The concerned other
New theory and the evidence base for changing problematic drug and alcohol users through their family members
By Phil Harris

To see sections of this book in a PDF, please click here.

The concerned other is desperate for change in the problematic drug or alcohol user, but often ends up feeling helpless and frustrated - let down by his or her own inability to help and by a lack of professional support. Professional helpers, on the other hand, may find that their training, geared to the individualistic theories that require the user to make the change, find they are unable to employ effectively the concerned other and his or her willingness to help.

This major new theoretical work explores the extensive research, documented in over 150 references, that demonstrates why and how families can effect change. Author Phil Harris sees the concerned other as the person most able to effect change in the user's life, whilst also taking good care of themselves.

Here he presents the thoroughly researched and carefully argued theoretical underpinning of his work with substance users and their families. This book is essential reading for academics, researchers, students, policy-makers, and for those people working with alcohol or substance misuse who want to bring themselves up-to-date on current ways of thinking, but who do not need the full worksheet-based programme that is available in the complete manual available for anyone undertaking this work.

The whole text of this book has also been published as Part 1 of that complete treatment manual - Phil Harris: The concerned other: how to change problematic drug users through their family members: a complete manual (ISBN 978-1-905541-48-5). It has been published separately here, in response to demand from both students and practitioners who only want to study the work with concerned others, rather than undertake it.

A5 paperback. 136 pages. 978-1-905541-66-9. Published October 2010. £16.95


Academics, researchers, students, policy-makers and practitioners in: alcohol and substance misuse, social work, psychology, counselling, criminology, youth work, housing, parenting education and family support.


New ideas about working with concerned others
What people have said about these new ideas
Why this book has been published
About this book
Whose work can this new theory underpin?
About the author
The context
Social context

What is problematic use?
Social consequences of use
Family hardships
Family coping
Family contact with the problem user
Family pressure and treatment entry
Therapeutic context
Self-help: Al Anon and Ala Teen
Co-dependency movement
The intervention
Recent approaches for concerned others
Approaches facilitating treatment entry only
Dual approach models
Parent and Carers Training Programme (PACT)
PACT: programme aims and structure
PACT: assessment
PACT: a behavioural ethos
Reinforcement and substance misuse
Reinforcement and change
Principles of treatment entry
Functional analysis logs
Extinction burst
Bringing up the subject of treatment
Selecting treatment options
Supporting the loved one in treatment
Treatment outcomes and relapse
Carefrontation and termination
Improving the concerned other's life
Reducing pressure of the concerned other
Closing treatment
Outcomes and measures
About the companion treatment manual


Phil Harris
is an independent writer who has worked in direct access drug services for over sixteen years. He has designed and delivered internationally recognised treatment programmes and accredited training courses throughout the UK & Europe. Having worked as a drugs treatment advisor to DST's, Criminal Justice Services and Youth Services, he has also managed several organisations and implemented innovative, practical and effective approaches to addressing people's problems with misuse of drugs and alcohol. He continues to practice in the south west of England.

For a video on work done by an agency that uses the programme that is in The Concerned Other, please click here
Comments on this video on youtube include:
"An excellent portrayal of how someone else's substance misuse can impact on one's life, and how a good helping agency can provide support and assistance to 'concerned others' - not just close family, but also close friends - in ways which strengthen them and allow them both to hope, and to move on. Well done this film-maker, and KWADS." Richard Velleman

"A wonderful portrayal of the journey of a hugely hidden group of people (Concerned Others) who often have no hope and whose lives are as damaged as the problematic drug/alcohol user themselves. Research shows that when Concerned Others find support for themselves this greatly improves the quality of their own life but also hugely improves the chances of their loved ones reducing consumption and entering treatment for themselves. What a moving film, thankyou." Darren McEvoy