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Moving Forward: When Your Addicted Family Member Doesn’t Want To Change

Written By: Lana Robson CCAC,  Addiction & Family Counsellor

Moving Forward When Your Family Addict Won'tI always refer to the question, “Who or What do you have control over?”  The answer is you.  At the end of the day you can only control yourself.  It can be very difficult for loved ones and family members to watch their addicted loved one destroy their lives and ultimately themselves.  Love and fear motivate family members to try to improve the situation, take control and assume responsibilities.  As many of you may have discovered the hard way – this doesn’t work.

Loved ones are drawn into the chaos that comes with addiction.  They feel powerless.  Although there is a feeling of powerlessness, it’s quite the opposite – family members have more power than they realize.

CRAFT for Family Members

The Community Reinforcement Approach (CRA) was developed in the 70’s.  It was based on the premise that spouses could play a critical role in getting their loved ones into treatment.  Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT) is an extension of CRA.  CRAFT, created and developed by Robert J. Meyers, Ph.D., is a system for loved ones (referred to as CSOs – concerned significant others) to change the way they interact with their addicted loved one (referred to as IPs – identified patient).

In many cases, CSOs know everything about addiction, but don’t know how to interact with the IP.  When this interaction changes, the IP usually takes notice.  CRAFT helps CSOs learn about enabling behaviours, new ways to communicate and solve problems, and to identify that timing is crucial when approaching the IP.  CRAFT therapy avoids confrontation by using positive reinforcements and a loving, supportive approach.

There are three goals for CRAFT:

  1. The first is to reduce the IP’s harmful substance use.  This is accomplished through positive reinforcements and rewarding positive behaviour.
  2. The second goal is to engage the IP in treatment.  This means allowing the natural consequences to occur.  These are usually negative consequences.  When one prevents the consequences, there are no negative consequences.  And it’s the negative consequences that usually motivate change.
  3. The third goal is to improve CSO functioning.  This involves all areas of the CSO’s life, that is, emotional, physical and social.  Just as the IP isolates, often times so does the CSO.  It is done out of embarrassment, fear, shame, guilt and depression, to name a few.  CRAFT helps CSOs create or re-create a social circle, ask for help, re-kindle old relationships, for instance, all with the goal of empowering themselves.

CRAFT teaches CSOs to change the script with the IP.  CSOs model behaviour to the IP and in essence it’s changing the language to positive statements.  An example of a problematic statement is “I hate it when you get drunk and make a fool of yourself when we’re out with friends.”  The new script might be “It’s nice socializing with you when you’re sober because your great sense of humour comes through.”  It is reminding the IP of their positive attributes / behaviours and using reinforcing statements.

CRAFT steers clear of confrontation.  It changes the automatic responses of the CSO to ones that help support clean and sober IP behaviour.  CRAFT helps CSOs concentrate on the appropriate behaviours of the IP and identify suitable consequences that can be enforced.  Robert Meyers says this not a “one-size” fits all therapy.

CRAFT therapy is an active process for CSOs.  It involves role-playing scenarios, skills-training exercises and homework assignments.  All of this prepares the CSO to properly anticipate and handle as many possible scenarios that may be encountered with the IP.  One of the objectives of CRAFT is the positive reinforcement of non-drinking/using behaviour, with the goal of increasing these behaviours.

The American Psychology Association (APA) conducted a study of the success outcomes for engaging substance abusers into treatment.  The result was 13% for Al-Anon; 23% for Johnson Institute (interventions); 64% for CRAFT.

There is the three things rule:

1) Things in your life can stay the same;

2) Things in your life can get worse;

3) Things in your life can get better.

Ultimately, the choice is yours.  If what you’ve been doing has not been working, why not try something different, such as the CRAFT approach?

If you’d like to speak to one of our counsellors at Bellwood Health Services or you want more information about our family services, please call us at 1-800-387-6198.


Source:  CRAFT Workshop, Robert J. Meyers Ph.D.