Educating Hearts & Minds

Program offers an insider's view of addiction and treatment

Meet Joseph Skrajewski, MA, MFTI, executive director of Medical and Professional Education at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and an adjunct clinical instructor of Family Medicine at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine. A person in long-term recovery, Joseph worked on Wall Street before entering the fields of psychology, education and health care.

Q. Why do social workers, legal professionals and health care providers need to learn about addiction?

A. Professionals across most fields typically receive very little training about addiction even though the impact and consequences of addiction are seen and felt throughout our social service agencies, our legal system and our medical and health care organizations. Our goal is to empower professionals to recognize and respond to the challenges of addiction within their areas of expertise and influence. That means having greater awareness of the signs of addiction and becoming an advocate for someone who needs help.

Q. How is the Professionals in Residence program structured?

A. We are an intensive, five-day immersion program designed to give participants an insider's view into the process of evidence-based, Twelve Step addiction treatment. Participants start out on Monday with an orientation to campus and classroom instruction about the bio-psycho-social-spiritual nature of addiction, stages of change, family dynamics, Twelve Step facilitation and other key concepts. By Tuesday and throughout the rest of the week, participants are integrated into patient groups and experience treatment from the patient's perspective. It is this opportunity that helps our participants learn and grow, leading them to develop needed skills and provide life-changing care.

Q. What's the biggest takeaway for participants in the Professionals in Residence program?

A. Recognizing addiction as a disease—a treatable disease—is one of the biggest takeaways. Learning how to start difficult conversations about addiction, how to build rapport and how to guide people toward help are all parts of the tools, knowledge and insight we share. Seeing hope, healing, honesty and vulnerability in action is a powerful experience for participants; that individuals do in fact get clean and sober and lead healthy, happy, productive lives.

Q. Why do you think Professionals in Residence is such a profound experience for participants?

A. Participants have an opportunity to see the human being behind the disease—and, guess what? That patient might look and sound a lot like them. Accomplished professional. Well educated. Loving family. The only difference is they can't get through the day without drinking or using another drug. It's eye-opening. And it's that relatability, that personal identification, that brings it all home for participants.

The education of a lifetime

The Professionals in Residence program is offered at three Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation campuses: Rancho Mirage, California, and Center City and Plymouth, Minnesota. Classroom instruction, clinical observation and integration into the daily life of patients are all part of the program. Continuing education hours are available. Learn more at

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