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The CRAFT Family Intervention Approach to Addiction

By Lee Weber

People experiencing substance abuse problems are often in denial; they deny that addiction occurs and many refuse to get treated. Meanwhile, their family and friends go through a lot of emotional damage. Living with a person with substance use disorder tends to leave many family bonds broken.

CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Training) is an intervention approach which targets individuals who refuse to get into substance abuse treatment. The CRAFT model also helps families and relationships survive the crisis of addiction.

Within the CRAFT method a family member is taught by therapists how to indirectly approach the individual using drugs or alcohol. They are taught how to change the living environment, reward behaviors that encourage sobriety, and withhold rewards whenever the individual uses substances.

Research shows that after 4 to 6 CRAFT sessions with family members, approximately two-thirds of those who initially refused treatment were successfully led into substance abuse treatment.

Supporting the family

Families need support to cope with addiction. The CRAFT method helps the family and friends improve their relationship with the person using alcohol or illicit drug. Family members learn to encourage their loved ones, help them through the treatment and accompany them towards an addiction-free lifestyle.

CRAFT also helps improve the happiness of the family members 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.

Best practices in a family intervention:

  • Long term commitment of a family unit to address addiction, with the help of a therapist.
  • Behavioural training which involves family and close friends to better cope with real life situations. The behavioural training includes written exercises, homework assignments, role-plays and other forms of informal learning.
  • People move at their own pace and can consult their therapist when the time is right to make a change.
  • With the help of therapists, family members develop useful skills to positively impact their substance-using loved one.
  • Therapists communicate positive feelings of hope, understanding, and opportunity.

Lee Weber is a writer, editor, and mother with over a decade of addiction recovery. She is passionate about helping people get help for substance abuse. She runs – an online resource for families and addicts searching for appropriate treatment options.