Child & Family



ADAS was one of the first substance misuse services in the UK to recognise the need for a specialist service for children/young people who live or have lived with a parent who has difficulties with alcohol and/or drugs. The ADAS Child Therapy service offers therapeutic support through the medium of play to children between 3 and 13 years of age who have been affected by parental substance misuse and/or who have witnessed domestic violence. Children may still be living at home with their parents or they could be living with another family member or be in foster care.

The ADAS Family Therapy service provides support to whole families where parents have experienced difficulties with alcohol and/or drugs and/or domestic violence. The parents may still be living together or they may have separated. Both adults and children are invited to the family support sessions.


Child therapy provides a safe and confidential space for children in which they can express and explore difficult life experiences through the medium of play. Rather than having to find words to express what is troubling them, children and young people can use play to communicate difficult thoughts and feelings. In the child therapy room at ADAS, there are a range of toys and materials that can facilitate this, such as paints and other art materials, clay, sandtrays, puppets, dolls, dolls houses, miniature toys and musical instruments.

Therapy through play helps children in a variety of ways. Children receive emotional support from the child therapist and can learn to understand more about their own feelings and thoughts. Sometimes they may re-enact or play out traumatic or difficult life experiences in order to make sense of their past and cope better with their future. Children may also learn to manage relationships and conflicts in more appropriate ways.

Child therapy can also help as it:
·Reduces anxiety about traumatic events in the child's life
·Facilitates a child's expression of feelings
·Promotes self-confidence and a sense of competence
·Develops a sense of trust in self and others
·Defines healthy boundaries
·Creates or enhances healthy bonding in relationships
·Enhances creativity and playfulness
·Promotes appropriate behaviour


Family Therapy gives the whole family an opportunity to explore, in a safe and non-judgemental environment, the impact that substance misuse and/or domestic violence may have had on family members. Children can often feel bewildered, anxious, frightened and alone when a parent misuses alcohol/drugs or when there is violence between their parents. In the Family Therapy sessions, the family workers facilitate communication amongst all members of the family through the use of creative art materials and/or verbal discussion. Children are encouraged and supported to express their feelings about their parents' substance misuse/domestic violence with their parents in a safe way. Parents are also supported to manage, and make sense of, their own thoughts and feelings as they develop awareness about the impact that their difficulties have had on their families. The meetings therefore help families to develop more positive ways of communicating amongst themselves and this, in turn, promotes a healthier family unit.