A cuddling couple uses craft treatment techniques while interacting.

CRAFT: An Alternative to Drug Intervention


Sober Recovery Expert Author

A cuddling couple uses craft treatment techniques while interacting.

Addiction is tough not just on addicts, but on those who care for them. Watching a loved one deteriorate from drug and alcohol abuse is devastating. In addition to fear and despair, families and friends of addicts often feel uncertainty: what must I do to help my addict recover? How can family and friends support an addicted loved one?

3 Objectives to Help an Addicted Loved One

When a loved one is abusing substances and refusing to get help, there are 3 immediate objectives:

The CRAFT method focuses on achieving abstinence by reinforcing sober behavior and allowing addicts to face natural consequences.
  1. Get the loved into a rehabilitation program

  2. Reduce the abuse of alcohol and drugs

  3. Simultaneously, improve the lives of the concerned family members and friends

But what happens if a loved one refuses to enter a rehabilitation program or treatment center? How do we convince an addict to get treatment?

Fortunately, there is a successful program for family members and friends with treatment-resistant loved ones. It’s called CRAFT.

What is CRAFT?

Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT) was conceived and developed by Dr. Robert J. Meyers and Dr. Jane Ellen Smith. The program focuses on the power of community, positive reinforcement, and family training in the recovery process. CRAFT works side-by-side with concerned significant others (CSOs) to convince addicted individuals to recognize their addictions and seek treatment.

CRAFT is hailed for its documented success. Studies reveal that 64 percent of the clients who received CRAFT counseling succeeded in recruiting their loved one into treatment following an average of four to five counseling sessions.

What Makes Craft Different from Other Drug Interventions?

Unlike traditional drug interventions that rely upon coercing a person into treatment through harsh group-confrontation, CRAFT teaches CSO’s to motivate their loved ones through the following:

1. Positive Reinforcement

CSO’s learn to reward sober activities and discourage activities that include drugs or alcohol. The motivational approach not only lowers the addict’s likelihood of relapse but also improves the happiness and quality of life of the worn-out CSO, who can’t bear to nag, plead, and threaten their loved one anymore. In creating a motivated addict and a healthier environment, CRAFT methods support long-term sobriety before, during and after addiction treatment.

2. Positive Communication Skills

When engaging with addicted loved ones, CRAFT teaches CSOs “facts, feelings, future.” More specifically, it teaches the family members to implement the following in conversations with their loved ones:

  • Be brief when describing concerns
  • Be positive and hopeful
  • Refer to specific behaviors (“I see” or “I hear.”)
  • Describe own feelings (“How I feel when this happens is…”)
  • Offer alternatives for the future (“What I would like to happen is…”)

3. Natural Consequences of Addiction

One of the more unique aspects of the CRAFT approach is its focus on allowing natural consequences to occur organically. Rather than administering punishment, CRAFT teaches COs to make their loved ones face the naturally-occuring issues that arise with substance abuse, such as problems with the law, health and social interactions.

This approach proves healthier for the CSO and the addict. In not shielding an addict from the negative results of addiction, the CSO is not caught in the cross-fire, not forced to solve issues over which they can’t control nor to bear the blame. When forced to view and handle the consequences head-on, an addict must recognize the root of their problems: addiction. In doing so, they are more motivated to seek treatment.

CRAFT's Limitations

Although criticism of this approach is rare, it does have its limitations.

The extensive involvement of the community and family requires a significant amount of time, commitment, dedication, and patience. CRAFT is very different from many 12 step approaches and there are no weekly support meetings to fall back on.

And, of course, CRAFT requires support from family or close friends. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a supportive community willing to make the commitment to implement CRAFT.

A Final Word

CRAFT is is a community-reinforcement method, it focuses on achieving abstinence by reinforcing sober behavior and allowing addicts to face natural consequences. It is not a quick fix but rather a proven holistic approach that benefits both the substance user and the family, provides the possibilities of long-term recovery for addicts and better qualities of life for all involved.

If you or someone you know struggles with drug or alcohol addiction, you may view our directory of treatment centers or call us at 800-772-8219.

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