An Education In Addiction

Two counselors discuss the science behind hope.

Meet Manuel G. of Mexico and Ahmed E. of Egypt, licensed and practicing addiction counselors and alumni of the Hazelden Graduate School of Addiction Studies. Both in long-term recovery from addiction, Manuel G. and Ahmed E. started graduate school with a special place in their hearts for people still suffering from the disease. What they gained was a different education in addiction recovery: the clinical skills to deliver the most effective help.

What brought you to the graduate school?

Manuel: I first heard of Hazelden when I was 16 as one of the treatment options my parents considered for me. At 18, after I got clean and sober, I needed to decide what to do with my life. I realized I wanted to help other addicts. That was an important turning point for me because I was a guitarist, a performer, and was accepted at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Instead, I stayed in Mexico City to earn a bachelor's degree in psychology, with the goal of going on to become an addiction specialist through the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies.

Ahmed: I was working as a counselor in the addiction unit of a psychiatric hospital in Egypt. I am a recovering addict, and I'd actually gone to treatment in that same hospital. I knew of Hazelden through its books and pamphlets on addiction and recovery. I had a bachelor's degree in psychology, and my supervisor suggested that I continue my education if I wanted to work as a clinician. Hazelden seemed the obvious choice. I didn't know it at the time, but our treatment model in Egypt was based on the Hazelden model of care. That's something I discovered after arriving at the graduate school.

Does your recovery experience make you a better counselor?

Manuel: A natural and important part of recovery is sharing your experience with other people who are working a Twelve Step program. Having that shared experience is still important, but now, as an addiction counselor, I'm able to clinically guide people through the stages of change.

Ahmed: Being in recovery gives me a better understanding of challenges the addict and family members face, but I don't think it makes me a better counselor. My education through the graduate school makes me a more effective counselor, a skilled clinician. I have the knowledge and skills to be effective–the scientific approach to treat the disease using evidence-based practices.

What does the world need to know about addiction?

Ahmed: What people don't understand is that treatment works. We tend to hear and see only the bad outcomes, the news stories about famous people who get DUIs or commit other crimes or relapse and die. There are so many more people who go through treatment and are doing well. I think we will start hearing more and more of the good news. People in recovery are beginning to speak up.

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