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CRAFT Interventions Are About Love, Connection, and Positive Communication

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When our Loved Ones are suffering, some form of intervention makes a lot of sense. But not all interventions lead to better outcomes. Negative approaches can lead to shame and secrecy, but as Laurie MacDougall explains in this answer to member LGN, the positive skills and methodologies of CRAFT do just the opposite. These methods, taught here in Allies’ eLearning Modules, foster better communication, trust, and confidence in our Loved Ones that they can, with help, make a change.

Our family is thinking about coordinating an intervention. What is the research/guidance/experience with this to assist a loved one to treatment?

Hi LGN,

You have come to the right place! The Allies in Recovery approach, as detailed across this website, is based in an intervention method called Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT). The research shows that it is by far the most effective form of intervention available to families with a Loved One (LO) with substance use disorder (SUD). Unlike traditional interventions that often involve confrontation, CRAFT focuses on positive reinforcement, communication skills, and support to encourage the individual to seek some form of treatment.

The basic elements of CRAFT are:

  1. Positive Reinforcement: CRAFT teaches family members how to reinforce positive behavior, and to withdraw immediate rewards and allow for natural consequences when there is substance use behavior. This method helps motivate the LO to repeat healthier activities by making them more rewarding, while at the same time it eliminates reinforcements for use behaviors. Positive reinforcement also helps build and strengthen the relationship with the LO by focusing on their successes and progress. This in turn helps family members to see the whole, multilayered person, not just their SUD.
  2. Communication Skills: Family members learn effective communication techniques to reduce conflict and improve their relationship with the LO. This includes learning how to express concerns without provoking defensiveness or resistance. Improved communication helps in building a stronger connection with the LO, fostering an environment of understanding and support.
  3. Self-Care: CRAFT emphasizes the importance of self-care, and the Allies in Recovery website has a whole learning module (Module 7; we call it Cognitive Behavior Lite) dedicated to the subject. Module 7 provides strategies for managing stress, which aids in creating and managing boundaries and meeting the needs of the family member too. This is critical to calming your system in heated moments so that you can bring your best self to the table, not only for your own well-being but also for that of your LO.
  4. Treatment Engagement: The primary goal of CRAFT is to encourage the LO into treatment. The approach is designed to help family members effectively guide their LO towards treatment without using coercion or confrontation. Simply learning many of the communication skills inherent in CRAFT, such as identifying wishes and dips, has been found to be successful in promoting the LO into better health and wellness. By employing these techniques, family members can positively influence their LO’s behavior and contribute to their overall well-being.

The sit-down conversation.

A major component of CRAFT intervention is the sit-down conversation. This a planned, structured conversation where the family member expresses their concerns and encourages the LO to seek treatment. Here’s how it works:

Choose a time and place where everyone is calm and free from distractions. The environment should be private and comfortable. Plan/script out what you want to say in advance. Focus on expressing your love and concern, avoiding blame and criticism. Plan the conversation using all of the communication skills you have learned. Be prepared with a list of all the possible resources they might be willing to take advantage of, and let them know that you’re there to support them through the process of seeking treatment. As you provide them with information about resources, ask how you might help get them started. Your side of the conversation might sound something like this:

Thank you for sitting down with me and having this conversation. I know that I am the one asking for this and expressing some concerns. Last night I could smell alcohol on your breath, and I know that you were at the bar with your colleagues after work. I get that it’s nice to be able to socialize after a long week at work. My concern is that there was drinking and driving, and there is already a DUI on your record. I also found an empty bottle of vodka in the back seat. I love you and am concerned. I have put together a list of options that we could look at together. Let’s decide on which options you would be willing to try. What are your thoughts on all of this?

Be patient and actively listen. Give them the chance to express their thoughts and feelings. Listen without interrupting or judging. If they become defensive or upset, stay calm and focus on your message. Avoid escalating the situation. Emphasize that you’re there to help and that their well-being is your primary concern.

Anticipate that they may need time to consider what you are proposing. Continue to support and reinforce positive behavior, disengage when there is using behavior, and keep the lines of communication open. Encourage your LO to consider treatment and remind them of the benefits.

Leave that list of resources you prepared somewhere easily accessible; in a place they’ll be likely to find it when they’re ready to try something.

By utilizing the CRAFT approach and conducting a well-prepared sit-down conversation, family members can effectively encourage their LOs to seek treatment in a compassionate and supportive manner. This method not only increases the likelihood of the LO entering treatment but also strengthens family relationships and promotes a healthy, more supportive environment for everyone involved.

Nothing to lose, everything to gain

Embracing the strategies and skills offered by Allies’ CRAFT-centered website can be transformative. Not only does it equip families with the tools necessary to guide their LOs towards treatment, but it also fosters significant improvements in the relationship dynamics moving forward. Regardless of the outcome, whether the LO enters treatment or not, the skills and strategies learned here will continue to be invaluable. They help us provide unwavering support across the entire journey through addiction, promoting healthier interactions, understanding, and connection. By accessing these resources and committing to the CRAFT approach long term, we empower ourselves to make a positive difference in our LO’s life and our own.

Wishing you good luck in this journey with your Loved One, LGN! Please keep us up to date on your progress.

Laurie MacDougall

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