The aspiration of Some Space is to bridge the gap between “affected others” and people misusing substances. Once the shared frame of reference is built, then there is a possibility of dialogue and reconciliation.

Below, we describe the underlying principles of our practice, which aims to open the door for reconciliation and building connections between the family members and addicts. It assumes that they don’t need to be seen as two polarities of the problem, but as casualties of the same situation, who need to understand each other’s predicament, so that they can help each other in their joint recovery.

Some Space’s approach to therapeutic work with families and friends of substance misusers views the impact of addiction on families in a systemic and holistic way.

Systemic theory explains that all elements of the family system are interdependent, and it takes the change of only one element to affect the whole system.

Attachment is one of those elements in the family structure, which is important to both children and adults for their emotional stability. Insecure attachment in families with addiction results in unhelpful coping strategies which may be carried through life, e.g., roles people adopt in families with addiction.

All the parties involved are seen as equally suffering and needing help: in their own healing, and in the joint process of building a new model of their relationships.

The ‘Squares and Blob’ (S&B) model, which we use as a tool for explaining addiction in a family, allows just that. The feedback from practitioners and clients highlighted the following features of the model:

  • It gives an explanatory tool which is blame-free.
  • It allows all the parties to find a common understanding of how addiction affects everyone, albeit in different ways.
  • It allows family members struggling to find a way of coping with their ‘addicted others’ to see how their own situation is equally difficult to that of their loved ones and that they too need help and support.
  • It shows the generational and systemic nature of addiction and the need for the same approach to work against its effects – many clients in recovery could identify themselves as ‘affected others’ in their family of origin scenarios.
  • It can be used by practitioners regardless of what treatment modality they might be using, focusing on the situation rather than subjective perceptions.

The Stress-Strain-Coping-Support model, based on evidence from many family members and friends, sees that families experience stress as a result of their loved one's substance misuse. The strain on the family is affected by ways that the family members and friends cope with the situation, and by the support that is available to them. We use the '5-step model' as a framework to help families and friends to cope and have appropriate  support.


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