Self-care for Carers

Caring for someone with substance use issues can be exhausting, stressful and confusing. Coping with the often unpredictable ride that this brings with it can be difficult. As a carer, not dissimilar to young people who use substances, you have different ways of coping with things that are happening.

Jim Orford provides a model about families of those who use substances in which he describes three common ways they cope with the young person's behaviour. 

'Putting up'

This can look quite different, while it does describe a sense of resignation to the situation, for some people 'putting up' is also about accepting the situation or sacrificing themselves to support the young person.

'Standing Up'

This is about engaging with the young person and attempting to change things for them. Carers can do this by being: - emotional and supportive - supportive and controlling - assertive and supportive.


Just like anyone, when presented with stress or a threat, we sometimes withdraw from the situation or person to protect ourselves. This is no different for carers. This coping strategy is about reducing interaction with, avoiding the young person or focusing on your own life. Sometimes this is a small thing such as not talking to them for the rest of the day and other times is can happen on a larger scale such as completely removing them from your life. This strategy will often come into play when the other two have been tried and you are feeling 'burnt out'.

Many carers use all of these strategies at different times. There is no right way but rather good and not so good things about each strategy. What is important, particularly when there is more than one carer involved, is that you try and be consistent with each other. This model also can be useful to explain to young people to help them understand the different responses they are likely to get from people in their lives, particularly those in caring roles.

Further Resources