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A close up of a child using colouring pencils to draw a picture of a family
A close up of a child using colouring pencils to draw a picture of a family

Supporting families in recovery

Bright Light provides a safe, confidential space where people can open up to help identify issues and challenges affecting them and talk about what needs to happen to improve their relationships. 

Bright Light received a total investment of £64,161 from the Scotch Whisky Action Fund (SWAF), benefitting 187 individuals over three years. 

The Families in Recovery project provided counselling to thirty-eight children and young people under the age of eighteen struggling to adjust to living with a parent now recovered from alcohol addiction. The project was set up to meet an identified local gap to work through issues and build bridges within the family. Referrals came from families who had spotted a leaflet and phoned in, from the Sunflower Garden, Social services, Castle Craig, inpatient recovery service and LEAP, the inpatient NHS recovery service.  

In 2017 Couple Counselling Lothian, as it was known before rebranding, received a grant of £18,000 from SWAF to help pilot a new counselling and family therapy project, 'Families in Recovery'. The grant contributed to the counsellor costs and associated travel expenses, external supervision to meet COSCA (Counselling and Psychotherapy in Scotland) regulations, and line management to enable the organisation to provide quality counselling to children and young people struggling to adjust to living with a former alcoholic, but now sober, parent.

Children and young people often have anger, guilt, fear or mental health issues because of growing up in a family where there has been alcohol dependence. There is a need for the whole family to adapt to life without the addiction. Family therapy includes resolving some challenging incidents caused by alcohol addiction, moving blame from the parent and to the addiction instead, gaining some insight into addiction, and re-establishing healthy communication patterns and roles within the family. 


Case study - June & David

June and David have three children and are separated. June is in recovery from alcohol addiction, and as a result, all children live with David. The Families in Recovery sessions were set up to help support co-parenting. At the start, their relationship was acrimonious, and there were high levels of conflict. The three children attended sessions on their own so they could talk openly about their emotions and worries and gain a better understanding of the addiction and recovery. This was especially helpful in addressing the shame they felt with peers. Throughout the sessions, their communication improved. Both parents seemed more confident. They can now negotiate around their parenting without getting into arguments with greater empathy and less blame towards each other. 


Case study - Juniper, Arthur and Rueben

Arthur (8) and Rueben's (11) father died in July because of long-term alcohol addiction, which was also the cause of their parent's separation the year before his death. Juniper (Mum) asked to come for family therapy sessions to help support the boys with their grief. She was worried her complicated grief, which included a lot of anger towards their father, would damage the boys, and she wanted to make sure they could all be supported in the best way possible. During sessions, with all three attending, various activities were planned to help them talk about emotions, families, and death. They drew a huge family tree, and the boys explored lots of stories of their family, looking at all the different people and relationships within it. Due to the addiction, there were a lot of conflicts and fall out, which have been hard for the boys to make sense of. The sessions helped reduce the mum's anger towards the boys' father as she is being supported to see what he means to them through their eyes. The boys have also been supported to ask mum questions, and this has helped them make sense of some of the more frightening events related to alcohol that had been unspoken about. The boys and Juniper are arranging rituals to remember their dad and bringing photos to their next session to help talk about good times with him.


Case study: Stephen and Rose

After recovering from a severe brush with cancer, Stephen (Dad) developed an alcohol addiction. Rose (Mum) and Stephen had separated because of his drinking, and Rose was angry with him and reluctant for the children to see him. Both children were upset, missing their dad, worried about their mum and Ellie (11) was often refusing to go to school. Throughout sessions, they explored the close and loving relationships the children had with their dad, and they spoke a lot about how good a dad he was. The kids shared photos on their screens to help them talk about their times as a family and times spent with their dad. Rose was encouraged to hear these stories, and it gave her some confidence to remember Stephen's abilities. The children also described times when Dad had been drinking, and the staff supported them to talk about these experiences and their feelings of confusion and fear. They talked openly about risk with all family members in a non-blaming or judgemental way but ensured they were all working with the children's safety as a priority. Individual therapy sessions were set up with Stephen to support his recovery and help him make sense of the traumatic experience of his cancer that had led to his addiction. The family ended sessions feeling better able to communicate their problems with each other and be honest about the risks and need to ensure the children's wellbeing if Stephen was drinking again. Stephen was able to see himself as a good dad again, which also supported his motivation for ongoing recovery. Ellie drawing butterflies during a Zoom therapy session.

Bright Light received a total investment of £64,161 from SWAF, benefitting 187 individuals over three years. As a result of this investment, Bright Light has secured a five-year grant from the Robertson Trust to continue the Families in Recovery project until 2026. This would not have been possible if the pilot project wasn't supported five years ago in 2017, and now it has secured the funding to allow it to run for what will be nearly ten years by the end of the Robertson Trust grant.

Bright Light has built up a good reputation and become known to external services and families. In the first instance, connecting with service providers in alcohol addiction was an essential task. It had a small, steady stream of self-referrals from families, Castle Craig Hospital, social services, and schools by the final year. None of these families had used the service before the funding from the Scotch Whisky Action Fund. *all names have been changed throughout this report to protect the identities of the individuals and their families.

"The SWAF funding has enabled us to see families from a whole spectrum of economic diversity, from families who have very significant economic and social challenges to those who are economically more comfortable. For those less financially stable families, we have been enabled to offer the service for free or a minimum contribution."


Julie Hogg-Weld, CEO of Bright Light