I’ve attended training in January to learn the 5-Step Method of supporting families coping with a loved one’s drug or alcohol use.

It is the first time I have come across a model of support that helps family members in their own right. Usually, the person having problems with substance use accesses a service then families are offered help as a result of this.

Family support groups

The type and quality of the help varies from country to city to town. There is no consistency in this. For example, a family in Ireland will be able to access family support groups which are led by family members who have been supported, trained and developed by the National Family Support Network. They have set up quality assurance so that families can access a quality service whether It’s led by volunteers or led by professionals.

In Manchester, there are a few family-led support groups that I’ve heard of, but I feel ignorant that I haven’t linked up with them more, so the families I help can get further support from people that are in the same, but unique, situation as themselves. This is called peer-led support and allows people at the very least to realise they are not alone in coping with  a loved one’s drug or alcohol use.

Local carers centres also provide advice and support for families caring for people with drug and alcohol problems.

Local drug and alcohol services offer

Drug and alcohol services are getting better at offering family support services. In Bury, they offer the CRAFT programme (Community Reinforcement and Family Training) and in Salford, they offer 5-Step Method, but again, this usually depends on the person using substances accessing the service then families being supported following this.

There are whole family support services commissioned in some areas like Early Break’s award winning Holding Families which provides a 6-month programme for children and families affected by parental substance use.

Why families should stop focussing on the person using drugs/acohol

Family members always focus on the needs of their drug or alcohol using relative before themselves. I saw an advert recently on Facebook for a rehab and family members were asking, ‘how much is this?’ and ‘how long do they stay for?’. There was nothing about, ‘what support do you provide for families?’. When a family member made a comment, the rehab posted a link to Famanon which made it pretty clear that they didn’t support families and they were solely focused on the person using substances spending money to go to rehab.

People tend to think that rehab will solve everyone’s problems, but they cost anything from 5-50k. It is possible to get to rehab through the drug and alcohol service but it doesn’t happen overnight because of the cost to services. The person using substances has to show a commitment and often a reduction in their drug or alcohol use before they will be given funding to go to detox or rehab. Drug and Alcohol services often run a pre-detox group and who can blame them with so many funding cuts to services.

Why rehabs are not always the answer


Rehabs are great, but, Most people relapse in the first 90 days following a period in rehab. Why? Because they don’t have the skills to face the reality of being back at home in the same situation, with the same triggers and the same life that they were tucked away from in rehab. It is then that people need support and guidance when they are back in reality. I know a family who paid 30k to send a relative to a luxury rehab, she was drinking again within three weeks. No aftercare was provided unless they travelled 200 miles back to the residential rehab their relative had left. Family support was non-existent – a lesson here is that it doesn’t matter what you pay, it’s the aftercare that counts. Lots of services recommend 12-steps for families but this involves going to groups which works for some but not for others. I recommend to give everything a go twice and find something that works for each individual.

The point I’m trying to make is there are lots of services for problematic drug and alcohol users, but there are also many for families too. The more support families get, the more they can focus on themselves, regardless of whether their relative continues to drink or take drugs or not.

Focus on the family

There are some brilliant programmes out there for family members which I have mentioned above. CRAFT focuses on reducing stress and getting a loved one into treatment. The model I use with families is similar to this, so family members are supported at the same time as figuring out the detail of their loved one’s substance use in order to understand it and influence their loved one’s behaviour (note that I’ve said influence as you cannot change anyone else’s behaviour, it is their choice). Mainly, it builds resilience and coping strategies with family members so they can live a better life.

5-Step Method

I’ve now been trained in 5 step method (this has nothing to do with 12 steps!) which is a fantastic way of supporting family members in their own right. It doesn’t matter whether they have regular contact with the person using drugs or alcohol, whether they are in treatment themselves and it doesn’t even focus on their loved one at all. This is all about families. What they need, what they want to know and discussing whatever is important to them.

This is a unique and evidence-based model which has been tested out to work all over the world.

I deliver this over 6 sessions with an introductory session included:

1. Introduction, assessment and goal setting

2. Getting to know you and the problem

3. Providing you with relevant information

4. Exploring how you respond and cope

5. Exploring and enhancing social support

6. Identifying further needs and referring on for further help

It is a wonderful programme of support! Find out more on my website here as I’m offering this at my training rate and can deliver online so you can get the help in the comfort of your own home. You just need a set of headphones and a phone/laptop. I also offer my services in the Manchester area (UK).

Get in touch for a friendly chat about your situation and to find out more about my services.

Take care,

Victoria.