Chances are you have been affected by addiction in some way, whether it’s personally or professionally. Because it is a chronic disease, like diabetes or heart disease, there is no cure. However, it can be managed and people can, and do, recover.
Antioch University Seattle recently launched a new addictions concentration for students enrolled in the Clinical Mental Heath Counseling and Couple and Family Therapy programs. Faculty member and addictions specialist Lisa Rudduck is overseeing the concentration, which offers students an opportunity to learn the latest about how to work with clients struggling with addiction and their affected significant others. “The new addictions concentration will help students feel a lot more competent to go into individual sessions, family or couples’ sessions, and group sessions with clients who have addiction,” Rudduck says.
Addiction is a multidimensional issue, which effects a person biologically, psychologically, and socially. Commenting on the opioid epidemic, Rudduck says, “The reality is that opiate addiction and other addictions have been a major public health issue for a really long time. One of the things I love about having the addiction concentration available now is we have five whole classes to study and discuss the complicated relationships between our health care system, the pharmaceutical industry, the variety of opinions and views on addiction in the field of psychology, cultural issues, political issues, and even how the explosion of technology may be contributing to addiction. There is the issue of how to be effective in treating addiction, and then there are systemic and societal issues that we need to struggle with to really begin to understand “why” this has always been, and continues to be such a major public health issue”.
To be effective in counseling individuals struggling with addiction, understanding the relationship between trauma and addiction is necessary. “Learning how to work with clients who have a traumatized nervous system is imperative in addiction counseling because of the high correlation between trauma and addiction,” Rudduck says. “As a field, we have learned so much about the neuroscience of addiction and of trauma in the last twenty years. I am very dedicated to creating an addiction concentration that teaches trauma informed approaches as I want our students to be out front, leaders in the field”. She adds a reminder that successful treatment looks different from client to client and population to population. Being flexible is a key component to successful treatment.
On a practical level, the addictions concentration gives students an opportunity to specialize in something, making them more marketable in the field after graduation. The State of Washington recently passed a new set of rules that allows seven professions, including licensed mental health counselors and licensed marriage and family therapists to become Chemical Dependency Professionals via the “alternative learning” track. Where the previous rules required 45 credits of learning in order to become a CDP, for those seven professions, now only 15 are required. The addictions concentration meets those requirements. The ability to have two credentials opens the door to new internship sites and possibilities after graduation. For students interested in working in residential treatment centers in Washington, for example, being a CDP is a requirement.
The addictions concentration also fits in to Antioch’s social justice mission. Addiction is a stigmatized condition that often doesn’t get much empathy, compassion, or understanding. For students, the addictions concentration can help them develop these traits, making them better prepared to serve those who struggle with addiction. “There is a lot of shame and self-hate that people with addiction carry, and many times the addiction has robbed them of their purpose, their life force, and the gifts they have to give the world,“ Rudduck says. “If our students can be out in the community, and can see beyond the addiction and help people come out of the darkness, that’s what we’re all about.”