Family and friends online support program expands to cover all addictions

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

An online intervention and e-health program to help families and friends supporting loved ones who use crystal methamphetamine (‘ice’) has expanded to cover any type of substance addiction, including alcohol.

Professor Frances Kay-Lambkin

Funded by the Australian Government Department of Health, the program expansion has been developed in collaboration between the University of Newcastle Centre for Brain and Mental Health Research and the University of Sydney’s Matilda Centre.

The Family and Friend Support Program (FFSP) is an online cognitive behavioural therapy program based on a series of modules. It includes information and activities on how families and friends can help their loved ones, with a specific emphasis on the person providing the support and their often unmet needs.

The program also aims to provide health workers with access to training, information, and a referral pathway which assists affected families and friends they encounter as part of their usual practice.

University of Newcastle Professor Frances Kay-Lambkin*, a researcher with the Hunter Medical Research Institute’s Brain and Mental Health Program, said families and friends could play a critical role in the recovery of people using alcohol and other drugs.

“Families and friends are integral to effective support and recovery of people with substance use issues, however they often neglect their own needs,” Professor Kay-Lambkin said.

“People often speak of being ‘time poor’ and, sometimes, caught up in the caring role. An online program gives participants privacy, and a capacity to decide ‘when and where’ they work through the modules, in a totally confidential medium.”

During the research team’s earlier project, Cracks in the Ice, the experiences of people using crystal methamphetamine (ice) were explored. However it became evident there was a high need for support for families and friends of people with an ice usage issue.

The Family and Friends Support Program was developed through quantitative and qualitative research. The FFSP program has now been re-imagined to be broadly applicable to families and friends supporting anyone with a substance use issue, including alcohol.

“The program recognises that supporting someone who is drinking or using substances can be extremely stressful, and aims to assist families and friends to best manage the demands of this role,” she said.

The expanded program will be showcased on 27 November through a public webinar Lights, Camera, Action: Launching a vital, new program to support families and friends.

Professor Kay-Lambkin will speak about why the program was developed, the place e-health programs have in complementing face-to-face support services, and her passion for improving the lives of people with mental illness and substance use issues.

To register for the webinar on Friday 27 November https://tinyurl.com/FFSPlaunch.  

The FFSP is supported by funding from the Australian Government Department of Health.

* Professor Kay-Lambkin is a NHMRC Senior Research Fellow, Director of Translation at the PREMISE NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Prevention and Early Intervention in Mental Illness and Substance Use. She researches with the University’s Priority Research Centre for Brain and Mental Health and Priority Research Centre for Stroke and Brain Injury as well as Hunter Medical Research Institute’s (HMRI) Brain and Mental Health Program. HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.


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