Academic journal article Social Work

Parenting Groups for Recovering Addicts in a Day Treatment Center

Academic journal article Social Work

Parenting Groups for Recovering Addicts in a Day Treatment Center

Article excerpt

The results of parent training programs show that more-positive parental attitudes, less-punitive forms of punishment, and increased self-esteem in children have been achieved (Berrett, 1975; Freeman, 1975; Hinkle, Arnold, Croake, & Keller, 1980; Huhn & Zimpfer, 1989; Nystul, 1982). The literature on specialized parenting groups includes therapy groups for parents of delinquents (Armstrong, Raymond, Amerongen, & Kernaghan, 1983) and teenage parents (Lebow, 1978) and parenting groups for high-risk parents such as mentally ill parents (Anthony & McGinnis, 1978) and abusive parents (Fontana, 1991). Not surprisingly, in the past decade there has been a proliferation of parenting groups geared to prevention of drug abuse (Coombs, Santana, & Fawzy, 1984; U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 1991).

One of the most underserved parent populations is the addicted parent. In 1975 a pioneering program was undertaken at New York Medical College. By providing prenatal and postnatal counseling, medical care, and parenting education groups, this project demonstrated that addicted mothers can learn concrete information about child development and respond appropriately and sensitively to their infant's cues for stimulation and nurturing. These findings run contrary to the stereotype of the addicted parent. The high incidence of abuse and neglect cases attributed to addicted parents and the disturbances in the development of their children contribute to the image of the addict as a poor candidate for a parenting class.

There is a paucity of literature on parenting groups for addicted parents who have entered a recovery program. This article is based on work with recovering parents in parenting groups that were conducted at a drug and alcohol day treatment center in New York City between 1989 and 1992. Once the addicted parent entered the day treatment program, there was a loosening of defenses, a stripping away of denial, and a receptivity to treatment. At this critical time, the addicted parent acknowledged a need for help, and the opportunity presented itself for learning parenting skills and healing some of the pain between parent and child.

With the use of the parenting group model presented in this article, parents were able to follow through on the expectations in the parenting curriculum and apply the skills they learned in everyday life with their children. Of the 68 recovering addicts who participated in these parenting groups, 60 were successful at staying drug free for the period of their day treatment program (average of two years). This suggests that the parenting group as a component of an overall treatment program helped maintain a strong level of commitment to abstinence. The motivation to end addiction often stemmed from the terrible moment when an addict lost custody of his or her children. Joining a parenting group became a top priority for these and other parents. Once they entered recovery, parents hoped to repair the damage inflicted on the children by neglect and separation. Parents in the parenting groups reported that the groups helped sustain their motivation while they grappled with drug cravings and the ups and downs of recovery. As the groups progressed, parents expressed feelings of increased confidence in themselves and felt they were more effective in communicating with their children.

One of the benefits of conducting parenting groups for addicted parents in a day treatment center is that clients receive parenting skills in a multiservice milieu. The day treatment center for recovering addicts in which these parents were enrolled provided a variety of services including individual psychotherapy, relapse prevention groups, high school equivalency courses, vocational training, and family counseling. The issues raised in the parenting groups were interwoven into themes that emerged in individual counseling. Offering parenting groups within day treatment widens the opportunities for drawing the client's family system into services and referrals that can be provided by the interdisciplinary team. …

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