The CRAFT Approach: Encouraging Healthy, Constructive, Positive Changes for Your Family

    “My son is using drugs and it’s wrecking our family. I’ve tried to talk to him, but he just gets mad and then we just stop talking. What should I do?”

    We often receive this kind of call here at the Center for Motivation & Change (CMC). It’s a terrible call because of the anguish involved. It’s also a wonderful call, because we have the tools needed to help. A call like this provides our CMC clinicians the opportunity to invite the family member to learn about CRAFT.

    Community Reinforcement and Family Training, or CRAFT, is an approach for families who have a loved one struggling with substances, but who is not really interested in making changes or getting help. CRAFT is about learning a different method to communicate with and support your loved one. It’s about taking care of yourself, while also learning how to interact with your loved one in a way that increases the likelihood of making a real change.

    The old method – either help them, or help yourself by distancing yourself from them – is never a choice you should have to make. CRAFT teaches you a series of strategies such as:

    • Understanding how to communicate positively (even when things aren’t going so well)
    • Using positive reinforcement to focus on what is working, while allowing for the bad stuff they are doing to impact them
    • Taking real steps and developing a real awareness of what it means to take care of yourself, not as an afterthought, but as a priority for the whole family

    Parents have been told a number of things that are neither helpful nor practical, such as, “Let them hit bottom, they have to figure it out for themselves,” or, “There’s nothing you can do, helping them is enabling their use and means you are codependent.” These “tough love” messages are often excruciating for many parents.

    The good news? You can help your loved one without taking those steps. CRAFT works to change your interactions with your loved one so that sober behavior is more rewarding to them than continued substance use.

    CRAFT is “menu-driven.” This means that different components and procedures are selected from the CRAFT “menu” based on the family’s particular needs. Where the treatment starts depends on your loved one’s behavior, severity and openness to change. It also depends on your emotional state, experience and history as a family.

    CRAFT research, as well as our clinical experience, have demonstrated that by learning skills and understanding what motivates your child, positive change can occur. Evidence shows that positive outcomes occur at a much higher rate with the CRAFT approach than with other, more well-known approaches, such as 12-Step programs or Intervention approaches.

    Why? Probably because CRAFT is positive, aimed at encouraging healthy, constructive changes, and focused on helping your child develop, or re-develop, a life. In addition, CRAFT is a behavioral approach, interested in changing behaviors — theirs and yours — not just talking about them. And, as we mentioned, it is geared toward improving your life, too. Research studies repeatedly find that family members feel much better throughout the CRAFT process, whether or not their loved one ultimately gets into treatment. Best of all, using the CRAFT approach, the person with addiction seeks treatment at a rate of about 65-75%, which is 2-3 times higher than interventions or 12-step approaches.

    CRAFT works. It may require work, practice, stumbles, practice and more practice — but CRAFT also teaches you that you can help.

    Perhaps most importantly, the skills, strategies and insight you gain through CRAFT are built for the long haul: what you learn now will remain applicable beyond your current situation; the skills are not just useful when “trying to get him to say yes to treatment.” Saying yes matters, but what matters more are the changes you can make in your family, because these changes are the ones that provide the fuel for lasting change — not just for putting out the immediate fire.

    Video still or concerned parents looking toward their daughter.

    The CRAFT Approach

    Through Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT), family members motivate loved ones to seek help for addiction.

    Learn More About CRAFT
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