Summary of Last Night’s Pathway Session with Jeff Foote, PhD

On Wednesday, November 14th at the New Canaan YMCA, we sponsored a presentation by Jeff Foote, PhD, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Motivation and Change (CMC).  Jeff founded CMC in 2003 with his long-time colleague Carrie Wilkens.  Jeff has over 30 years’ experience in the addiction treatment and research field.  He is Co-Author of Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change.

Jeff’ started his presentation by talking about evidence-based treatments (EBTs).  Jeff’s organization, CMC, is relatively unique among counseling groups, in that all of the therapists are doctorate-level psychologists and are trained in EBTs.  Examples of evidence-based practices include motivational interviewing, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), contingency management, medication assisted treatment (MAT), and one for families: Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT).  According to Jeff, family involvement is a key determinant of a loved one’s success battling addiction. Jeff cited statistics from studies that state that 70% of loved ones engage in treatment after family members are trained in CRAFT (vs 30% success with interventions and 10-15% success with Al-Anon only).

Jeff described that understanding your loved one and his/her substance use is the first step.  With understanding, comes executing on the key tools of the CRAFT method: 1) How to communicate; 2) How to use positive reinforcement—rewarding the good stuff and not over-focusing on the bad; and 3) Allowing negative consequences—let the world be the teacher; and 4) Self-care—having self-compassion for oneself without completely detaching.

There were a number of good questions, and clearly the pathway is different for each individual.  One mother mentioned to me how–at a key moment when her daughter wanted to return home—she insisted on a strict boundary of no substance use before moving back was possible.  The daughter resisted but ultimately engaged in inpatient treatment, sober living and peer supports to continue her recovery.  She is now living a fulfilling life of recovery out West (almost two years of sobriety).  One size does NOT fit all.

CMC has formed a non-profit called CMC: Foundation For Change, to train family members on a larger scale than just the family members of clients.  Jeff and his team provide training sessions in what they call the “Invitation to Change” Approach, a set of strategies that include CRAFT, Motivational Interviewing (MI), and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).  The trainings target family members in general, but also parents that want to become Parent Coaches.  Some of these parent coaches staff a free national helpline funded by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.

In sum, Jeff did a great job describing how using both science AND kindness can help loved ones find a pathway to recovery.  Having a loved one live at home may not be ideal for some families, which will reduce the impact when a loved one lives elsewhere.  However, the concepts of 1) understanding; 2) communicating through collaboration; 3) reinforcing positive non-using behavior, 4) practicing self-compassion, and 5) allowing the natural, negative consequences of substance use to occur, are all techniques that work for many.