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If My Loved One Commits To Treatment, Should I Ease Up on CRAFT?

Photo credit: Anastasia Shureava

Disengaging from a Loved One isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time. But doing so when they’re using is a basic (and proven) part of CRAFT—as is the opposite action, rewarding non-use. When a Loved One takes on the challenges that often attend the start of treatment, sticking to CRAFT techniques and principles is as vital as at any other moment. As Laurie MacDougall explains, the effort will likely be difficult, but it’s a key part of supporting them.

Members often pose the question: should we continue sticking to CRAFT methods, including ignoring and disengaging when a Loved One is using, even if they have committed to some form of treatment? If they are fully committed to getting help, do we still need to reward non-use and take away rewards when they are using? Or is it time for us to relax and scale back on the use of CRAFT skills and strategies?

The simple answer is STICK TO THE PROGRAM! We’ll see much better results if we continue to work on CRAFT strategies and skills until they are second nature. In other words, CRAFT is lifelong change. It’s a shift in how we interact and communicate with everyone. I would go so far as to say never scale back.

Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT) is based in well-proven psychological principles. These principles are simply effective ways to help us improve our interaction and communication skills in every aspect of our lives.

There is a need to differentiate between clinical CRAFT, which was structured in a way based on research and applied CRAFT which is utilizing well proven psychological principles across the continuum of care. CRAFT based research had parameters created in order to look at possible positive outcomes on the individual with addiction. It was designed for those that are treatment resistant. The program consisted of a 12-week program with a clinician walking families through specific protocols and once the intended outcome was achieved, engagement with treatment, the program is complete. The Allies in Recovery has expanded and built on this 12-week program to create applied CRAFT in many different ways. Dealing with addiction is not limited to 12 weeks and does not end when a person engages with a form of treatment. All sorts of issues and complications that cannot be anticipated come up, many people struggle with mental illness and trauma, there can be recurrences of use, etc… The journey to recovery is not a straight-line process and is certainly not going to fit into a structured 12-week program. The wonderful thing though is

that all the principles that the CRAFT protocols are based on are well proven strategies used across many different diagnoses and life situations and has been shown to be effective.

What Allies in Recovery has done, is to take a structured program designed for 12 weeks and expanded it out to be widely and broadly used for prevention, while in active use and well beyond when a person is working on their recovery. We encourage people to develop these skills and strategies and get creative and address the multitude of real-life situations that are thrown at us in a well informed and educated way. CRAFT helps you to bring your best self to situations, period. CRAFT does not and should not be limited to the clinician’s office with limits on time. Afterall, what CRAFT does for us should also be considered. It helps us become better at interacting and communicating with others in a more respectful, compassionate and caring way. It helps us exist in the world as a better form of ourselves.

It’s that good!

Recovery is today, tomorrow, and beyond

“As long as you’re breathing there’s more work to do”– Kayla Solomon

It is so positive when a Loved One (LO) commits to treatment and recovery! But the journey is not over. The absence of substances does not mean that all is healed. Recovery is a lifelong process, and early recovery requires support, compassion, and understanding just as much as times when our LO is using.

Things may be calmer for a bit if our LO goes away to residential treatment. I would argue that this is the time to strengthen our skills and not slow down. Learning those CRAFT strategies are a benefit as much to us as to our Loved One (LO). Never stop using your newly acquired tools.

Deeply understanding the CRAFT program takes time. Disengaging from a LO (which is not the same as ignoring them) when they’re using is a very nuanced protocol. Yes, you continue to remove immediate rewards (especially yourself), but you do it in a safe and compassionate way. And yes, always and forever, reinforce positive behavior. If you want a behavior to repeat, reward it. If you want a behavior to stop, remove immediate rewards and give the behavior minimal attention, without punishing the individual. If they are away in residential treatment, continue this type of strategy when they return home.

In short: keep going. Anticipate that things will still be up and down for a while, and continue learning and practicing to deepen your CRAFT skills.

Happy CRAFTing everyone!

Laurie MacDougall


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In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)