The life-changing properties of addiction in a family

St Patrick’s has programmes that train family members living with addiction to influence their loved ones while also looking after themselves

Living with addiction can put family members under enormous stress. Photograph: Thinkstock

Living with addiction can put family members under enormous stress. Photograph: Thinkstock

 

Families living with addiction often live very painful and chaotic lives against a background of financial problems, marital conflict and, in some cases, violence and abuse.

Yet family members and close friends can, and do, play a powerful role in reducing their loved one’s drinking or using and encouraging them to go into treatment.

A new programme has just been launched by St Patrick’s Mental Health Addiction Services to train family members and concerned significant others (CSOs) living with addiction to influence their loved one while also improving their own health and wellbeing.

The Craft (Community Reinforcement Approach and Family Training) programme is a scientifically based cognitive-behavioural intervention that has been developed to help family members and CSOs (including partners, friends and colleagues) play a powerful role in engaging with the substance user who is in treatment or resistant to treatment. In addition, Craft teaches people skills designed to enhance their own lives, regardless of whether the person enters treatment.

‘Enormous pressure’

Imelda McHugh, addictions and dual diagnosis services coordinator, says that family pressure or influence is often the reason given by substance users for seeking treatment.

“Living with addiction can put family members under enormous stress with normal routines regularly interrupted by frightening experiences.

“The entire family system becomes absorbed by the addiction problem as it spins out of control. Family members come to us exhausted, angry and frustrated and when they tell us they have done everything they can to try to help the addicted person, they really mean that. I am humbled by what human nature has been pushed to in those circumstances.”

Despite being pushed beyond normal human limits, McHugh explains that family members and CSOs remember the person they knew and loved before their addiction told hold – it’s those memories that stop them from walking away in many instances.

“This programme is different from support groups because it teaches you skills to help yourself and your loved one. Irrespective of whether your loved one goes into treatment, you can change your life.

“When it comes to addiction services, the story is usually all about the addicted person, nobody looks at the impact it has on those around them, but Craft helps people to reduce their own anxiety around their loved one’s addiction and to develop a more peaceful, fulfilling life independent of their loved one and his/her behaviour.”

Eating disorders

McHugh says that seven out of 10 people using the programme either got their loved one into treatment or reduced their loved one’s drinking or using, and improved their own functioning physically, emotionally and in their own relationships.

The eight-week programme is run by trained addiction therapists over two hours on a Thursday evening from 6-8pm at St Patrick’s Hospital, Dublin. It costs €50 a week.

Further information is available at stpatricks.ie or by calling their support and information line on 01-249 3333.

In another first for the St Patrick’s Mental Health Services, a new day group has been set up to treat people with eating disorders.

The Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) group is a 25 session closed group that offers a new psychological intervention to enable people to manage their recovery in the community.

The group targets a range of eating disorders including anorexia, bulimia and binge eating and is particularly suitable for people who struggle with shame, guilt or self criticism.

Patients must meet certain referral criteria and referrals can be made through GPs or mental health services.

Dr Jillian Doyle and Dr Clodagh Dowling, senior clinical psychologists at St Patrick’s, explain that the group helps patients to develop a more compassionate sense of self and fosters social connectedness.

Compassionate sense of self

A one-day psycho-education session for patients and family members educates people about eating disorders and nutrition and outlines what happens in the body when a person is in the throes of an eating disorder.

This is followed by five weeks of intensive skills training (one day each week) in through which patients learn skills to help them deal with their distressed emotions and to develop a compassionate mind.

“We teach people how to get in back in touch with the natural soothing system that we are all born with so that they can soothe and care for themselves instead of using the eating disorder to sooth themselves,” says Dr Doyle.

The next level of the course is 10 weeks (one afternoon a week) of therapeutic intervention which is followed by three aftercare sessions over the next two months.

Dr Dowling explains: “We teach the patients the skills they need first before we deal with the eating disorder itself.

“The treatment part of the programme is aimed at introducing regular planned meals, monitoring weight and ensuring that participants take in the calories they need to regain or stabilise their weight.”

For further information about the CFT programme contact Dr Jillian Doyle on 01-249 3475.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.