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2000 Jordan Institute
for Families

Vol. 2, No. 1
Winter 1997

Intervening with Addicted Parents

  • Families must believe that they are being heard within a nonjudgmental framework. Be geniunely attentive to people; remember what they say and feel.

  • Involve as many family members as possible in interviews. Regard each family member as an opportunity for change, because he or she may be a key person to the dependent.

  • Talk about the drug use right away, treating it as an ordinary subject. Describe the behavior you have observed, and allow family members to share their observations. Remain low-key: do not sensationalize the issue.

  • Keep defining recovery for the family. Have them describe what it will be like when things get better. Stress that drug problems are treatable, and try to instill a sense of hope.

  • Do not get involved in power struggles--keep stating that you care, even when you are attacked.

  • Help the family achieve a "tough love" attitude with the dependent. "I love you, but I don't love your behavior."

  • Develop a plan with the family that addresses their concerns, including the substance abuse, and that builds on family strengths. Use this plan to guide your intervention.

  • Facilitate reduction of mistrust. Family members who have lived through an addiction learn to be suspicious of each other. Children tend to be especially mistrustful. Therefore, behave in a trustworthy manner; do what you say you will do.

  • Invite alcohol/drug treatment specialists to meet with the family (with the family's permission).


Adapted with permission from DeeAnn Caudel and Marcia Allen's "Chemical Dependency in Parents and Caretakers" (1995). In B. Williams (Ed.) Family Centered Services: A Handbook for Practitioners (pp. 247-261). Iowa City: National Resource Center for Family Centered Practice.

1997 Jordan Institute for Families