Using the CRAFT Model to Help a Loved One With Drinking Or Drug Concerns

Addiction and substance misuse impacts entire families. Updated July 9, 2022.

Watching someone you love battle addiction is one of the toughest things to go through. It often leads to feelings of guilt, fear, shame, anxiety, anger, and isolation.

When in this situation, trying to find a way out of the chaos can feel like an uphill battle. Not only do you want to help your loved one, but you want a better life for yourself and your family too.

How can you set healthy boundaries while encouraging your loved one to make a change and regain control of their life?

Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT) is a model of addiction that helps families reinforce their relationships with their loved one struggling with substance misuse by focusing on:

  • Communication
  • Positive reinforcement; and
  • Compassion

Let’s dive into how the CRAFT model can help you and your family.

What is CRAFT?

CRAFT is a heavily researched and evidence-based approach developed by Robert Meyers, Ph.D.

The CRAFT approach is specifically geared towards the family and friends of someone who has lost control of their drug or alcohol use.

Whether it is your friend, sibling, partner, adult child, parent, or anyone else, CRAFT provides a comprehensive strategy for how to interact with your loved one that has been proven to get them into treatment and get your lives back on track.

Research on CRAFT shows that about 70% of families who receive CRAFT are able to get their loved ones into treatment within a year (Miller, Meyers, & Tonigan, 1999).

While the overall goal of CRAFT is to get your loved one into treatment, the real value in this model of addiction is to teach you and your family how to cope and improve your lives even when conversations about treatment are not going well.

The CRAFT model specifically teaches you and your family members how to:

  • Identify your loved one’s triggers around their substance misuse
  • Break patterns around these triggers
  • Develop and improve communication skills
  • Lead a life centered around your values and not your loved one’s substance use
  • Take better care of yourself and your family
  • Help your loved one access treatment

You are not alone in this effort for peace and balance.

By involving the entire family, you are able to combine your knowledge and find a strategy that makes the most sense for your situation.

By working together, you will realize unintentional participation in patterns related to your loved one’s use, and how to move forward by breaking free from those patterns.

How is CRAFT different?

Unlike some intervention models, CRAFT is completely non-confrontational.

You will not focus on a confrontation, but rather learn how to:

  • Stop your engagement in your loved one’s patterns
  • Set appropriate boundaries; and
  • Remain consistent with your personal values.

An example of this would be a mother who is consistently calling into her son’s work to tell them he is sick when in reality he is hungover. The CRAFT model would guide her in the process of stopping to make these calls, and calmly encourage her son to get ready for work or perhaps seek treatment.

CRAFT is all about:

  • Learning skills to improve your relationship with yourself and your loved one
  • Inviting changes in your loved one and making changes in your own life
  • Setting compassionate boundaries

Through CRAFT, the mother in this example would learn how to calmly communicate this new boundary, make sure she acts and feels aligned with her values, and encourage her son to recognize the issue and consider treatment.

Craft Addresses Everyone Involved

Unlike Nar-anon or Al-Anon, CRAFT not only gives support to the family and friends involved, but also supports the person misusing drugs or alcohol.

This way, we are able to leverage your close relationships to encourage recovery. You are not powerless over your loved one’s substance use.

Other programs will encourage you to detach from your loved one who is struggling with substance use issues. We know this isn’t always the best thing to do for you or your loved one.

There is a healthy middle ground that will:

  • Establish realistic and compassionate boundaries
  • Show your willingness to find help but your unwillingness to continue on the same path
  • Encourage your loved one to actually want to change

There Are No “Steps” In CRAFT

The skills you will learn from CRAFT can be used at any time and in any situation.

Your situation with your loved one is unique and deserves to be treated as such. Instead of following a broad and universal set of steps, you will acquire tools to use throughout your ongoing relationship with your loved one and their recovery process.

CRAFT Supports You & Your family

Many individuals will take on the job of caring for everyone involved in the chaos of addiction. When this happens, they often forget to care for themselves.

CRAFT brings families together and ensures that everyone is looked after.

Prioritizing the health of everyone involved – rather than just the person who is struggling with addictive substances – will strengthen your family and drastically increase the chances of successful recovery.


Getting Started with CRAFT

The key to making things seem more manageable in your household is acknowledging your fears and talking openly about the reality of your future.

CRAFT will give you the confidence to make tangible changes and restore a sense of peace in your home.

Whether you are looking for an alternative model of support or simply want some questions answered, we can move you forward and help your family feel whole again.

Ultimately, CRAFT helps your family live a better life whether your loved one is actively consuming substances or in the process of recovery.

If you are ready to start the conversation, we are here to listen.

Contact Michael Walsh

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About the author

Michael Walsh

When I say I’ve been there, I mean it. I am a different person now, and I am fired up about helping other people get to the place where they, too, are living better, healthier, and bigger lives.

1-on-1 Recovery Coaching & Sober Companionship

Did you know I can also work directly with your loved one? To learn more about Recovery Coaching or Sober Companionship, please visit my partner site at MichaelWalsh.com