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Youth-serving professionals can steer parents to tool for improving communication

October 2, 2015
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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An effort to assist parents who had not been able to get a child into treatment for substance use issues has led to the release of an online course designed to teach parents skills for effective interactions with their substance-using children.

The availability of Parent CRAFT has been made possible through a collaboration among the Treatment Research Institute (TRI); online education provider Cadence Online; and Robert J. Meyers, PhD, a psychologist and researcher who has been a leading developer of the research-based Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT) intervention. While CRAFT was originally designed to help loved ones of treatment-resistant individuals, a TRI leader believes treatment professionals currently working with adolescent or young-adult patients also could steer these clients' parents to the online course in order to help them improve family communication skills.

“Probably the most important component of CRAFT is communication training,” says Kimberly Kirby, PhD, director of TRI's Parents Translational Research Center. “In families affected by a young person's substance use, relationships become strained, and there is often a lot of tension or confrontation in interactions. In CRAFT there is a focus on the way the parent communicates with the child, offering a way that is less confrontational.”

The online course, available to parents at an initial launch cost of $199 for unlimited access, uses brief videos and role-playing exercises to help parents understand their child's drug-using behaviors, improve communication skills, develop methods for behavior management, and learn strategies for suggesting that their child enter treatment. The CRAFT approach has been shown in research to improve significantly the likelihood of convincing a family member to pursue treatment.

Parental misconception

Kirby says CRAFT teaches parents how to lend support to their children's steps in the right direction, while at the same time avoiding unintentionally reinforcing negative behaviors. She says parents often mistakenly conclude that they can never do anything to help their substance-using child.

“You do want your kid to develop some independence,” she says, “but you don't have to stop doing something nice entirely. You just want to be able to tell when it's OK.”

Kirby adds that CRAFT is geared to teach parents to think more systematically about their interactions with their child. “Parents come in with conceptions about how best to discourage behaviors, and those work well in 90% of circumstances,” she said. “But addiction just changes the context.”

Some parents who experience the CRAFT approach say they in turn apply it to communication with their other children, their spouses and others in their lives, Kirby says.

TRI developed the training curriculum for Parent CRAFT, and Cadence Online raised substantial funding for design of the online modules.

Meyers, a professor emeritus at the University of New Mexico Center on Alcoholism, Substance Abuse and Addiction, had a longtime personal interest in family dynamics around addiction because his father had never received treatment for heavy drinking. A 2007 Addiction Professional article based on an interview with Meyers stated, “He would not accept that family members are powerless to influence a drinker or addict.”

 

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