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5-Step Method

What is the 5-Step Method?

The NFSN currently offers training to workers and volunteers in the 5-Step Method, a brief psychosocial intervention. The 5-Step Method is an original method of working with family members of substance users and problem gamblers, developed and evaluated by the AFINet Group in the UK.  It presents a straightforward method for working with family members and seeks to support them in their own right as people negatively affected by a loved one’s substance use or problem gambling.  The method is grounded in rigorous research and a clear theoretical model which underpins the intervention.  The 5-Step approach is both simple and effective in filling a gap that exists for family support that does not see family members solely as supporters for their loved one but as people needing support for themselves in their own right.  Importantly, the 5-Step method does not require people to be experts in either substance use, gambling or family support. The NFSN have trained over 250 people in the 5-Step Method since 2014, both workers and volunteers in the area.

Where did the 5-Step Method come from?

The Addiction and the Family International Network (AFINet – UK), was founded several clinical psychologists and independent consultants such as:

  • Prof. Jim Orford, Emeritus Professor of Clinical & Community Psychology at University of Birmingham
  • Prof. Alex Copello, Professor of Addiction Research, School of Psychology, The University of Birmingham
  • Prof. Richard Velleman, Emeritus Professor of Mental Health Research, University of Bath
  • Lorna Templeton, Independent Research Consultant, University of Bath
  • Akanidomo Ibanga, Honorary research position in the Alcohol, Drugs, Gambling & Addiction Research Group, University of Birmingham
  • Laura Nice, AFINet International Development Officer, University of Birmingham

The AFINet – UK Group has conducted more than twenty years of research into the impact of substance misuse on family members including parents, spouses, siblings, adult children, aunts, grandparents. They found that family members of those who misuse Alcohol and/or Drugs in countries and cultures as varied as England, Mexico City, Australia, Italy and India reported extraordinarily similar experiences about what it is like to live with someone who has an addiction problem. Common experiences included how difficult it is to live with person misusing substances, the user having disruptive impacts on their lives and how this affected the family member’s physical and mental health. This led to the development of the Stress-Strain-Coping-Support Model (SSCS) which has been well described in academic literature (see reference list).

The above Stress-Strain-Coping-Support Model considers how harms to individuals and families can be reduced, and led to the development of the 5-Step Method. The 5-Step Method is an evidence-based, non-pathologising, brief, psycho-social intervention which works with family members in their own right.

The training provided by the NFSN will develop participant’s knowledge and skills in order to effectively practice as 5-Step Method practitioners either within their roles as family support workers or alternatively as family support group facilitators.








Speakers at the 5-Step Method Conference in November 2014 (From left to right): Ed Sipler (Step to Cope), Prof Richard Velleman (AFINet-UK), Gill Velleman (AFINet-UK), Lorna Templeton (AFINet-UK), Sadie Grace (NFSN), Megan O’Leary (NFSN).

Key aspects and principles of the 5-Step Method

  1. This intervention is focused on affected and concerned family members - In contrast to other models used with family members in the addiction field, the 5-Step Method is clearly focused on the family member themselves, not on who is affected by the substance misuse of another relative.
  2. The method takes the view of family members as ordinary people attempting to respond to highly stressful experiences - Unlike some other models of addiction and the family, the 5-Step Method does not see the family member as a cause or a significant contributor to the development of the addiction problem, but as an ordinary person facing a challenging problem. The method is very flexible and adaptable to a range of settings and circumstances
  3. One of the key strengths of the 5-Step Method is that it can be adapted to the specific circumstances and needs of services, settings and family members - The 5-Step Method can be learned and conducted by both workers and volunteers as well as in individual or group settings. The 5-Step Method can also be delivered in primary care centres by GP’s or at project level. Furthermore, as mentioned earlier, the 5-Step Method can be delivered in sequential format (weeks 1-5) or if necessary can be delivered in one single session (with Step 1 being the most important Step).

What are the learning outcomes of training?

On successful completion of the 5-Step Method Training, trainees will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of the Stress-Strain-Coping-Support model and the 5-Step Method.
  2. Demonstrate proficient delivery of the 5-Step Method with adult family members
  3. Participate in skills practice, group exercises and discussion to support new skills learned.
  4. Demonstrate an understanding of the self-assessment and peer-assessment process.
  5. Explore how delivery of the 5-Step Method will work within your current practice.

What our trainees say

“Really enjoyable, due to facilitation styles & contents, loads of new ideas to think about - I look forward to bringing the training into the workplace”

“Both facilitators were excellent. The group members all seemed really interested and they contributed a lot, so I learned a great deal from them. I found Step 3 particularly useful and the discussion in the group was very stimulating – slides were very clear too”

“I enjoyed the practical aspect of the training and although I normally would not enjoy skills practice; I enjoyed working with smaller groups”

“I like that the training gave me a format to follow and a better way of helping family members”

“Excellent – would recommend. Evidence based practice – structured approach to working with FMs affected by drugs/alcohol”

“Thank you to all of the staff of FSN as I really enjoyed the training. All staff are very nice and made the two days – fun & interactive”

Information for Interested 5-Step Trainees

The NFSN 5-Step Method training programme is targeted towards workers and volunteers within services. The NFSN would like to encourage all professionals and volunteers who are in contact with family members affected by drugs and/or alcohol to undertake 5-step Method training. Practitioners in the 5-Step Method can work (or volunteer) in both addiction specific and generic family support services. Already a wide variety of services have participated in this training including family support workers and volunteers, drugs workers, HSE addiction counsellors, family resource centres, youth services, social workers and community based services. If you wish to be trained in the 5-Step Method, please call the office on 01 – 898-0148 or email training@fsn.ie.

Active 5-Step Method Practitioners

Please contact the NFSN on 01 -898 0148 for a list of practitioners in your area

Contact Us

National Family Support Network
5 Gardiner Row, Dublin 1, Ireland

Phone: +353 (01) 8980148
Fax: +353 (01) 8889628
Email: info@fsn.ie
Web: www.fsn.ie

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