

In fact, it is only through the identification and expression of our own needs, the recognition and communication of our own emotional experience, and the realignment of our behaviours with our values and guiding principles that families can begin to support the treatment and recovery process of their loved ones.

When we understand addiction as an illness and our automatic responses to addiction as trauma related coping strategies, we can begin to adjust our own behaviour to disengage the system that allows the illness to progress while simultaneously re-establishing and nurturing our sense of self.

For this reason, the success of our services is not solely determined by treatment engagement or recovery outcomes of those with substance use disorder. Instead, participants are supported to choose healthy recovery-oriented behaviours, regardless of the decisions made by those experiencing addiction, that will transform the family system today and for the next generation.

Ultimately, the shift from an external focus on controlling others to an internal focus on healing ourselves promotes increased life enjoyment and happiness for participants, a renewed sense of self, decreased physical and mental complaints, and deeper intimacy and connection in all of our important relationships.

Foundational Principles


Healing from the trauma of witnessing active addiction requires that safety is established and maintained throughout the process.

When substance use disorder is present in the family, our ability to trust is often destroyed.

From initial contact to Continuing Care, rebuilding trust and upholding a safe environment is our highest priority.

This allows family members to ease their threat response and stabilize their nervous system, creating the necessary foundation to begin processing their experiences and healing.


All aspects of our program are delivered in the spirit of invitation and trauma sensitivity. We listen and hear you, compassionately encouraging exploration with curiosity, connect you with others who share similar life experiences and provide ongoing care that supports sustained growth and change.

Compassion for self is also emphasized as we begin to learn that how we react to the crisis of active addiction is part of our body’s natural threat response designed for protection.


Because isolation is one of the biggest contributing factors in the progression of a substance use disorder, the FamiliesFIRST program is community-focused and aims to join people by sharing lived experiences.

Peer support is encouraged from day one and continues to grow as participants complete programming and join others in Continuing Care and their local communities who are further along the healing journey.

Sharing our lived experiences in safe spaces reduces shame for families and encourages new perspectives. Networks of support developed during this time become the difference between maintaining a new recovery-oriented lifestyle or reverting back to old patterns of behaviour.


Developed over decades by experts and pioneers in family systems, trauma, and addiction treatment, FamiliesFIRST program content is delivered by a credentialed team using evidence-based psycho-education and strategic interventions. 

FamiliesFIRST is intentionally structured to support a natural unfolding of education and healing.

While the team’s founding clinicians share the experience of years of professional engagement with substance use disorder, they also share the lived experience of growing up in homes where active addiction was present.

The wisdom gained through their personal recovery process is a valuable asset to every aspect of programming, from initial contact to making connections with community resources.


Families embracing their own recovery first is the best intervention they can provide, as this has proven to be more motivational for those with substance use disorder than professionals alone.

Acknowledging the emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual impact of witnessing active addiction is part of that recovery process and allows us to realign ourselves with our guiding principles and values.

We believe that no matter what is happening in the lives of those we love, everyone is deserving of care and support and that this healing creates the change necessary in ourselves to provide care and support to those we love.

Frequently Asked Questions

All of your questions are important to us. Please be welcomed to contact us directly for more information.

FamiliesFIRST Program

Developed by a team with over 5 decades of combined experience in addictions, trauma, and family systems.

About Substance Use Disorder

Witnessing active substance use disorder affects the entire family but so can recovery. Let us show you how.

We Want You to Know You're Not Alone.

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Healing from the trauma of witnessing active addiction requires support. We can't do this alone.