Why The Invitation To Change Approach? An Interview with Dr. Jeff Foote

“With the Invitation to Change Approach, we are working with families to create conditions for change, not creating change or forcing change.” 

As families in crisis or with a loved one who is using substances, that’s really hard – you want change to be the thing that happens immediately. However, if you want change to be the thing that happens and you have to force it to happen, its often a losing proposition. 

Forcing change leads to resentment, tension, hurt, and hostile environments. It often leads to distance in relationships, when in reality, both parties want closeness. CRAFT, Invitation to Change and Motivational Interviewing all teach families how to interact differently – how to create and maintain an environment that will sustain change. 

How do you create these conditions? How do you create an environment for sustainable change?

It boils down to this: Families need to have a new understanding of the entire circumstances, feelings. They need a new understanding of “Addiction”.  It’s no longer just pointing fingers at the substance user who needs to change, it is accepting and finding your own willingness to be apart of this process of change. And of course, it’s a new set of communication and behavior tools, which Beyond Addiction serves as the framework of these useable understandings and tools. 

“The hardest part for most family members is the invitation of willingness. We invite families into this process as a helper. To allow themselves to be apart of this process – which nobody likes because to be in it – really present, really self-aware, is devastatingly painful. It’s a willingness to start to have a different relationship with your own pain. To use pain as a signal to step towards stuff and keep at it. To not chase away the difficult parts of the process, but to learn self-compassion.” -Dr. Jeff Foote, Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director, CMC: Foundation For Change

So, if families are willing to be a part of the process, what does that look like?

When families accept their role as a helper, there are no more demands for change. They have to become aware of themselves; otherwise, they will sink themselves or sink their loved one. If you’re aware, it’s hard, and that’s okay; we can have compassion for the fact that this is hard. It is asking yourself, where can I be helpful – today?

When it is hard, it’s helping families remember that of course, this is painful – it’s painful because you care, and you care about things that matter, like your loved one’s wellbeing, future, and your relationship with them. We ask families how you sustain things that matter to you – Especially when the circumstances are far from ideal?

The message we want families to remember is, “I can be kind to someone – and not just to be kind – but to be closer and that actually matters to me. That we have a chance to be closer, regardless if he is using or not.”  

How do families move towards that?

By asking open-ended questions in a non-accusatory way, ‘What does substance abuse mean to you?’ , ‘What do you get out of it?’ , ‘How does it help you?’ Ultimately it’s by trying things that are going to be helpful for [both of you] in your relationship. 

Families create sustainability by weaving together kindness with actual self-care – NOT “I don’t matter” or pretending that things are fine; but setting boundaries and limits in a self- compassionate way. 

You can learn more about Invitation To Change Approach, and quick tools, here

About Dr. Foote:

Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director  | CMC: Foundation for Change

Jeff Foote, PhD, is Co-Founder of the Center for Motivation and Change (CMC) in Manhattan, as well as CMC:Berkshires. Dr. Foote is a nationally recognized clinical research scientist who has received federal grant funding for his work on motivational treatment approaches and substance abuse treatment research, focused on the implementation of evidence-based treatments. Dr. Foote was also Psychologist for the NY Mets for 11 years, and continues in sports psychology as an independent performance consultant to professional athletes. Before co-founding CMC in 2003, Dr. Foote was the Deputy Director of the Division of Alcohol Treatment and Research at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in NYC, as well as Senior Research Associate at The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA) in NYC. Dr. Foote also served as Chief of the Smithers Addiction Treatment and Research Center as well as Director of Evaluation and Research between 1994 and 2001. He is co-author of the award-winning book Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change, a practical guide for families dealing with addiction and substance problems in a loved one, based on principles of Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT). He is also a contributor to two workbooks combining strategies from CRAFT and Motivational Interviewing: The Parent’s 20 Minute Guide and The Partner’s 20 Minute Guide, which offer specific tools and practice in evidence-based strategies for helping a loved one change.

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