Discovering Normal

Overview A Parenting Program for Adult Children of Alcoholics and Their Partners is a curriculum designed to help adults affected by familial alcoholism become more successful, confident parents. Presented in group format and facilitated by either one or two group leaders, each of Discovering Normal’s six sessions lasts up to two and one-half hours and uses a combination of lecture, discussion, role play, and other experiential learning methods.

Detail The program follows a traditional parenting education program agenda (child development, communication skills, problem solving) but repeatedly brings participants back to critical issues: how has growing up in an alcoholic family affected your parenting skills and expectations. A lot of attention is paid to the concept of “normal” and the fact that there is no single definition of “normal” parenting, children of families, but that normal encompasses a broad range of behaviors and experiences. The curriculum is offered sequentially, and participants are expected to attend all sessions. Please note that this manual should not be used as “background reading” for ACOAs (although many professionals use the volume as reference material). It is most successful when offered to groups of ACOAs, in part because the “support groups” function of the experience has proven to be extremely important. The course has been used extensively by private therapists, drug treatment centers, schools, parenting programs, mental health centers and family service agencies, military bases, and Indian reservations.

Course Units

  • How does coming from an alcoholic family influence me as a parent?
  • What is “normal”?
  • How can I communicate better with my children?
  • Who’s In Charge?
  • How can I encourage desirable behavior?
  • Are there right answers?

Who Should Facilitate? Discovering Normal is designed to be led by either one or two facilitators. They should be experienced mental health practitioners with an in-depth knowledge of:

  • the effects of alcoholism on the family
  • group process and delivery of adult education materials
  • parenting issues in general and ACOA issues in particular

Credentials may include a degree in social work, counseling, or psychology, certification as an alcoholism counselor, or experience in delivery of a parent training course such as PET or STEP. Experience with other kinds of adult education, and leadership of treatment or support groups can substitute for some of the more formal credentials listed above.

Evaluation Data Discovering Normal was pilot tested in three social service agencies in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Michigan to evaluate questions of program impact and implementation. Evaluation proved that Discovering Normal is a clear success, with participants improving their parenting skills and enhancing their family interactions. Participants said they were very satisfied with the program and enjoyed the opportunity to interact with others in similar situations. And Discovering Normal’s use of role-play and other experiential activities made learning new skills and ideas an easier process. Rated highly by participants and facilitators, the curriculum has been judged to be comprehensive, pragmatic, well organized and easy to use. It meets participants’ needs and is easy to implement.

Materials: step-by-step facilitator’s manual, recruitment information, screening and registration forms, handouts for participants, bibliography, course evaluation forms

Intended Audience: parents who have grown up in alcoholic families and their partners

$35.00 per 1