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The CRAFT System for Addiction Intervention. Positive Reinforcement as an Alternative to Confrontational Interventions


Sober and Fun

The A&E show intervention has changed the way a lot people understand addiction, for the better, and greater public understanding of the realities and myths of substance abuse and addiction can only help to better the problem at a societal level.

But although the television show boasts frequent “success” stories, clinicians are more and more frequently turning to another form of motivational training (called CRAFT) as an alternative to confrontational interventions.

What is CRAFT?

CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Training) is a scientifically developed and tested system that helps family members influence change while learning how better to live with a using alcoholic or drug abuser.

CRAFT differs greatly from traditional interventions. Under the CRAFT system any family member can enact change simply by making sober time more rewarding (fun) for the user, and by making any time when the user is not sober, less fun.

The system recognizes the power and influence that family members have, but rather than calling for family members to deliver ultimatums, it asks them to recognize and reinforce positive behaviors, and to simply withdraw from negative situations. CRAFT is a system that helps families to live more happily together, whether or not the addict gets help (Although the system is very effective at convincing substance abusers to get help…using just becomes less rewarding after a family initiates CRAFT)

No More Nagging

Under CRAFT, family members do not yell, or nag or threaten, they simply use the same forms of positive reinforcement that are used to teach children pro-social behaviors.

Family members using the CRAFT system try to reward the user for any time spent together that does not involve substance use. For example, a spouse might reward a husband for staying sober after work by taking him to a baseball game, by giving him a massage, or by any other form of enjoyable attention.

Conversely, if that same husband would have stopped off for drinks on the way home; he would then get the martial equivalent of the cold shoulder. Not aggressive or confrontational or passive aggressive, but a clearly communicated statement of fact – “If you are drinking, I don’t want to spend time with you. If you are sober, I would love to take you somewhere fun”.

Not Enabling

Congruent with other programs for families living with an addicted loved ones, under the CRAFT system, family members are asked to ensure that the using addict bears full responsibility for the consequences of their substance abuse.

Under CRAFT, loved ones will not call in sick for work for anyone, will not lie to friends or family and will not tend to the sickness of a hangover. Just as positive reinforcement is applied through quality time spent together, CRAFT also relies on the negative reinforcement of alcoholics and addicts facing the music for intoxicated actions.

Any loved one can initiate a program of CRAFT. The family member would attend training and support sessions with a CRAFT certified counselor, who would educate specifically how CRAFT is to be applied. This loved one would meet with the counselor for support and training multiple times over months, using techniques such as role playing to practice positive and negative reinforcing techniques.

CRAFT Seems to Work

The system has been studied and the efficacy rates for continuing participation, client satisfaction and the initiation of treatment by using family members has proven higher than for comparative confrontational interventions systems, and higher than for 12 steps based programs of change. A systematic study of the system showed that 64% families using the program were able to convince an addict to enter into treatment. 64% in the world of addiction is very very high.


visitor on March 12, 2012:

Hilary Heyl - If you contact NM Solutions , they can refer you to services/courses/groups for CRAFT. One of the counselors there just spoke with us about CRAFT.

Hilary Heyl on February 27, 2012:

Please let me know if there are CRAFT services/courses/groups for family members near Albuquerque, NM.

Inteventionist on November 23, 2010:

I can see that engaging in an intervention is sometimes the only solution. They do not have to be at the "bottom" for the intervention to work. There is not one person out there that enjoys being addiction. Therefore, sometimes the way to recovery must be illuminated.

lcbenefield on July 30, 2010:

Very useful and informative. I can see how this would work.

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