Surveys of adolescents (12 to 17) and young adults (18 to 25) suggest that 10 % to 15% of adolescents and 30% to 35% of young adults report using illicit drugs in the past year. When you factor in alcohol use the percentages significantly increase (20% of adolescents and 72% of young adults report drinking alcohol in the past year). Among those reporting drug or alcohol use, a notable percentage also experience enough problems to be considered as having a substance use disorder.
Unfortunately, only 10% of adolescents and young adults who struggle with drug and/or alcohol problems seek help. It has been estimated that for every one person with a substance use disorder, five loved one’s are negatively impacted (financial, interpersonal conflict, stress and depression). These impacts often go untreated, and stigma and isolation compound the problems for families.
There is a growing awareness of the unmet need for support and treatment services in the community. While there are continuing efforts to help health care professionals learn evidence-based strategies for helping families who are affected by substance use disorders, there is also a realization that the need is much greater then the number of professionals available to provide assistance. Thus, other strategies are needed.
In the summer of 2013, CMC and the Partnership for Drug Free Kids embarked on a journey. Our mission was and continues to be: build a mutual support coaching network for parents who are looking for help and support as they navigate the ever changing currents of helping a child who is struggling with substances. We developed a training program, called the Parent Support Network (PSN) to help parents learn the evidence-based strategies found in the Community Reinforcement Approach and Family Training (CRAFT), Motivational Interviewing (MI) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) approaches for helping loved ones with substance use disorders. These concepts, strategies and ways of understanding substance use are available in a book (Beyond Addiction) and in a helpful practice guide (The 20 Minute Guide), which serve as a framework for the training program. Our goal? To develop the concepts, training approach and infrastructure that would enable the birth of a self-sustaining, free, national coaching network for parents founded on evidence-based concepts.
The lifeblood and cornerstone of this network is the parents: parents who have been there with their own children and who are willing to use both their own personal experiences and their understanding of evidence-based strategies to shine a light on the often dark and lonely path that families are forced to embark on when dealing with the problems of addiction. The PSN journey started in New York with 11 parents initiating the training and has continued to Boston, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Houston, and Oklahoma with now 104 parents having given their time to be trained as parent coaches and assist other parents across the country. This program is continuously being developed and has touched many family’s lives.
In particular though, we wanted to take a moment to say that it has touched our lives here at CMC deeply; as clinicians, as parents, as people. Working hand in hand with the parents of the PSN and the staff at the Partnership to understand how to help, how to listen, how to play a small role in alleviating the suffering families endure has been one of the most moving and affecting experiences many of us at CMC have ever had. We are grateful not only to have this opportunity to help, but to be side by side with the parents who have been knocked down but have stood back up to offer a hand to others, and that includes offering that hand to us at CMC. We thank you and honor you for your courage and willingness and generosity, and we are grateful.
A Thank You
So as the sun sets on this year and we move to welcome in the new one, we wanted to use this space to acknowledge the unyielding spirit, generosity, and caring of all the parents who have given their time and themselves to the Parent Support Network. We also realize that this giving and service does not put life on “pause” and the willingness to be a support to others is done in the currents of your own lives. It is with this perspective that we extend our sincerest appreciation for all you do – the Parent Support Network has provided hundreds of callers a place to be heard and felt in a way that only a shared experience can provide. As word of your work grows we look forward to the continued growth of this inspiring community to bring the power of shared-experiences and evidence-based strategies to the many families that are in need of your strength and expertise.
“It was a wonderful opportunity to talk to someone who has been through something similar. It was reassuring to parents out there that there are options even when you feel you’ve hit a brick wall”
-A caller to the PSN –