The Science Behind Sober Families

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CRAFT and other evidence-based techniques have been shown in numerous clinical trials to help families deal with an addicted family member. Below, we explain what CRAFT is and how the science behind it inspired the Sober Families online program.


What is CRAFT?

CRAFT stands for Community Reinforcement Approach and Family Training. That’s a mouthful, and so we say CRAFT for short. The CRAFT approach is a system for helping family members change the way that they interact with loved one who is a drug user or someone is drinking too much. The aim of CRAFT is to help that person get into treatment and on the road to recovery from drugs and alcohol.

Family members know a great deal about their alcohol or drug using family member. However, they often don’t know what to do with all that information to be helpful. That’s where CRAFT comes in. CRAFT provides a comprehensive strategy for how to interact with drinking and drugging family members in a way that has been shown to work to get their loved one into treatment and to get their life back from addiction. CRAFT also helps family members improve their own lives, whether their loved one ends up seeking treatment or not.

CRAFT is usually delivered over the course of approximately 12 weekly face-to-face sessions with a trained therapist, who teaches the person techniques that they can use at home with their drinking or drug using loved one. Sessions are focused on increasing understanding of the loved one’s addiction, effective communication skills that increase motivation for change, ways to respond to our loved ones that decrease the chance of use over time, and investment in self-care. We talk about many of these skills and ideas throughout this website and encourage you to check out the CRAFT resources for more sources of information.


Does CRAFT work?

CRAFT is what we call an “evidence-based therapy,” meaning that it has been proven to be effective in controlled clinical studies. The earliest research goes back about 30 years, so several decades of evidence has accumulated to show that CRAFT can teach family members how to engage their loved one in treatment in an effective, non-confrontative manner, and also improve their own life in the process.

“Randomized Controlled Trials” (RCTs) are the gold standard way of evaluating whether a treatment is effective. Participants are randomly assigned to receive either the treatment in question, no treatment, a comparison treatment, or in some cases a placebo (i.e., a false but convincing).  By comparing differences between groups we can confidently assess whether the real treatment really works, and confirm that any improvements are not due to chance or some other external factor such as the time of year or people simply expecting to get better.

CRAFT has been evaluated in a series of RCTs with hundreds of people and has repeatedly shown that about 70% of families are able to get their loved one into treatment after learning CRAFT. CRAFT has been shown to work across all drugs of abuse and for alcohol. Research shows it works for parents, for spouses, and for children whose parents are drinking and using and in multiple cultural contexts. CRAFT has also been shown to improve family relationships and reduce conflict, even if the family member doesn’t get into treatment. CRAFT also has been shown to help the family member to be healthier, less stressed, and less depressed and anxious.


Why Sober Families?

This phenomenal research is useless if it’s simply kept in the lab. The clinicians behind Sober Families are inspired by the powerful positive changes that we have seen in working with families and want to do what we can in getting this information out there. It is important for families to know that one size doesn’t fit all and that there are options available that are based in research, rooted in compassion, and offer an amazing potential for change for the entire family.

We are passionate about this work. We want you to be too! As you continue to read, learn, ponder, and practice let us know how it goes. Ask questions. Share your experiences. And if you are pulled to get more involved in this work, whether as a family member, a clinician, or someone who struggles with addictive behavior yourself, there are many different ways you can become a part of this greater movement. We would love to connect you with other passionate people. Let us know!