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Substance-Affected Families: The Recovery Process
Involvement of the Family in the Recovery Process
It has been well established that the family plays a critical role in the recovery or relapse of the substance-dependent individual. Studies show that individuals are more likely to relapse when families fail to maintain involvement in treatment activities (educational, counseling, and self-help programs) than individuals from families who do stay involved (Daley & Marlatt, 1992; Daley & Raskin, 1991; Gorski & Miller, 1988; Hawkins & Catalano, 1985). When families participate in the recovery process, they are more likely to be supportive and less likely to "sabotage" the addict's recovery. They are also more likely to encourage the addict to seek support from a self-help network and to recognize factors that may interfere with recovery (Daley & Marlatt).
Involvement in the recovery activities is beneficial to the family in more than just providing support to the substance-affected family member. Other members of the family benefit when they have the opportunity to learn about addiction and its physical, psychological, and emotional effect. Family participation in the recovery plan helps them identify relapse warning signs, support efforts to remain abstinent, and achieve some control over the recovery process (Daley & Raskin, 1991). Participation in the process gives family members the opportunity to heal any emotional pain they may have experienced as a result of the addict's substance abuse history (Daley & Marlatt, 1992).
Effect of Substance Abuse on Children
In addition to the role that the family can play in helping the addict achieve recovery, it is vitally important to recognize the potential negative effect that substance abuse can have on children in the family. Research shows a strong link between parental substance abuse and child maltreatment (Child Welfare League of America, 1990; Famularo, Kinscherff, & Fenton, 1992; Sheridan, 1995). According to the Child Welfare League of America, substance abuse may be involved in as many as 80 percent of all substantiated cases of abuse and neglect. Substance abuse is one of the most common reasons children enter into the care of social services agencies (Children's Defense Fund, 1992). In a study conducted by the Child Welfare League of America (1992), referral of over 40 percent of children to public and private child welfare agencies was related to substance abuse. The study also noted that substance abuse is a major factor in cases involving child protection, family disruption, and placement into foster care.
Psychological, cognitive-behavioral, and behavioral risks to children of substance-abusing parents are well-established (Aktan, Kumpfer, & Turner, 1996; Curtis & McCullough, 1993; Dore, Doris, & Wright, 1995; Julianna & Goodman, 1992; Sheridan, 1995). Dore, Doris, and Wright, in a review of how substance abuse affects children, reported that studies of psychosocial functioning have found that children from substance-abusing families are prone to behavior problems involving hyperactivity and conduct disorder, drug and alcohol use, impaired intellectual and academic functioning, clinical levels of anxiety and depression, low levels of self-esteem, and perceived lack of environmental control. Aktan, Kumpfer, and Turner reported that children in families of substance abusers are inclined to have ability deficits that impair their ability to solve problems, cope with stress, tolerate drugs, communicate effectively, consistently apply good standards, hold reasonable expectation, and be sufficiently interactive and supportive with others.
Effect of Substance Abuse on Parenting
In families in which parents abuse substances, parental control and protection factors are less evident and youths are more likely to exhibit behavior problems at home and school, be involved in delinquent activities, and use drugs and alcohol than youths from families in which parents do not abuse drugs (Julianna & Goodman, 1992). Drug-abusing families are likely to exhibit poor family management skills that lead to disruption, conflict, loss of parental control, low frustration tolerance, unrealistic expectations of children, weak child-parent bonds, low family cohesion, and undefined family boundaries (Julianna & Goodman; Sheridan, 1995). Also, there is evidence that when parents stop using drugs they become better parents (Murphy et al., 1991).
Assistance to Substance-Affected Families
Although the family is increasingly viewed as being important to the recovery process, less attention has been given to helping family members of recovering substance abusers (Aktan et al., 1996). Assistance to families has not been widely available in part because a strong focus on the substance-affected individual has dominated the field. Another, and perhaps more important reason, is simply insufficient attention to the assessment and treatment of families affected by substance abuse by professionals (such as social and child care workers) with responsibilities for serving children and families (Dore et al., 1995; Tracy & Farkas, 1994).
Tracy (1994) noted a reluctance on the part of social workers to address substance abuse problems adequately. Moreover, even when the social worker appropriately recognizes these family issues, the case management plan may be inadequate because of limited treatment sources and lack of preparation for addressing the effect of drug and alcohol use. Few programs have the comprehensive range of services to address the diverse needs of substance-affected parents, which include special and developmental needs of children, child care and parenting skills, housing and vocational assistance, and counseling directed at the emotional consequences (for example, guilt and shame) of substance abuse.
The Child Welfare League of America's North American Commission on Chemical Dependency and Child Welfare (1992) has recommended that child welfare agencies recognize that parental alcohol and drug dependency places children at risk of abuse and neglect and provide services to undo the effects of abuse and neglect, stabilize the family, improve parenting skills, and prevent maltreatment. According to the Child Welfare League of America, "Chemically dependent families need intensive immediate and ongoing assistance to resolve AOD dependency, improve family functioning, and remedy the problems that chemical dependency creates for children" (p. 20). The report asserts that services must be provided to help parents improve their ability to perceive, understand, and respond appropriately to their children's needs. Also, it is important to consider the larger context of alcohol and drug use and how it might affect family needs such as housing, employment, medical care, sufficiency of social network, and contact and integration with the community.
Intervention Domains: The Bridges Program
The program's intervention domains were selected to form a practice model that would support individual and family relapse prevention work. Selection of the components were guided by the relapse prevention model approach (Daley & Marlatt, 1992; Dale), & Raskin, 1991; DeJong, 1994) and by the addiction recovery approach (Gorski & Miller, 1988). The core domains were selected to achieve the service focus of linking parental recovery with family support. The domains and their respective components were included on the basis of their relationship to family and parent functioning and to their identified significance in contributing to relapse prevention.
The four domains are
individual actions and cognitions: behaviors and thinking patterns of the substance abuser that represent facets of functioning that are essential to engaging in a lifestyle not dependent on alcohol or drug use
individual recovery actions: behavioral changes that substance abusers must integrate into their daily lives to achieve and maintain sobriety
family actions and cognitions: behaviors and thinking patterns of the substance abuser's family that represent facets of family functioning that are essential to providing the support and structure the abuser needs to be able to engage in a lifestyle not dependent on alcohol or drug use
family recovery actions: actions that the families of substance abusers need to take to understand substance abuse and help the substance abuser achieve and maintain sobriety.
Achievement in each domains is measured through a series of assessment questions at case opening, case closure, and six weeks after closure of the case. Four levels of progress are depicted on a pictograph of the components of each domain (see Figure 1):
Level 1 (innermost)--functioning at an unacceptable level, in urgent need of recognition of problems and actions to begin relapse prevention
Level 2--functioning at a minimally acceptable level, needs to identify resources and begin to use them to address addiction-related problems
Level 3--functioning at a moderately acceptable level, is inconsistent in practice of appropriate relapse prevention behaviors and uses support resources
Level 4 (outermost)--functioning at an acceptable level, is consistent in engaging in appropriate relapse prevention behavior
Components are scaled on a motivation to change or achievement of change dimension fashioned after the preparation stages of the change model of Prochaska and his colleagues (Prochaska, DiClemente, & Norcross, 1992). The domains and their components are used to develop and implement the treatment plan, which addresses family functioning and relapse prevention issues. Level of functioning within each domain is addressed so that the focus on the work with the family is to establish a strong link between family behavior and support actions and the substance-affected parent's functioning and recovery actions. The resulting picture that is created on the pictograph shows the individual and family movement toward recovery functioning and what specific domain components may need further work. (Examples of the intervention strategies derived from the model are presented in Gruber, Fleetwood, and Herring, 1998, which is available from the authors.)
- Gruber, Kenneth, Fleetwood, Thomas, & Michael Herring, In-Home Continuing Care Services for Substance-Affected Families: The Bridges Program, Social Work, Jul 2001, Vol. 46, Issue 3.
Reflection Exercise #3
The preceding section contained information
about substance-affected families in the recovery process. Write
three case study examples regarding how you might use the content of this section
in your practice.
In what three ways is involvement in the recovery activities critical not only to the addict but to the family members? To select and enter your answer go to .