The needs of family members of people with alcohol and drug problems as well as their potential contribution to the treatment of their relative have been increasingly recognised both by research and recent policy development. In the UK, for example, recent national guidelines have been produced to encourage services to support families of drug users and engage them in drug services.
In order to respond to these guidelines, substance misuse teams needs to develop ways of involving family members in routine service provision and also respond to their needs. The study reported in this paper is a two-year project aimed to move the practice of two specialist substance misuse teams towards involving family members. A model involving a flexible response to the needs of alcohol or drug users and their family members was developed and implemented in the teams. Using an action research method, changes were evaluated using process notes, case examples, audit of clinical work and measures of staff attitudes towards this work. The results suggest that despite a number of initial barriers, following initial training and continued support, team practice changed in the desired direction. Details of the family work conducted and its perceived benefits are also described.