We are inspired! We are hopeful! We are happy to announce a new non-profit venture, the CMC: Foundation for Change, the latest step in our passionate commitment to providing help and hope to people who are struggling with substance use problems, and to those who love them.
We feel incredibly lucky to have spent the last 15 years building and growing CMC: NYC and CMC: Berkshires, knowing we have had a positive impact on the field of addiction treatment by modeling and promoting the use of evidence-based treatments. We have been able to help thousands of people and their families through our clinical programs and have touched a larger circle through our award winning book, Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change.
But we are limited in our reach and are all too aware that families across the country are suffering deeply from the stigma and fear that comes with loving someone (a daughter, a husband, a mom) with a substance use problem. Life for these families can become exhausting, dealing with struggles they never imagined having to face, shame and isolation, and a constant sense of how high the stakes are (“something really terrible could happen to my child any moment”). Much of the advice given is antiquated, ideological and punitive as families are told to use “tough love”, detachment, and to “let the addict hit bottom.” To make matters worse, they get the blaming message that they are “codependent” and “enabling” because they are trying to help. These messages come not only from friends and relatives but from the media and treatment professionals, increasing the shame and fear these families already feel.
But the biggest shame? While there are effective, evidence-based tools that can help these families and their loved ones in life changing ways, there are nowhere near enough treatment providers offering these resources to cover the need. Unfortunately, there are at present many providers who offer advice that is at minimum ineffective and at worst contributing to a rapidly accelerating loss of life (the current overdose crisis is but one example).
CMC:Foundation for Change is devoted to showing families another way. There is research-supported and clinically tested knowledge and tools available to families (parents, spouses, grown children) for helping in ways that are positive, connected and supportive. Families can learn these skills; families can succeed in helping their loved one; families can regain hope. The clinicians and researchers at CMC:Foundation for Change are providing tools that are understandable, practical and accessible. We want to help families and communities understand the problems they face, and learn how to address them compassionately and effectively.
In posing the following questions, we hope to inspire you to help us spread hope to families across the country.
Why help families?
- The numbers are enormous, as is the suffering. One in four families has someone that is struggling with a substance use problem.
- Families are in a uniquely powerful position to help. Research shows the most frequently cited reason for seeking treatment is family influence.
- Family members are a force like no other, with a combination of sheer numbers (for every substance user, 5 people around them are suffering emotional, physical and financial difficulties), and motivation (the commitment to helping a loved one get better is unquenchable). That translates to over 100,000,000 people in this country!
- The treatment system is and will always be woefully outnumbered by the size of the problem and the number of people needing help. And given stigma and cultural norms, many families hesitate to seek help even if it is available.
How Do We Propose To Help?
CMC:Foundation for Change does not provide direct clinical care. Instead, we send trainers and clinicians directly to community groups, parent groups and other treatment programs to hand over strategies that research has shown to be effective in helping substance users. Our hope is not to help fix the treatment system, but to empower parents, families and communities to help themselves, with all the passion and commitment unique to those who are struggling in the trenches day to day in their own families.
What are Our Goals?
First: to expand a groundbreaking parent-to-parent coaching program that grew from our ongoing collaboration with the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. CMC clinicians developed a first-of-its-kind program to train a national network of skilled parent coaches, who now provide free, science-based phone coaching to other parents. This coaching network is a life-altering resource for families unlike anything previously seen, potentially offering support for millions who would never get help otherwise. Over the past four years, we have trained approximately 175 parent-coaches across the country (CA, NH, NY, MA, WV, TN, OH, OK, TX, IL, PA,) who provide coaching for parents in need regardless of geographical location. The evidence we have collected on the parents our coaches speak with suggests that coaching is having the positive effect we had hoped for. Parent callers report feeling like things are improving with their child, as well as a general increase in hopefulness and confidence (see more results on our website www.cmcffc.org)
Second: to go directly into communities across the country and train parents to support each other using evidence-based strategies. In direct parent training, CMC: Foundation trainers teach parents and families a set of new perspectives and skills, in the context of support from other parents in the community. This in-person community approach is aimed at training parent volunteers to start support groups in their own local settings. By training and empowering parents to help other parents locally, we hope to create another type of sustainable support within each community, again based on the best evidence of what can help families. This relates to our larger goal of continuing to change the culture at large with understanding and compassion for substance use problems, one family at a time.
The CMC:Foundation for Change is hoping to tap into and empower our biggest resource for fighting the rising toll of addiction: parents who have been there and want to help other parents. Our current coaches are parents whose children have struggled terribly with substances; whose families have taken the brunt of hospitalizations, arrests, treatment centers and jails, and who have endured the stigma and shame inflicted in our culture on those struggling with addiction. And sadly, some are parents who have lost a child to this struggle. They are driven by their own experiences to act as mentors and coaches to other parents in their communities; there could not be a more experienced and dedicated group to carry the tools of hope to other families.
We are thrilled to have created CMC:Foundation for Change and we hope you will consider joining us. Families need help, professionals need help, and our culture needs help. Through our focus on getting science-based tools and understanding into the mainstream, we hope to change the conversation around addiction. With your support, we can help families thrive and care for their loved ones in ways that instigate real and lasting change. We can together reduce the profound and painful impact that substance use problems are currently having on our communities. And we can change the culture from one of judgment and misunderstanding to one of compassion and knowledge based in science.
We hope that you will join us….visit www.cmcffc.org