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How Addiction Professionals and Prevention and Recovery Advocates Can Interface for Mutual Benefit

How Addiction Professionals and Prevention and Recovery Advocates Can Interface for Mutual Benefit

Mutuality of need can bring positive collaboration and mutual benefits. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) and the National Association for Children of Addiction (NACoA) have collectively about 120 affiliate organizations in the United States filled with intelligent, committed volunteers who supplement and support the work of professional staff. Many have been personally touched, have found recovery from addiction or from the pain and losses experienced from parental addiction, and wish to help others find that recovery. 


Services provided by NCADD and NACoA affiliates vary widely but include:


  • Early intervention and prevention programs for other nonprofit community organizations
  • Assessments and referrals to treatment
  • Prevention education services for staff and students in local school systems, often including staffing educational support groups as part of a student assistance program
  • Professional workshops that offer needed continuing education for many of the community’s clinicians


All affiliates have volunteer boards of directors and office volunteers. Some have skilled presenters able to speak on a broad range of topics of interest to clinicians, who offer their training services as a way to give back or as a way to develop a wider range of clients for their own agency—both valid reasons for their volunteer services. Such relationships can be a win-win for the affiliate agency and for the professionals looking to broaden their reach into the community or simply willing to help make a difference on the seemingly intractable problem of substance use disorders (SUDs).   
Recovery Community Organizations


Additionally, the powerful recovery movement, which has been building over the last decade, is resulting in an ever-increasing number of recovery community support centers, many of which are members of the Association of Recovery Community Organizations (ARCO) at Faces and Voices of Recovery. These are staffed mostly by deeply caring volunteers who share their own recovery stories and offer hope to all those who walk through the center’s doors. These rapidly growing support centers offer free help to struggling addicted people seeking support for a path to recovery. They also offer education and support for families, who find in the centers a hopeful and safe environment where they can explore, learn, and begin to heal. The support and sense of emotional safety found at a recovery community support program positively reinforces lessons from counseling and treatment, and complement the guidance of Twelve Step sponsors during the risky periods of early recovery. Additionally, these centers bring newly recovering individuals and families in contact with those who have been through the struggle and are now enjoying healthy and productive lives, and are ready to give back. Such new contacts offer hope and often turn into meaningful relationships for the whole family. 


NCADD and NACoA affiliates and recovery community support organizations have agency staff and volunteers who could benefit from the knowledge and wisdom that experienced addiction professionals have to offer—as board members; volunteer educators; reinforcements to those doing the heavy lifting advocating for prevention, treatment, and recovery supports in state legislatures and in county health departments. The personal benefits of doing meaningful service and advocacy work in an area about which we feel passionate are immeasurable and can often strengthen professional skills and insights as well. 


These remarkable community-based organizations are 501(c)(3) organizations that help to ensure that the organizations stay true to their missions and can sustain themselves over time. They play an important role in facilitating prevention programs to reach vulnerable youth, offering them healthy and safe ways to grow up and prosper, even if their parents do not recover. They have been among the strongest advocates in the country’s state legislatures for policies that have created and sustained the establishment of recovery-oriented systems of care in their states, helping decision makers to understand that the goal is recovery and that treatment is a critical component in meeting that goal, but not the endgame. 


Recovery Community Organizations and Legislation


Legislators and other decision makers are learning that recovery does not happen as a result of treatment alone, or solely through faithful adherence to a Twelve Step program; it is a long, healing, multidimensional process that needs the involvement of recovery support mechanisms, of which treatment—outpatient or inpatient—is a critical component. At the federal level in the past year, Congress passed the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act (CARA), which is the most critical piece of legislation in support of prevention, treatment, and recovery in several decades. It was the grassroots support across the country that stepped up to advocate for this logical and forward-thinking legislation to secure a full and balanced continuum of support over time from prevention through to treatment and recovery. While there is still much to do, the action of such groups as the NCADD and NACoA affiliates and the recovery community centers organized under Faces and Voice of Recovery contributed greatly to the education of members that resulted in the bipartisan passage of CARA. 


Each of these community-serving organizations provides clinicians with an opportunity to be part of their work, whether as program leaders, presenters at seminars, advocates when education of legislators becomes critical or volunteers to help with calls on a helpline. At the same time, being a part of such an organization—one that is focused on ensuring that adequate and effective programs are developed and implemented for the good of individuals and families hurt by SUDs—can give added meaning to the therapeutic work of good clinicians and can offer insights into the policy world that often elude them, and yet profoundly impact their professional lives as well as the lives of most clients. There are a myriad of opportunities, from the boardroom to the receptionist desk, where a meaningful difference can be made by addiction counselors whose involvement can broaden the view of an entire staff and enrich their own lives by participating in the valuable work of a local community service organization. 


NCADD and NACoA affiliate organizations are frequently where both clinicians seeking continuing education credits and updated information and people in recovery or living with a person who needs recovery will come for professional seminars. These workshops benefit both professionals and the community interested in expanding their understanding of addiction and its life-altering and life-threatening effects on addicted people and their family members. The current climate focused on the serious addiction epidemic gripping so much of the country is causing more and more people to seek information and understanding. When clinicians and community members learn together, they gain additional insights into how addiction affects people and gain a deeper understanding of its complexity—another win-win.


An opportunity to test this idea comes with Recovery Month this September.


National Recovery Month: A Win-Win Opportunity 


Recovery Month is celebrated across the country every September, honoring the millions of people who have conquered their SUDs and are living productive, contributing lives. It also honors the countless professionals who have carefully guided so many on their path to recovery. In recent years, Recovery Month has begun to broaden its focus to include the needs of the affected family members for their own recovery, paving the way for acknowledgement of the value to each member when whole family recovery is made available to them. 


In 2016 the Recovery Month theme was “Join the Voices for Recovery: Our Families, Our Stories, Our Recovery!” This year it is “Join the Voices for Recovery: Strengthen Families and Communities.” The current theme highlighted the value of family and community support throughout the recovery journey and invited individuals in recovery and their family members to share personal stories and successes in order to encourage others to face the pain and losses suffered from addiction in the family and to begin to heal. 


Recovery Month offered multiple ways for SUD therapists to partner with and support the work of those providing complementary prevention and recovery advocacy support services for the betterment of the community and its families. Offering to participate in your community’s grassroots education and advocacy efforts by partnering on Recovery Month projects feels like a win-win for all. You can visit www.recoverymonth.gov to find all the tools needed for a broad variety of activities to honor Recovery Month—this year and every year—and the millions of Americans celebrating their own recovery and that of their family members.