Topic outline

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    • Welcome and overview

      Welcome to the online course, Empowering Families Affected by Substance Use Problems.

      Having a family member with a substance use problem can be very stressful and overwhelming. You play a key role in supporting your relative and in promoting their wellness and recovery. Performing this role may take a toll and have a significant impact on you as well. This self-directed online program is designed to empower you as you support your loved one.

      This course will help you to recognize the stress and range of emotions you may be experiencing, and to understand the importance of addressing your own needs. The course will also explore strategies you can use to cope with the challenges of dealing with a relative with substance use problems, strategies for self-care and ways to empower yourself.

      The term "family"

      In the context of this course, the words “family,” “loved one” and “relative” describe people with strong emotional, psychological and/or economic commitments to one another. It can include those connected by biology, adoption, marriage/partnership, friendship or community/neighbourhood. “Family,” “loved one” and “relative” are used as broad terms to describe anyone who has a significant relationship or role in the life of an individual.

      Learning goals

      At the end of this course, you will be able to:

        explain why people use alcohol and other drugs
        identify the impact a relative’s substance use problem has on you
        describe the challenges you may face with a relative with substance use problems and strategies to address the challenges
        explore ways to provide support to your family member
        identify physical, emotional, social and spiritual self-care strategies you can use to reduce your stress.

      Format, learning activities and features

      This course is designed for people who have a relative or friend with a substance use problem. The six self-directed modules explore the issues faced by families in this situation. Each module includes several self-reflection activities to help you think about the issues and challenges you may be facing, and then consider strategies to address them. You may wish to print out the tools and tips provided to help you cope.

      Getting started

      It takes approximately 20 minutes to complete one module, and approximately four hours to complete all six modules. You can work on the modules at your own pace at any time. If you would like to provide feedback, please complete the questions at the end of each module.

      We hope the information in this course is helpful to you.


      Want to receive a badge for completing this course? Make sure you create an account and enrol in this course to have your test scores and badges appear in your "My dashboard" area.

      The material in this course is adapted from and based on content from the following resources:

      Bubbra, S., Himes, A., Kelly, C., Shenfeld, J., Sloss, C. & Tait, L. (2008). Families Care: Helping Families Cope and Relate Effectively. Toronto: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

      Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. (2011). Collaborating with Families Affected by Concurrent Disorders. [Online Course].

      O'Grady, C.P. & Skinner, W.J.W. (2007). A Family Guide to Concurrent Disorders. Toronto: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

      There were many individuals and groups who contributed in various ways to this online course. We thank the many family members who provided input and feedback on the course, and groups including ACCESS CAMH, CAMH Addiction Medicine Service, CAMH Family Service, Families for Addiction Recovery, Office of Family Engagement, Education Services and Digital Innovation.

      Peter Selby would like to personally thank the Thor E. and Nicole Eaton Family Charitable Foundation for their generosity towards the development of these modules.

      For technical support and/or accessibility inquiries, please contact