The whole-family approach of Forward Trust’s M-PACT programme is reaping dividends, says Katherine Jenkins.
Attachment theory, the most important tenet of which is that young children need to develop a relationship with at least one primary caregiver for healthy social and emotional development, has remained a prominent concept across a wide range of disciplines over 50 years.
It’s a foundational part of the learning for our Moving-Parents and Children Together (M-PACT) practitioner training programme. The M-PACT programme itself has been delivered to families for nearly 20 years and can be best described as an evidence based, group psychosocial intervention that takes a whole-family approach. Through recognising the overlooked voices and experiences of children and young people, we aim to improve the wellbeing of families affected by addiction.
However, the enduring nature of attachment theory means that we must be particularly conscious of its relevance in the context of modern-day relationships. We must be prepared to critique its application in order to ensure M-PACT continues to achieve positive outcomes and meet the diverse needs of the families it supports.
This was an important question raised to us by Addiction Professionals, when recently going through the accreditation process with them for our M-PACT practitioner training – a helpful challenge to ensure that what we were including in the course recognised some of the limitations of this theory and how we were able to respond.
The accreditation requires courses to provide an evidence-based approach to learning. As stated, attachment theory forms a central role within the M-PACT programme and it’s so well established that it’s often just accepted as evidence, including within the legal system. However, there have been a number of challenges over time which must be considered.
‘Critics highlight some of the potential failures of attachment theory, including the lack of acknowledgment of different norms across nations, cultures and class, promoting stereotypical approaches to parenting that do not take into account the diverse environments in which children are raised today,’ says executive director at Addiction Professionals, Kate Halliday. ‘Despite this, the theory continues to hold great weight and has even been labelled one of the last surviving “grand theories” not to have been completely dismissed, replaced, or extensively reworked. It remains an important force across professional practice and as such, the Forward Trust were asked to acknowledge its strengths, whilst also providing a helpful critique for this ubiquitous approach.’
It’s fair to say attachment theory has indeed evolved over the decades – moving beyond the child-parent relationship, it has expanded to address the attachments formed with others in our lives. This is a critical consideration in the M-PACT programme as, despite the name, we welcome attendees who have any care-giver relationship with the child or young person.
We must remember families function in their own way, influenced by many complex and diverse factors. It’s important to resist the temptation to adopt an out-of-date view of what family should look like. Our aim in M-PACT is to establish what works for those attending, enabling their system to support all members in it to feel safe and cared for.
Standing still in an ever-changing environment will mean interventions run the risk of quickly becoming out of date, and it’s up to us to ensure that we’re able to identify where change and challenge is needed. The new relationship between M-PACT and Addiction Professionals will provide fresh opportunities for reflection and, most importantly, continuous improvement.
The Moving Parents and Children Together (M-PACT) programme was developed by Action on Addiction, now part of The Forward Trust, in response to the 2003 Hidden harm report. Each M-PACT programme brings together a small number of families over eight core group sessions. Each session combines work with all participants, work with adults and children/young people separately, and work with individual family units. There is also a family review session, and a reunion.
Through independent evaluation M-PACT has been shown to improve global family functioning, coping efficacy and communication. It has been noted as an effective intervention in several government and academic publications. M-PACT is available to any eligible organisation through a licence arrangement, which includes practitioner training now accredited by Addiction Professionals. For further information please contact email@example.com
‘We are delighted to accredit this impressive course which supports practitioners to strengthen family relationships for those who have experienced addictions. The programme has been externally evaluated, is evidence based, and focuses on support for families and also for the practitioners who are involved in delivering this rewarding course. The focus on the voices of the children of parents with addictions, together with the emphasis on working with the whole family makes this programme a valuable asset for the field.’
‘Learning to be a parent again without addiction is tougher than being a parent for the first time. I know this first-hand. Not only do you forget how to be a parent, you struggle with two things… learning to be a parent again and learning to parent without your crutch. I wish this had been available for me and my boys. M-PACT could have helped me when I was struggling.’
Nicole Dyer, M-PACT/family lead coordinator
‘I love M-PACT. If I did not do M-PACT, I would not be how I am right now, to be honest. I would have bottled up all those emotions. I just would not be what I am today. M-PACT really made me happy… M-PACT also really helped me with knowing that I was not alone, because there were loads of other kids there who were going through the same thing as me. If I had not met those kids at M-PACT, I would have thought that I was alone, probably to this day, unless I found someone else who I could relate to.’
M-PACT participant, attended M-PACT at the age of ten with her mum
‘Over the many years of working on both the facilitation of M-PACT programmes to families and training others to do the same, I have seen repeatedly the incredible changes that families can make to improve their quality of life during and after attending the programme. M-PACT to me means connection, change and professional satisfaction. M-PACT can and does make a difference to individuals, families, and ultimately communities.’
Matt Serlin, M-PACT training coordinator
THE MOVING PARENTS AND CHILDREN TOGETHER (M-PACT) programme was developed by Action on Addiction, now part of The Forward Trust, in response to the 2003 Hidden harm report. Each M-PACT programme brings together a small number of families over eight core group sessions. Each session combines work with all participants, work with adults and children/young people separately, and work with individual family units. There is also a family review session, and a reunion.
THROUGH INDEPENDENT EVALUATION M-PACT has been shown to improve global family functioning, coping efficacy and communication. It has been noted as an effective intervention in several government and academic publications. M-PACT is available to any eligible organisation through a licence arrangement, which includes practitioner training now accredited by Addiction Professionals.
For further information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org