Living Arrangement Agreements can help families who are not entirely convinced their loved one is a drug addict or alcoholic or whose loved one is not entirely convinced but knows there’s a problem. And in some cases, they are absolutely correct – their loved one is not dependent (addicted) to drugs or alcohol, however their use has crossed the line from “normal” to “abuse.”
Living Agreement Agreements Explained
Often the label drug addict or alcoholic keeps family members or friends from confronting a loved one about their substance misuse. The family member(s) recognize(s) that substance abuse (alcohol or drugs) is the problem — not the job, not the children, not the relationship — but they or their loved one still believe(s) they can “control” or “moderate” their substance use.
And, they could be right if the problem is substance abuse and not addiction. If it’s substance abuse, it is possible to return to using “low-risk” or moderate amounts of a substance — drinking within normal limits or using prescription drugs in accordance with a doctor’s prescription, for example. But, at the same time, the family members are anxious, worried, fearful this will be just one more in a series of broken promises to stop or cut down. The couple or parent/child/sibling are often in therapy because of the underlying tension the alcohol or drug abuse | dependence is causing.
In these cases, I work with Caroll Fowler, MFT, in order to provide families the opportunity to use moderated sessions to thoroughly discuss and agree upon any number of issues, such as:
- confirm everyone’s understanding of the progression from use to abuse to dependence and where one leaves off and the other begins
- conduct an assessment of current use and risk factors
- confirm the accurate definition of alcohol or prescription drug use – clearly understand this and how it will be implemented
- what the family members will | will not do to support this change in use (not nag, not hover, not question, as examples)
- determine everyone’s bottom-line, for example: “you/I break this agreement and you/I immediately contact __________.”
- agree on brain healing activities to be engaged (nutrition, sleep, exercise, mindfulness, as examples)
- agree whether therapy for underlying issues will be sought and if so, with whom and how often
LAA’s are much like CCPs in that they address the myriad of issues, but the LAA also includes an agreement on a staged approach for what will occur if the attempt to moderate abuse to fall within use limits fails.
Note: I do not conduct LAA work with families where the objective is to moderate illegal drug use.Additionally, all concerned must have a level of understanding about the disease of addiction, condition of substance abuse, and the impacts on family members and friends before LAA work can begin, such as that which is provided by Lisa through her consulting services for individuals and families.
To Schedule a Living Arrangement Agreement (LAA)
Either Caroll or myself will conduct a brief “discovery” call to talk with key participants about their concerns, hopes, and objectives. From there, clients are provided a detailed outline and schedule for how the LAA will be developed. It generally takes four to five sessions (averaging 2 hours/session) to complete the process, with work to be completed by the parties between sessions. Meeting(s) typically occur in the client’s home. I want to make it very clear that the process of establishing a LAA, is an educational process and not one of counseling or therapy. If a referral for therapy or counseling is warranted or requested, we will make appropriate referrals.
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