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Community Reinforcement Approach and Family Training
Community reinforcement approach and family training (CRAFT) is a behavior therapy approach for treating addiction. The original community reinforcement approach (CRA), developed by Nate Azrin in the 1970s, uses operant conditioning to help people learn to reduce the power of their addictions and enjoy healthy living. CRAFT combines CRA with family training, which equips families and friends with supportive techniques to encourage their loved ones to begin and continue treatment, and provides defenses against addiction's damaging effects on loved ones.
Summary of CRAFT
The CRAFT goals are to teach you how to encourage your substance user to reduce use and enter treatment. The other goal is to help you enhance your own quality of life.
The CRAFT method relies on nonconfrontational methods to encourage loved ones to enter addiction treatment.
The method also can help family members improve the quality of their lives.
CRAFT's effectiveness has been proven through scientific study.
In time-limited therapy, a set number of sessions (for example, 16 sessions) or time limit (for example, one year) is decided upon either at the very beginning of therapy or within the early stages of therapy. Open-ended therapy occurs when no time limit is imposed and the explicit or implicit agreement is to continue for as long as necessary.
The community reinforcement approach (CRA) was "originally developed for individuals with alcohol use disorders, [but] has been successfully employed to treat a variety of substance use disorders for more than 35 years. Based on operant conditioning [a type of learning], CRA helps people rearrange their lifestyles so that healthy, drug-free living becomes rewarding and thereby competes with alcohol and drug use."
"CRA is a time-limited treatment." "In time-limited therapy, a set number of sessions (for example, 16 sessions) or time limit (for example, one year) is decided upon either at the very beginning of therapy or within the early stages of therapy."
Community reinforcement and family training (CRAFT) is CRA that "works through family members." It "is designed to increase the odds of the substance user who is refusing treatment to enter treatment, as well as improve the lives of the concerned family members. CRAFT "teaches the use of healthy rewards to encourage positive behaviors. Plus, it focuses on helping both the substance user and the family."
CRAFT is a motivational model of family therapy. It is reward-based--that is, based on positive reinforcement. CRAFT is aimed at the families and friends of treatment-refusing individuals who have a substance abuse problem. "CRAFT works to affect [influence] the substance users' behavior by changing the way the family interacts with them."
In the model, the following terms are used:
Identified Patient (IP) - the individual with the substance abuse problem who is refusing treatment, and
Concerned Significant Others (CSOs) - the relevant family members and friends of the IP.
"CRAFT grew out of the understanding that although individuals who truly need help with substance use problems often are strongly opposed to treatment. On the other hand, the concerned significant others (CSOs) of the substance abuser are commonly highly motivated to get help for them."
When a loved one is abusing substances and refusing to get help, CRAFT is designed to help families learn practical and effective ways to accomplish these three goals:
Move their loved one toward treatment,
Reduce their loved one's alcohol and drug use, and
One experiment compared CRAFT with Al-Anon and Nar-Anon facilitation therapies for their impacts on addicts to enter treatment. The finding was that concerned significant others who participated in Al-Anon and Nar-Anon facilitation therapy engaged 29.0% of addicts into treatment, whereas those who went through CRAFT engaged 67.2%. Another study compared CRAFT, Al-Anon facilitation therapy designed to encourage involvement in the 12-step program, and a Johnson intervention. The study found that all of these approaches were associated with similar improvements in the functioning of concerned significant others and improvements in their relationship quality with the addicts. However, the CRAFT approach was more effective in engaging initially unmotivated problem drinkers in treatment (64%) as compared with the Al-Anon (13%) and Johnson interventions (30%).
Robert J. Meyers, PhD wrote about the influence that concerned family members have in treatment of the substance user, and the benefits for themselves:
The Community Reinforcement Approach and Family Training (CRAFT) intervention ... method was developed with the belief that since family members can, and do make important contribution[s] in other areas of addiction treatment (i.e. family and couples therapy), that the CSO can play a powerful role in helping to engage the substance user who is in denial to submit to treatment. In addition, it is often the substance user who reports that family pressure or influence is the reason [they] sought treatment. Also, CSOs who attend the CRAFT program also benefit by becoming more independent and reducing their depression, anxiety and anger symptoms even if their loved one does not enter treatment.
Motivation & Abstinence
Even the most extreme "disease model" programs that profess solely neurochemical origins of addiction ultimately rely upon the client's volitional abstinence (Milam & Ketcham, 1981).
Studies in the 1960s clearly demonstrated that even chronically dependent drinkers with access to alcohol could regulate their drinking given sufficient incentives to do so, at least under controlled laboratory conditions (Heather & Robertson, 1983).
To say that choice is involved in addictive behavior [does not ...] say that it is only a matter of choice.
Interviewer: "So, if you can, explain [to] us a little bit about how the CRAFT technique works. What's it all about?"
Dr. Bob Meyers: "Well, the CRAFT technique is a process. We bring in a family member, and what we do is we teach them how to interact differently with the drinker or the drug user. Instead of yelling and screaming when they're using drugs, we tell them to kind of just stay away from them, leave that person alone. But, then when they're sober--when they're not using drugs--we talk to them ... to tell them how much you love them, how much you care about them, how important they are to the family, and we try to help them pick their spots: when do you talk to them, when do you stay away from them.
"So, it takes a little bit of time, but we've been very successful here, being funded by the National Institutes of Health through the University of New Mexico to run a couple of scientific studies, where we've actually proven that my CRAFT intervention is much more powerful than anything that is used out there currently."
With CRAFT, families/friends (CSOs) are trained in various strategies, including positive reinforcement, various communication skills, and natural consequences. "One of the big pieces that has a lot of influence over all the other strategies is positive communication. "There are seven steps in the CRAFT model for implementing positive communication strategies."
Refer to Specific Behaviors
Label your Feelings
Offer an Understanding Statement - For example, "I appreciate that you have these concerns, ... [or] I understand that you really want to talk right now, and that this feels urgent, ... [or] I would love to be there for you."
Accept Partial Responsibility - This step "is really designed to decrease defensiveness on the part of your loved one. ... It's not about accepting responsibility for things you are not responsible for. ... [Rather, it's to] direct you towards the piece that you can own for yourself. ... [For example, ] what you can take responsibility for are the ways that you communicate," etc.
Offer to Help
"The overarching goals for the strategies for communicating are to help decrease defensiveness on the part of the loved one that you are speaking to, and increase the chances that your message is really going to be heard--so, increasing the ability that you have to really get across the message that you want." In fact, the title of Robert J. Meyers' and Brenda L. Wolfe's book based on CRAFT is, Get Your Loved One Sober: Alternatives to Nagging, Pleading, and Threatening.
"Consequences being in place is really important and helpful in terms of communicating your message, but it's also really important, maybe even more so, to be consistent in following through with those consequences and rewards."
A Conversation: Engaging v. Detaching
Dr. Nicole Kosanke: "Of course, all of us get to the point of frustration, ... it's pretty hard not to if you're dealing with a situation like this with your child. So, at times, yes, you're going to be frustrated and put your hands up. But, as a general rule, staying engaged and managing your feelings, asking people for help, asking people to give feedback directly to [your child]--all of that communicates a sense of engagement, rather than detaching. And, it also communicates a sense of love and caring for your child, which ultimately -- even when you're detaching -- that's what you have inside, and that's a real ingredient for helping impact someone [to] change."
Dr. Josh King: "I would say this [engagement] is almost the opposite of detaching. ... [Detachment] is either you can give them the feedback or not [as if] the best thing you can do is step away, which I don't agree with. I think when you step away, you have no impact on the ability to make change."
Dr. Nicole Kosanke: "In [the example] situation, you're also inviting the community to have an impact on your child. CRAFT stands for 'Community Reinforcement and Family Training.' It's the community that we're really talking about. We're talking about the community having an impact on your child in a global sense. [The ultimate goal is] to impact that person's motivation in a more healthy direction."
[It is one of the myths that] no one enters treatment until they "hit bottom" so using CRAFT while your loved one is still functioning is a waste of time.
People enter treatment when the reasons not to use outweigh the reasons to use. And as research has clearly shown, family members can help shift the balance so that the [substance] user develops enough reasons to stop.
CRA can be combined with other treatment methods. For example, ... CRA has recently [in 1999] been combined with motivational interviewing to form an integrated treatment. Similarly, CRA is consistent with involvement in 12-step programs.
Al-Anon does not currently adopt, hold, or promote the view that concerned significant others (CSOs) can, with any certainty, make a positive, direct, and active contribution to arrest compulsive drinking. However, Al-Anon says that by CSOs improving their own attitudes, and offering support and encouragement to the user, the "family situation is bound to improve." On the other hand, the premise of CRAFT is that deliberate, positive interactions can increase willingness and decrease resistance of users to treatment. Al-Anon recognizes that while increased willingness and decreased resistance may be a happy by-product of detaching from the adverse behaviors of alcoholics, there are no guarantees that this will occur. Al-Anon is a fellowship with a focus on helping families and friends, themselves, without promoting a direct intervention process for alcoholics (see Al-Anon/Alateen). Because "no one ever graduates" from Al-Anon, Al-Anon can be viewed as an open-ended program, not time-limited, whereas CRAFT is more specific.
Regarding the CSO's relationship to alcoholism and sobriety, the view from the Al-Anon organization can be summarized:
Powerlessness. Al-Anon's First Step promotes a powerless view for families and friends, "We admitted we were powerless over alcohol--that our lives had become unmanageable."
Regarding alcoholics, the Al-Anon-recommended approach for CSOs (families/friends) is "detachment with love"
 and "giving understanding and encouragement to the alcoholic."
No direct impact
As far as the CSOs having a direct and positive impact on another's sobriety, Al-Anon asks and answers itself:
"But surely," we argue, "sobriety is desirable, and there must be something we can do to help! There has to be something we can say that will make a difference, or some sort of help or support or information we can provide that will convince our alcoholic loved ones to get the help they need or to make sure they continue on the path to recovery!"
Alcoholism is a disease. Would the right word stop the spread of cancer or make chemotherapy more effective? Would our help, good looks, higher income, or cleaner house overcome the progression of Alzheimer's Disease? Our compassion and support might make a loved one's struggle with illness easier to bear, but it is simply not within our power to cure someone else's disease. We are powerless over another's alcoholism.
This answer has these three characteristics:
Absolute outcomes. Regarding help, Al-Anon's answer tends toward complete and total outcomes, such as the ability for someone to convince, cure or overcome someone else's alcoholism, or that they could guarantee (make sure) that someone continues on the path to recovery. Although this answer may help dispel the notion that someone has permanent, guaranteed power over another's sobriety, it does not answer the question that someone could provide any measure of direct help or support toward someone else's sobriety or treatment of someone else's addiction, which is the basis of CRAFT.
Incomplete analogies. Al-Anon wrote that the right word can neither make chemotherapy--a bio-chemical process--more effective nor stopcancer. However, the answer does not address the help or support or information that could make cancer treatment more effective or that could have a positive impact against cancer.
The work of Robert Meyers' CRAFT Community Reinforcement Approach and Family Training program ... differs significantly from Al-Anon in that it is a behavioral program which advocates that the CSO [Concerned Significant Other] can have a positive impact on the substance abuser. The CRAFT program has been demonstrated in Meyers' research to be more effective than the Vernon Johnson type intervention or Al-Anon, with less negative side-effects and better outcomes, whether or not the substance abuser enters treatment.
The CRAFT program uses a variety of interventions based on functional assessment including a module to prevent domestic violence.
"There are questions about the long-term effectiveness of interventions for those addicted to drugs or alcohol. A study examining addicts who had undergone a standard intervention (called the Johnson Intervention) found that they had a higher relapse rate than any other method of referral to outpatient Alcohol and Other Drug treatment"(see Intervention, section: Controversy).
Smith, Campos-Melady and Meyers describe the Johnson Institute intervention as a "surprise party" that is uncomfortable for many CSOs (families/friends):
The Al-Anon approach's emphasis upon detaching from the substance abuser is unappealing to many CSOs. On the other end of the spectrum is the Johnson Institute Intervention: a "surprise party" in which the IP is confronted by family members and a therapist with the objective of getting the IP to enter treatment. When the intervention is actually carried out, it often results in a high rate of engagement in treatment, and yet only a small number of CSOs who begin the program ever follow through with the intervention (Liepman, Nirenberg, & Begin, 1989; Miller et al., 1999), and many report feeling uncomfortable with its confrontational nature (Barber & Gilbertson, 1997).:22
Research suggests that CRAFT has had significantly greater success than the Johnson Intervention method or Al-Anon/Alateen, as far as engaging loved ones in treatment.
Research and outcomes
CRAFT vs. Alternatives
70% of people who use CRAFT are likely to get their loved into treatment as opposed to 30% of people using an intervention ... . And then, for Al-Anon, you've got like 12% of people getting their loved one into treatment. Now, that's sort of not a fair comparison because Al-Anon is not designed to get someone else to do something. Al-Anon is specifically designed to help the family member feel better, and that it does quite well, but in terms of influencing change in the loved one [--the substance user], not so well. And, the only reason to make those comparisons ... is simply because there are no other options in our society. So, if you go to a therapist or a clergyman or something and say "my kid is smoking too much pot, and I don't know what to do about it," they are going to send you to Al-Anon or a therapist, or talk to you about getting an intervention [not CRAFT]. So, those are the options [to CRAFT] we have in the world.
The community reinforcement approach has considerable research supporting it as effective. Community reinforcement has both efficacy and effectiveness data. Started in the 1970s, community reinforcement approach is a comprehensive operant program built on a functional assessment of a client's drinking behavior and the use of positive reinforcement and contingency management for non-drinking. When combined with disulfiram (an aversive procedure) community reinforcement showed remarkable effects. One component of the program that appears to be particularly strong is the non-drinking club. Applications of community reinforcement to public policy has become the recent focus of this approach.
"The Community Reinforcement Approach has been found to be extremely effective in outpatient settings as well. In one study, clients treated with CRA and the disulfiram compliance component were abstinent an average of 97% of the days during the last month of the 6-month followup, whereas clients treated with a combination of a 12-step program and the CRA disulfiram compliance training were
abstinent an average of 74% of the days. For those clients who received a 12-step program and a prescription for disulfiram, an average of only 45% of the comparable days were abstinent (Azrin, Sisson, Meyers, & Godley, 1982).":5
CRAFT (and Al-Anon, intervention, etc.)
An offshoot of the community reinforcement approach is the community reinforcement approach and family training. This program is designed to help family members of substance abusers feel empowered to engage in treatment. Community reinforcement approach and family training (CRAFT) has helped family members to get their loved ones into treatment. The rates of success have varied somewhat by study but seem to cluster around 70%. CRAFT is one of the only family-aimed treatments with proven results for getting people with drug or alcohol problems into treatment. The program uses a variety of interventions based on functional assessment including a module to prevent domestic violence. Partners are trained to use positive reinforcement, various communication skills and natural consequences.
Alcohol abusers intervention
Results and Safety
On results: People who adopt [CRAFT] experience a variety of results. Some do indeed arrive at the point where they know that letting go is the only way of moving forward.
On safety: As always, the most important objective is to remain safe.
From an article on the American Psychology Association (APA) website about the success of CRAFT in substance abuse treatment and intervention, these are the success outcomes for engaging drinkers into treatment:
Sisson and Azrin (1986) recruited 12 adult women with an alcoholic husband, brother, or father and randomly assigned them either to an early version of CRAFT or to a traditional intervention. Results indicated that CRAFT was considerably more successful in getting the persons with substance abuse into treatment and reducing their alcohol consumption in comparison to the Al-Anon group. Miller et al. (1999) conducted a controlled comparison of CRAFT, the Johnson Intervention, and Al-Anon facilitation (TSF) that randomized 130 caregivers of problem drinkers to receive 12 hours of contact in one of the three conditions. CRAFT and TSF had better retention than the Johnson Intervention. Consistent with previous studies, participants tended to drop out of the latter intervention in order to avoid the family confrontation with the drinker. The CRAFT intervention also engaged substantially more drinkers into treatment (64% vs 23% Johnson and 13% TSF).
Drug abusers intervention
From the same article on the American Psychology Association (APA) website about the success of CRAFT in substance abuse treatment and intervention, these are the success outcomes for persons abusing drugs to enter treatment (the success outcomes were nearly the same as the alcohol abuse outcomes):
Kirby et al. (1999) randomly assigned 32 caregivers of drug users to CRAFT or a 12-step self-help group (TSG). Caregivers who were assigned to CRAFT attended more sessions than those in TSG and were more likely to complete a full course of counseling during which the persons abusing drugs were far more likely to enter treatment (64% vs 17%). Reductions in drug use occurred during the study, but there was no group x time interaction. Meyers et al. (2002) replicated and extended those findings with drug users with similar positive effects on engagement of the drug abusing family members in treatment.
Note: When the articles states "there was no group x time interaction," it simply means the CRAFT outcome (64%) and the TSF outcome (17%) remained the same over time, even though there was a reduction in drug use during the study.
"In a parallel study sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse that focused on abusers of other drugs, family members receiving CRAFT successfully engaged 74 percent of initially unmotivated drug users in treatment (Meyers et al. 1999)."
Brief Interview: Origin of CRAFT
Interviewer: "Tell me how big of a problem addiction is in this country."
Dr. Bob Meyers: "Well, the reason I got started in the CRAFT technique is because it seems like almost everybody you know has a brother, a cousin, a family member who has problems with alcohol or some other drug, and just doesn't want to get help. And, my specific technique--the CRAFT model--has helped people to try to get those individuals, who really don't want help, into treatment."
CRA was designed by Nate Azrin in the early 1970s:
The most influential behaviorist of all times, B. F. Skinner, largely considered punishment to be an ineffective method for modifying human behavior (Skinner 1974). Thus it was no surprise that, many years later, research discovered that substance use disorder treatments based on confrontation were largely ineffective in decreasing the use of alcohol and other substances (Miller and Wilbourne 2002, Miller et al. 1998). Nate Azrin already was convinced of this back in the early 1970s, when he designed an innovative treatment for alcohol problems: the Community Reinforcement Approach (CRA). Azrin believed that it was necessary to alter the environment in which people with alcohol problems live so that they received strong reinforcement for sober behavior from their community, including family, work, and friends. As part of this strategy, the program emphasizes helping clients discover new, enjoyable activities that do not revolve around alcohol, and teaching them the skills necessary for participating in those activities.
The origin of CRAFT:
Drs. Robert J. Meyers and Jane Ellen Smith of the University of New Mexico developed the CRAFT program to teach families how to impact their loved one while avoiding both detachment and confrontation, the respective strategies of Al-Anon (a 12-Step based approach), and traditional (Johnson Institute-style) interventions in which the substance user is confronted by family members and friends during a surprise meeting. While all three approaches have been found to improve family members' functioning and relationship satisfaction, CRAFT has proven to be significantly more effective in engaging loved ones in comparison to the Johnson Institute Intervention or Al-Anon/Nar-Anon facilitation therapy.
Up to 2009, CRAFT and CRA programs were not widespread amongst addiction counselors. Instead, many addiction counselors were tied to a twelve-step model that had much less research support. Recent trends by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) have been to help deploy these intervention techniques. In 2007, CRAFT was being used in 25 clinics in the United States.
^ abcdeSmith, Jane Ellen; Campos-Melady, Marita; Meyers, Robert J. (2009). "CRA and CRAFT"(PDF). Journal of Behavior Analysis of Sports, Health Fitness and Behavioral Medicine. 1. Behavior Analyst Online (published Spring 2009). 2 (1). Archived from the original(pdf) on December 29, 2010. Retrieved 2014.
^ abcdefFoote, Jeff; Manuel, Jennifer K. (2009). "Adapting the CRAFT approach for use in group therapy". Journal of Behavior Analysis in Health, Sports, Fitness and Medicine. 2 (1): 110. doi:10.1037/h0100378.
^ abcdDr. Josh King, Psy. D., Center for Motivation and Change (CMC), and Dr. Nicole Kosanke, PhD, Director of Evaluations and Family Services at CMC. CRAFT Series: Positive Communication When You're Angry 1/3 (video). The Center for Motivation and Change (CMC). Event occurs at 2:41 to 3:26, 12:12 to 12:30. Retrieved 2014.
^ abDr. Josh King, Psy. D., Center for Motivation and Change (CMC), and Dr. Nicole Kosanke, PhD, Director of Evaluations and Family Services at CMC. CRAFT Series: Positive Communication When You're Angry 2/3 (video). The Center for Motivation and Change (CMC). Event occurs at 0:30 to 1:06, 1:15 to 1:18, 7:35 to 8:21. Retrieved 2014.
^Hartman, Rosemary (2007). "Detachment with Love Gains New Meaning". Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. Retrieved 2017. Al-Anon, a mutual-help group for people with alcoholic friends or family members, pioneered the idea of detachment with love.
^Smith, J.E. & Meyers, R.J. (2004) Motivating Substance Abusers to Enter Treatment: Working with Family Members; Guilford Press
^Meyers, RJ & Wolfe, B. (2004) Get Your Loved One Sober: Alternative to Nagging, Pleading and Threatening by Meyers, Hazelden Press
^"The Johnson intervention and relapse during outpatient treatment". American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse 22.n3 (August 1996): pp36
^ abcSmith, J.E., Milford, J.L. & Meyers, R.J. (2004) CRA and CRAFT: Behavioral Approaches to Treating Substance-Abusing Individuals. The Behavior Analyst Today, 5 (4), Page 391-403 
^JANE E. BRODY (February 4, 2013). "Effective Addiction Treatment". New York Times. Other validated treatment methods include Community Reinforcement and Family Training, or Craft, an approach developed by Robert J. Meyers and described in his book, "Get Your Loved One Sober," with co-author Brenda L. Wolfe.
^Dutcher, L. W., Anderson, R., Moore, M., Luna-Anderson, C., Meyers, R.J., Delaney, Harold D., and Smith, J.E. (2009). Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT): An Effectiveness Study. Journal of Behavior Analysis of Sports, Health Fitness and Behavioral Medicine, 2 (1), "Archived copy"(PDF). Archived from the original(PDF) on December 29, 2010. Retrieved 2014.
^Hunt, G.M. & Azrin, N.H. (1973). A community-reinforcement approach to alcoholism. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 11, 91-104.
^Azrin, N.H., Sisson, R.W., Meyers, R.J., & Godley, M.D. (1982). Alcoholism treatment by disulfiram and community reinforcement therapy. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 3, 105-112.
^Mallams, J.H., Godley, M.D., Hall, G.M., & Meyers, R.J. (1982). A social-systems approach to resocializing alcoholics in the community. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 43, 1115-1123.
^Jaime L. Milford, Julia L. Austin, and Jane Ellen Smith (2007): Community Reinforcement and the Dissemination of Evidence-based Practice: Implications for Public Policy. International Journal of Behavioral Cconsultation and Therapy, 3 (1), 77-87 .
^ abcMeyers, R.J., Smith, J.E. & Lash, D.N. (2005): A Program for Engaging Treatment-Refusing Substance Abusers into Treatment: CRAFT. IJBCT, 1 (2), Page 90-100 BAO
^Kirby, K.C., Marlowe, D.B., Festinger, D.S., Garvey, K.A., & LaMonaca, V. (1999). Community reinforcement training for family and significant others of drug abusers: Aunilateral intervention to increase treatment entry of drug users. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 56, 85-96.
^Meyers, R.J., Miller, W.R., Hill, D.E., & Tonigan, J.S. (1999). Community reinforcement and family training (CRAFT): Engaging unmotivated drug users in treatment. Journal of Substance Abuse, 10, 1-18.
^Miller, W.R., Meyers, R.J., & Tonigan, J.S. (1999). Engaging the unmotivated in treatment for alcohol problems: A comparison of three strategies for intervention through family members. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 67, 688-697.
^"What Is CRAFT". www.motivationandchange.com. The Center for Motivation and Change (CMC). Retrieved 2014.
^Purvis, G., and MacInnis, D.M. (2009). Implementation of the Community Reinforcement Approach (CRA) in a Long-Standing Addictions Outpatient Clinic. Journal of Behavior Analysis of Sports, Health, Fitness and Behavioral Medicine, 2 (1), 33-44 BAOArchived December 29, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.