The family intervention process: Confrontation or community?

If you’re planning an intervention, confrontation is just the beginning. Rather than a one-off … why not become a part of the process? Learn more about CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Training) here.

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Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT) is an efficient alternative to confrontational interventions. In fact, the process helps address family dynamics and addiction in a holistic and committed way, rather than a one-time event.  Here, we review the basics of the CRAFT model, and how it differs from traditional “intervention” models. Then, we invite your questions about best practices in family interventions or families and addiction therapy at the end.

Addiction is a family disease

Very often, people experiencing substance abuse problems are in denial; they deny that addiction occurs and often refuse to get treated. While addicted individuals experience physical and psychological consequences, their concerned family and friends go through emotional and interpersonal damage. Living with a person with substance use disorder isn’t easy and tends to leave many family bonds broken. That’s why CRAFT was designed to target individuals who refuse to get into substance abuse treatment, to address their problems as addicts, and as family members.

What is CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Training)?

CRAFT is an intervention approach closer to the traditional type of addiction treatment than a one-time “all or nothing” approach. While the CRAFT model does engage patients who resist seeking formal treatment, it also helps improve the functioning of concerned significant others (CSOs) and helps families stay together and be supportive of one another. Family support for drug and alcohol addicts is important, but so is supporting the family itself.  is In fact, CRAFT works for all variety of relationship types, including spouse-spouse, parent-child and sibling-sibling.

As a family intervention, the CRAFT method does not pressure people who are dealing with substance abuse disorders to attend treatment. As an alternative, a concerned family member, called a Concerned Significant Other (CSO) is consulted and taught by therapists how to gently and indirectly approach the individual using drugs or alcohol. The CSO is shown how to change the living environment, reward behaviors that encourage the users’ sobriety, while withholding rewards whenever the individual is using substances.

The success record of CRAFT interventions

Medical studies have proven CRAFT to be more successful at engaging addicts in treatment than the Al-Anon model and the Johnson Intervention Method. In fact, CRAFT has specifically designed for people who refused to be treated for their substance abuse problem. CRAFT is considered to have 2-3 times better results than theses two more commonly used methods. And after only 4-6 CSO sessions, friends and family reported a significant reduction in physical symptoms, depression, anger and anxiety, even when the substance users didn’t engage in treatment. And approximately two-thirds of individuals that initially refused treatment were successfully lead into substance abuse treatment after their families engaged in CRAFT, whether they used drugs or alcohol problematically.

Support for the family unit

Addiction affects more than the addict. And families need support to cope. This is why the CRAFT method helps the family and friends improve their relationship with the person using alcohol or illicit drug. Through this approach, CSOs show encouragement for their loved one, help them through the treatment, and accompany them towards an addiction-free life.

CRAFT also focuses on encouraging the happiness of the CSO by identifying the areas of their own lives that need to change. After recognizing those areas, strategies for improvement that fit the family’s needs are developed, which lead to accomplishing goals. Then, therapists can then check the CSOs progress regularly, and help family members modify their goals if needed. So, CRAFT is an approach that does not only get the family and friends to help a loved one with drug or alcohol abuse problems, but it also focuses on helping both the substance user and the family.

Why is CRAFT preferred to confrontational interventions?

CRAFT is a successful motivational method of reaching out to substance users, and according to therapists, what makes it successful is the non-confrontational nature of the approach. People who use CRAFT are more likely to see the process through to success than those who use confrontational methods. Also, the close observation that allows therapists to be directive, set clear expectations, and set limits as needed is an essential part of the treatment.

Questions about CRAFT

Is a family member or a friend a substance user? Research proves that you too can succeed with the CRAFT program. The methods are effective and easy to learn, and make you feel good about the efforts on behalf of your loved ones. Do you have any other questions or experiences to share? We welcome you to post them in the comments section at the end. All legitimate questions will be answered promptly and personally.

Reference Sources: NCBI: Community reinforcement and family training: an effective option to engage treatment-resistant substance-abusing individuals in treatment
Office of Veteran’s Affairs: CRAFT Training Manual
HBO: CRAFT Alternative Intervention
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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