CRAFT: One Support System for Parents & Loved Ones of Substance Abusers

There are many recovery programs to assist sober parents of kids with substance abuse disorders.  For parents whose children often relapse, are jailed repeatedly for using and selling illegal substances, and have trouble maintaining sobriety, the CRAFT model boasts a 64% success rate for families afflicted with addiction.

How does a parent or significant other move beyond blaming, lingering resentment?

In many cases, punishment does not work nor does ineffectual family interactions that can actually maintain addiction.   CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Training) is a behavioral approach that relies on reinforcing positive behavior when it occurs.  Different from other support systems, it does not endorse Twelve-Step meetings, interventions, “Tough Love” or “Hitting Rock Bottom.”

What is CRAFT then?  It equips family and friends with techniques to encourage their loved ones to begin and continue treatment and provide defenses against addiction’s powerful effects on loved ones.  CSOs (concerned significant others) who attend CRAFT programs also benefit by becoming more independent and reducing their depression, anxiety and anger symptoms even if their addicted loved ones do NOT enter treatment.

Here’s how it works:

CRAFT treatment plan establishes goals in the client-selected areas.  Then establishes highly specified methods for obtaining those goals.

To do this, CRAFT employs behavior skills training:

  • Instruction and role playing.
  • Breaks overwhelming problems into manageable smaller problems.
  • Addresses smaller problems.

Positive Communication Strategies: Seven Steps

  • Be brief.
  • Be Positive.
  • Refer to specific behaviors.
  • Label your feelings.
  • Offer an understanding statement:  For example, “I appreciate that you really want to talk right now and, that this feels urgent,” but..
  • Accept partial responsibility.  It directs you to a piece that you can own for yourself.  It decreases defensiveness.
  • Offer to help.  Increase messages you want to be heard. 

What if:  Drink & Drug Refusal

  • Identify high-risk situations.
  • Teach assertiveness.
  • Job skills training.
  • Social and Recreational counseling.
  • Relapse Prevention
    • Teach clients how to identify high-risk situations.
    • Teach clients how to anticipate and cope with a relapse.

For more information, see

Get Your Loved One Sober:  Alternatives to Nagging, Pleading, and Threatening.  By Robert J. Meyers, Ph.D. and Brenda L. Wolfe.  ( Hazelden Press, 2004).

For CMC centers in New York, D.C., Long Island, call (212) 683-3339. 

Wesley Cullen Davidson

Wesley Cullen Davidson

Wesley Cullen Davidson is an award-winning freelance writer and journalist specializing in parenting. Currently, she is targeting her writing about recovery to parents whose children have substance abuse disorders.

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