Family Check-Up for Adolescents With Substance Use Disorder

The lack of proper parenting is one of the key premises that contribute to the initiation and substance use disorder (SUD) development in adolescents. In families where communication between parents and their children is poor, substance abuse is likely to be unnoticed and uncontrolled extensively. In this connection, a family check-up (FCU) intervention can be utilized to enhance parenting strategies and prevent SUD.

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Examining the FCU Intervention

The FCU represents a set of strategies designed to assist parents in monitoring their children and identifying their substance use cases. The pivotal idea of the given intervention is to focus on the protective mechanisms of families, including communication, relationship building, and skill orientation. These family-based preventive interventions are based on motivational interviewing (MI) and immediate feedback. Hernandez, Rodriguez, and Spirito (2015) state that FCU is effective in encouraging behavioral changes in adolescents, which is proven by several research studies. In particular, the article by Connell et al. demonstrates that children aged 7 to 17 years shown lower tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana use compared to their peers whose parents received no intervention (Hernandez et al., 2015). In their turn, Das, Salam, Arshad, Finkelstein, and Bhutta (2016), who systematically reviewed 46 recently published studies, report that family-related interventions are beneficial to reduce tobacco smoking and other substance use means, which resulted from family functioning improvement. In a long-term period, these adolescents tend to quit or minimize substance use in their adulthood.

To conduct the FCU for adolescents having SUD, it is essential to have two phases. During the first of the phases, the initial family assessment should be performed to specify the challenges and strengths that it has and also determine its interactional style (Véronneau, Dishion, Connell, & Kavanagh, 2016). After that, MI is anticipated to be used to empower parents with the tools and ways to improve their current positive impact on an adolescent and change potential negative behaviors. For example, if previously a mother or father used conflicts and shouting to prohibit substance use, it is better to recommend them applying more constructive means of communication, such as an open dialogue or advice (Véronneau et al., 2016). Parents should be instructed to provide the presentation of SUD’s social, physical, and emotional consequences so that children can understand the effects of their actions.

The care providers should be educated on the nature of MI and FCU to offer their services to parents. More to the point, they should have knowledge and skills of proper communication, conflict management, and leadership (Hernandez et al., 2015). In their turn, parents need training regarding the strategies of overcoming their child’s resistance to change, motivation, and other parenting practices that can be used to manage difficult situations. The discussed intervention may be evaluated towards the improvement of such indicators as parenting self-efficacy, the reduction of SUD in adolescents, relationship building, and respect to the family members.


To conclude, the family check-up intervention is a feasible and relevant strategy to combat and prevent SUD in adolescents. This family-oriented approach includes the evaluation of problems and strengths existing in a particular family to improve communication and parent monitoring via motivational interviewing and feedback. The evidence shows that the FCU allows for enhancing parent-child interaction, preventing SUD escalation, and strengthening family bonds. Care provider and parent training are essential to succeed in the implementation of the examined intervention.


Das, J. K., Salam, R. A., Arshad, A., Finkelstein, Y., & Bhutta, Z. A. (2016). Interventions for adolescent substance abuse: An overview of systematic reviews. Journal of Adolescent Health, 59(4), 61-75.

Hernandez, L., Rodriguez, A. M., & Spirito, A. (2015). Brief family-based intervention for substance-abusing adolescents. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics, 24(3), 585-599.

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Véronneau, M. H., Dishion, T. J., Connell, A. M., & Kavanagh, K. (2016). A randomized, controlled trial of the family check-up model in public secondary schools: Examining links between parent engagement and substance use progressions from early adolescence to adulthood. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 84(6), 526-543.

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