Candice Groenewald is a senior research specialist in the Human and Social Development Unit of the Human Sciences Research Council in Durban. With a doctorate in psychology, Groenewald has dedicated her life of research to adolescent drug abuse and dependence. She examines how an individual’s substance use significantly compromises the wellbeing of those closest to them.
Her PhD research investigated the subjective experiences of parents of adolescents with substance use problems, many of whom experience a lack of support, diminished hope and silent suffering.
She researches the best approaches to support parents to cope with their own distress caused by their adolescent children’s behaviour, and how to provide support to the adolescents themselves.
Groenewald is part of the Affected Family Members’ Network, an international network comprising researchers, academics, practitioners and family members who work towards providing support to families of substance users. As the South African representative of the “Five-Step Method”, a support intervention for affected family members, she presented her work at the first international Affected Family Members’ conference, hosted in the UK in November 2018.
“Adolescent drug use and addiction is, sadly, a challenge that impacts so many families in South Africa,” says Groenewald.
“It is underreported and often not well understood in communities. Drug addiction is associated with other maladaptive behaviours, including violence, theft and other forms of victimisation that families experience at the hands of the drug addict (in my work, the adolescent). When adolescents face these times of risk, parents are generally expected to know what to do. They are also blamed for their child’s behaviour and many report experiences of shame and stigmatisation. All these devastating situations occur within a space where support is significantly limited but desperately needed.
“It is because of this need that I do my work. Parents need support to cope effectively with their own distress in order to be able to provide support to their child as well. Many parents suffer in silence and my work is not only to identify best practices to provide support, but also to enhance parents’ voices and tell their stories.”