Betty Ford Institute Begins Organized Efforts On Parent Focused Strategies To Break Cycles Of Addiction
Helping recovering parents prevent their children from developing drug abuse or dependence was the subject of a September 29 through October 1 Conference sponsored by Betty Ford Institute (BFI) in Washington, D.C.
“Breaking Intergenerational Cycles of Addiction: Parent-Focused Strategies” brought together researchers, policy makers, practitioners and recovering parents to discuss and promote the need for including parenting skills education as a standard part of addiction treatment. Sponsors included SAMHSA/CSAT, Legacy, and the Norlien Foundation of Calgary, Canada.
Transmission of alcohol or other drug dependence from one generation to the next is all too common in this country and worldwide. Moreover, according to SAMHSA, an estimated 8.3 million children in the U. S. currently live with a parent who meets criteria for a substance use disorder and countless other children who are not currently living with their parents. No estimates exist for the number of children who are living with a parent in recovery.
But despite evidence that addiction is a multigenerational disorder, and that effective parenting practices can reduce the risk of adolescent alcohol or other substance use, the September 29 conference was the first to address parent-child relationship issues during treatment of adults for drug or alcohol addiction. The issue has been little-studied, and a pre-Conference survey of addiction treatment centers in the U. S. conducted by the Betty Ford Institute revealed that formal parenting skills education is infrequently offered as part of substance abuse treatment.
Presentations at this historic Conference included:
• Seeing addiction and recovery from a child’s perspective;
• Family dynamics that are frequently manifested during addiction and recovery;
• Consideration of cultural and financing issues in launching parent skills education; and
• Raising awareness among addiction professionals of the importance of addressing parenting issues that arise during recovery.
One panel composed exclusively of parents in recovery discussed the degree to which adult recovery is affected by parenting challenges. Other presentations described model programs now in existence, with follow-up discussion of what types of models may be best and for what populations of recovering parents.
“Parenting skills education and other parent-focused services should be a fixture in the treatment of alcohol or other drug addiction,” said Garrett O’Connor, M.D., President of BFI and Conference Co-Director. “Unfortunately these services are still the exception in out-patient and in-patient substance abuse treatment programs for adults.”
“Effective parenting is probably one of the best and most available strategies for breaking intergenerational cycles of addiction,” said Amelia Arria, Ph.D., BFI Director of Prevention and Conference Co-Director. “Helping mothers and fathers use effective parenting skills throughout their children’s lives helps the children themselves and removes a major stressor on the parents’ own recovery,” she said. Arria is a Senior Scientist at the Treatment Research Institute and faculty member at the University of Maryland School of Public Health.
Next steps include advocating for more research to understand and evaluate best practices for parents, a review of existing parenting skills education strategies used in drug treatment, and development of tools and resources for parents in recovery.
The mission of Betty Ford Institute is to conduct and support collaborative programs of research, prevention and education that will lead to a reduction of the devastating impact of addictive disease on individuals, families and communities. The initial prevention focus is on families and children at risk for alcohol and other drug problems.
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