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Service providers and FASD prevention advocates are well aware of the intersections of trauma, substance use, and mental health issues as first described by researchers like Lisa Najavits (Najavits, Weiss, & Shaw, 1997). Research from the Women and Co-occurring Disorders and Violence study substantiated what many understood intuitively – that women with substance use problems facing complex life issues are best served through multi-leveled, integrated service models that are trauma-informed, gender-specific, and holistic (Amaro, Chernoff, Brown, Arévalo, & Gatz, 2007; Brown & Melchior, 2008).

There is an upcoming opportunity to learn more about applying these approaches to FASD prevention and care in a webinar on April 18th at 9:00 am MST. The CSS Learning Series webinar as part of their FASD Learning Series will feature speakers Candice Sutterfield, Lakeland Centre for FASD, and Dr. Peter Choate, Assistant Professor of Social Work at Mount Royal University and clinical supervisor for the Alberta College of Registered Social Workers. They will address both a prevention and supports & services perspective. Sign up here: http://csslearningseries.ca/trauma-informed-fasd-prevention-and-care-registration-2/

Programs in Canada, like Breaking the Cycle and HerWay Home, currently offer integrated programs for/with pregnant and parenting women with substance use issues. Their program frameworks are trauma- and FASD-informed and they offer substance use treatment/support programming as well as needed social services and referrals at a single access point. Program evaluation findings show that relationship building is the key component benefiting women’s growth and supporting the mother-child relationship long-term. (See their evaluations here: Breaking the Cycle and HerWay Home).

In a very recent study undertaken in Ontario, findings from interviews with women participating in integrated programs, described qualities of a therapeutic relationship that helped women improve emotional regulation and executive functioning (Milligan, Usher, & Urbanoski, 2017). Therapeutic relationships that incorporate trust, care, positive regard and a non-punitive attitude can create a safe attachment from which women can apply effective problem solving in all areas of their lives.

Sign up for the webinar and see these earlier posts for more information:

The Mother-Child Study: Evaluating Treatments for Substance-Using Women, March 18, 2015

HerWay Home Program for Pregnant Women and New Mothers in Victoria, BC, February 12, 2013

REFERENCES

Amaro, H., Chernoff, M., Brown, V., Arévalo, S., & Gatz, M. (2007). Does integrated trauma-informed substance abuse treatment increase treatment retention? Journal of Community Psychology, 35(7), 845-862.

Brown, V. B., & Melchior, L. A. (2008). Women with co-occuring disorders (COD): Treatment settings and service needs. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, SARC SUPPL 5, 365-385.

Milligan, K., Usher, A. M., & Urbanoski, K. A. (2017). Supporting pregnant and parenting women with substance-related problems by addressing emotion regulation and executive function needs. Addiction Research & Theory, 25(3), 251-261. doi:10.1080/16066359.2016.1259617

Najavits, L. M., Weiss, R. D., & Shaw, S. R. (1997). The link between substance abuse and posttraumatic stress disorder in women. A research review. The American Journal On Addictions / American Academy Of Psychiatrists In Alcoholism And Addictions, 6(4), 273-283.

Cover Mother-Child-Study_Report_2014

Mothercraft’s Breaking the Cycle (BTC) in Toronto is one of Canada’s first prevention and early intervention programs for pregnant women and mothers who are substance-involved and their young children.

The program’s goal is to reduce risk and enhance the development of substance-exposed children by addressing maternal substance use problems and the mother-child relationship.

Historically, treatments for substance use tended to minimize gender roles and, in particular, mothering relationships. Contemporary integrated treatments for substance use often emphasize gender-specific issues within the treatment setting, such as trauma (historical and/or present, including domestic violence), depression and other mental health concerns, and adoption of harm reduction goals with respect to substance use. Contemporary integrated treatments have also evolved to acknowledge the importance of the mothering role for women.

Profile of BTC families

This evaluation report described the findings of the Mother-Child Study. The study evaluated and compared the Breaking the Cycle program model of relationship-focused service delivery and its effects on mothers and children with a group of similar women who received a more standard contemporary integrated treatment for substance use issues.

The findings of the Mother-Child Study highlight the critical role of relational-focused interventions in supporting change for substance-involved mothers and their children.

Program features that made a difference for women’s outcomes included:

  • Supporting women to learn about relationships in a number of different ways
  • Making the focus on relationships an integral part of substance use treatment
  • Recognizing that increased relationship capacity with their children enriches the lives of women

Program features that made a difference for children’s outcomes included:

  • Providing integrated early intervention programs
  • Providing comprehensive, multimethod assessments
  • Prioritizing early intervention services which support the mother-child relationship

Importantly, the study found that children, even those exposed to substances during pregnancy, do better when mothers have relationship-focused intervention

Read the report, take a look at summary fact sheets and learn more about the Breaking the Cycle program at www.mothercraft.ca.

fact sheet 9

Overview: Four Levels of FASD Prevention

Information Sheet: What Men Can Do To Prevent FASD

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