An Inside Look: Training the Next Generation of Addiction Counselors

Let's Talk Addiction & Recovery Podcast
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Dr. Kevin Doyle, the President and CEO of the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies, joins host William C. Moyers to talk about the evolution of academia and the changing landscape for addiction counselors. They also discuss the urgent and increasing demand for counselors, and how the Grad School is preparing its graduates to become the next generation of leaders—and a vast network of hope and healing. Tune in to hear this fascinating conversation.

We're going to have a tremendous need for counselors. And the job outlook for counselors is very solid.

Kevin Doyle

0:00:13 William Moyers
Hello and here we again, Let's Talk. A podcast series brought to you, as always, by Hazelden Betty Ford and as always, I'm your host, William C. Moyers. We're glad you're with us today. And today I'm joined by Kevin Doyle. The President and CEO of the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies. Welcome, Kevin.

0:00:34 Kevin Doyle
Great to be here, William. Thank you for having me.

0:00:35 William Moyers
Right off the bat, it begs the question: how did you get here and where does your interest come from?

0:00:41 Kevin Doyle
Hazelden Betty Ford were known to me before when they were separate, before the merger, I don't—I'm not even sure I was aware of the merger but I've been an addictions counselor for over three decades.

0:00:49 William Moyers

0:00:49 Kevin Doyle
And so, I think my first exposure to Hazelden was ordering materials through our Publishing division. And things for clients or patients to use. So I always knew the Hazelden name back in the 1980's I guess.

0:01:01 William Moyers

0:01:02 Kevin Doyle
And then everyone knew about Betty Ford and at some level I was aware of the merger I suppose. But, I didn't become aware of the Graduate School until much later. And long story short, advanced through my addiction counseling career into academia was in a department chair role at a University in Virginia and felt as if maybe being a Dean would be something good for me—

0:01:22 William Moyers

0:01:22 Kevin Doyle
—And I happened to see on a list serve the notice of the opening here, became the Dean last January. And now I'm moved into the President role just recently. So, long journey but really pleased to be here. And the second part of your question sort of what drew you in—

0:01:37 William Moyers

0:01:38 Kevin Doyle
—And as I've said to you and others before, I happen not to be a person in recovery myself but early on in my counseling training as a Master's level student, I started to learn about recovery and I got hooked in by the stories.

0:01:52 William Moyers

0:01:53 Kevin Doyle
You know, the stories of transformation in recovery and seeing people—and I worked with adolescents—seeing them turn their lives around and become contributing adults. And sometimes even return to work in the field was really inspiring and impressive to me. And I think I said I wanna be part of that.

0:02:06 William Moyers

0:02:06 Kevin Doyle
And so that's where my journey has led me.

0:02:08 William Moyers
And we're glad that you are part of it now as the President and CEO. There was a time when counselors were people who were in recovery themselves. They, you know, didn't necessarily have any academic background. They may have not even had a high school education necessarily. But things have changed. Why have things changed and why is that important?

0:02:28 Kevin Doyle
And that's how it was when I started.

0:02:29 William Moyers

0:02:30 Kevin Doyle
My first job in the profession in inpatient treatment was in the mid-1980's. And most of the workforce then were people in recovery. And yet, many of them were only drawing upon their own recovery experience. And we don't do that for any mental health disorder, any physical health disorder, there's training that goes along with how to do this right, how to do this safely—

0:02:52 William Moyers

0:02:52 Kevin Doyle
—And how to do it well. And so, I experienced seeing folks who had the personal passion, adding to that the training—

0:03:00 William Moyers

0:03:01 Kevin Doyle
And you produce some tremendous people and that combination is really powerful. So I've always felt a little bit left out. And sometimes will say, you know, gosh I wish I was a person in recovery. And many of my friends in recovery say, 'No, you really don't want to have had to gone through the addiction side of it.'

0:03:13 William Moyers
[laughs] Yeah, yeah.

0:03:14 Kevin Doyle
Just advance right to recovery. But that combination is really powerful and now, seeing many of our students are personally in recovery, many are not.

0:03:22 William Moyers

0:03:22 Kevin Doyle
But they're getting the tools to be helpful for the folks who are gonna be needing this for many decades to come.

0:03:26 William Moyers
And of course it's not just that the academic standards have risen, for counselors, because of what we're learning in the science of addiction and the treatment of it. But regulatory agencies and insurance plans, they kind of expect it, don't they?

0:03:41 Kevin Doyle
That's exactly right. Counseling is no different from any other health care profession.

0:03:43 William Moyers

0:03:43 Kevin Doyle
That there's a body of training that you go through, there's credentialing, there's oversight, there are accrediting bodies. Licensing bodies. Regulatory boards that oversee safe practice. And what the hallmark of all those things is public protection.

0:03:57 William Moyers

0:03:57 Kevin Doyle
Patient protection. Making sure that the services that are being delivered are safe. And so, that's certainly something that we ascribe to. And support. And we are an accredited graduate school by the higher learning commission, for example.

0:04:09 William Moyers
Why is that important, to be accredited?

0:04:11 Kevin Doyle
Well, it's a seal of approval. And, you know, otherwise anyone could just hang a shingle out and say, 'We are this,' and there's no external review. And so that is important, to make sure that you're engaged in a continuous process of improvement. Gathering data. Looking at outcomes.

0:04:27 William Moyers

0:04:27 Kevin Doyle
Making sure that what you're doing is consistent with best practices in the field. Whether it be education or health care and ours is a little bit of a combination of both.

0:04:33 William Moyers
That accreditation is also important financially. [Doyle nods] Because it allows students to gain scholarships?

0:04:42 Kevin Doyle
That's right. And federal financial aid in particular.

0:04:44 William Moyers
Or federal financial aid.

0:04:45 Kevin Doyle
Right. Yes.

0:04:45 William Moyers
Yeah. Thank you. So, let's talk about what's happened. Our Graduate School was born I think in 1999, a long time ago. I was with the organization at the time. It was a small little appendage over here, but it's now been really integrated into the mission of the organization. Then here comes the pandemic. And here comes all the stresses of addiction and mental illness. How has the Graduate School adjusted to the realities of this pandemic the last couple years?

0:05:14 Kevin Doyle
I think we've done very well. Like other institutions of higher education, we needed to pivot and that was before I arrived here. But a lot of counseling training programs, really all of higher ed, had to adjust to providing some online content. Whether it be synchronous or asynchronous. But one of the things that we did back in 2015 I think it was, 2014, was to start our online program. So we already had an online program—

0:05:39 William Moyers

0:05:40 Kevin Doyle
Asynchronous learning for people around the country. Around the world. Well, primarily around the country.

0:05:44 William Moyers

0:05:45 Kevin Doyle
Who could do their learning from home. So, a lot of our students were not really impacted that much because they were already doing online learning. We bring those students to campus twice during the course of their degree program. So that became virtual too—

0:05:58 William Moyers

0:05:58 Kevin Doyle
—We did that synchronously in a virtual manner and I'm really pleased that starting this summer, June of 2022, at this point it looks like we'll be able to bring our students back for their on-campus residencies. But we gradually returned to the in-the-classroom learning as well, with masks and distancing and all those precautions that we have to take during the pandemic.

0:06:19 William Moyers

0:06:19 Kevin Doyle
And again, all of us are looking forward to that gradually going back to reality. I teach a class on campus on Saturdays for example—

0:06:26 William Moyers

0:06:26 Kevin Doyle
And it's amazing how much you miss when students have masks on.

0:06:29 William Moyers

0:06:29 Kevin Doyle
You know, the facial expressions and some of the non-verbal things. It's great to be in the room with them, but we're still not quite where we'd like to be.

0:06:35 William Moyers
I'm sure though, even though their mouths are covered, you can see their eyes and they're staying awake for your lecture. [chuckles]

0:06:40 Kevin Doyle
I hope so! I do allow coffee in the classroom though so, yeah. [grins]

0:06:44 William Moyers
So the other thing that's changed in the Graduate School is that in the old days of the Graduate School, you would come and you'd get a Master of Arts in Addiction Studies. But the menu of opportunity is much broader now.

0:06:56 Kevin Doyle
Not too much broader. The degree label's the same. That is what we call we call it Addiction Counseling not Addiction Studies.

0:07:02 William Moyers

0:07:03 Kevin Doyle
But it's 60 credits—

0:07:04 William Moyers

0:07:04 Kevin Doyle
—Whether you be on campus or online. And the reason for that is most state licensing board, nearly all really, have set the standard of 60 graduate credits for independent licensure. And so we wanna make sure, because we have students from all around the country, that students can become licensed as counselors. Not every state licenses addiction counselors, but half do.

0:07:25 William Moyers

0:07:26 Kevin Doyle
Some have specific licenses for addiction counselors, some don't. Many of our students go on for credentials like licensed professional counselors, licensed clinical counselor, licensed clinical mental health counselors. There's not as much universal language for counseling as there is for example for social work. Most of all of them are Licensed Clinical Social Worker.

0:07:42 William Moyers
Mmm-hmm. Mmm-hmm.

0:07:44 Kevin Doyle
There's more variability in counseling.

0:07:45 William Moyers

0:07:45 Kevin Doyle
Some students are very clear they wanna be laser-focused on addiction counseling. Others want maybe a little bit broader license. And we also know, of course, that addiction doesn't happen in a vacuum. Patients and clients bring mental health diagnoses and all kinds of other challenges to their recovery process. So our training program, our education, encompasses being able to look at those things also.

0:08:06 William Moyers
So, when we talk about students, I remember when I came I did a guest lecture one time. I walked in and I hadn't been on a campus in a long time. And the thing that struck me immediately—and this is before the pandemic so I could see everybody's faces—was that not everybody who was a student was young. At least young as I saw it. [Doyle nods] Talk about that.

0:08:28 Kevin Doyle
That's right. Yeah. Our average age is 41.

0:08:32 William Moyers
41. Huh.

0:08:33 Kevin Doyle
And we have one of the terms that you'll hear and we hear at our school is career changers. People who may have been—we've had lawyers, we've had accountants, all kinds of different professional careers. That individuals come from. Sometimes they have that transformational recovery experience that leads them to do some self-reflection—

0:08:50 William Moyers
Mmm-hmm. Mmm-hmm.

0:08:52 Kevin Doyle
—And say this is something I'd like to be part of. In my sort of second half of my career. Other times there have been a helping professional, a teacher or what have you, but because of the way licensure works in health care, a Bachelor's degree is often not enough to do the kind of work that you really wanna do.

0:09:07 William Moyers
Right. Yeah.

0:09:08 Kevin Doyle
And so, payors, accrediting bodies, the folks who oversee the work that we do, often are looking for that Master's degree. And so, so we could have someone who started out at the Bachelor's level and moved on to the Master's level.

0:09:20 William Moyers
You talked about accreditation and one of the important features of it is that it allows students to get low interest student loans, federal loans. How else do people pay for graduate school at the Hazelden Graduate School?

0:09:35 Kevin Doyle
Well it's a great question. Some of them are just highly invested themselves and they may have come from a background where they have the ability to pay, you know, themselves, through their savings—

0:09:43 William Moyers

0:09:44 Kevin Doyle
But we're really thrilled and one of the things that does distinguish us from a lot of other Master's programs is that we do have a lot of scholarships.

0:09:50 William Moyers

0:09:51 Kevin Doyle
And so recently we've had some tremendous generosity from donors—

0:09:56 William Moyers

0:09:56 Kevin Doyle
—Who have provided scholarships. It's always good the phrase you sometimes hear is "skin in the game." For students to have a little bit of investment.

0:10:02 William Moyers
Of course. Of course.

0:10:02 Kevin Doyle
And so, we don't typically provide a full scholarship. But it can be a really dramatic, make a very dramatic difference, for people. If half of their tuition is covered by scholarship dollars.

0:10:12 William Moyers

0:10:13 Kevin Doyle
And so we have scholarships for students of color, that's the definition that one of our donors was interested in.

0:10:17 William Moyers

0:10:18 Kevin Doyle
We have—we're rolling out a specific scholarship for Hispanic students, that label, students who identify from Hispanic or Latinx background. We have some for students who are from Canada. And then some that are just more broadly based—

0:10:32 William Moyers

0:10:33 Kevin Doyle
—For students who just don't have the ability to pay fully themselves. And so that's a little bit unusual at the Master's level.

0:10:38 William Moyers
Yeah. Kevin, diversity equity and inclusion is a major initiative within Hazelden Betty Ford. And no department, no division, is excluded from that focus, that emphasis. How is the Graduate School addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion?

0:10:59 Kevin Doyle
Yeah I'm glad you asked me that, William. And we could talk for an hour about that—

0:11:01 William Moyers
Of course.

0:11:02 Kevin Doyle
So I'll try and hit a couple of basic principles. Within the counseling profession, multicultural counseling or cross-cultural work—

0:11:09 William Moyers

0:11:09 Kevin Doyle
—Has been a priority since the 1990's and before. So this is engrained into the preparation and training of counselors. So this is not new to us as counselors. And that's a requirement many state licensing boards have that you have to have at least one course in that.

0:11:25 William Moyers

0:11:25 Kevin Doyle
So it's really been a priority for the counseling profession for a long time. And so I would probably start with that. Within Hazelden Betty Ford, we participate very actively as a graduate school in our DEI initiatives. We have faculty representation on our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee—

0:11:39 William Moyers

0:11:40 Kevin Doyle
—We formed a really strong partnership with our DEI Director, Andrew Williams—

0:11:43 William Moyers

0:11:43 Kevin Doyle
—Who's probably been one of your guests. Andrew has a background in Higher Education as well—

0:11:46 William Moyers

0:11:47 Kevin Doyle
—So he's been a tremendous partner for us. Our staff continue—faculty and staff—continue to go through all the trainings that we're doing. So, we're I would say more than just a willing partner. We wanna be a leader.

0:11:57 William Moyers

0:11:58 Kevin Doyle
In this part of our organization. So it's really significantly important to counselor training programs to do that.

0:12:03 William Moyers
And of course, our Graduate School also has an international reach. Do we get students from around the world that come?

0:12:11 Kevin Doyle
We do. It's an area that we really would like to do more of, though.

0:12:13 William Moyers

0:12:14 Kevin Doyle
You have to go through a very involved approval process to offer online programs in other countries.

0:12:19 William Moyers

0:12:20 Kevin Doyle
So primarily, our students have come to us here in Minnesota in the Center City campus from those other countries. From the Netherlands, from Iceland, from Canada in particular. Mexico.

0:12:30 William Moyers
Mmm-hmm. Mmm.

0:12:31 Kevin Doyle
But they have come to us. We would love to be able to come to them through the online program and are trying to look at ways to make that happen—

0:12:38 William Moyers

0:12:38 Kevin Doyle
But it's an involved process. So right now, those folks come to Center City and take their classes here on campus.

0:12:45 William Moyers
You know, it's interesting, when I get queries about becoming a student or applying for the graduate school, it's to be a student. But lately I've had several people reach out to me from across the country and say, ‘How do you get to be on the faculty of the Graduate School?' [chuckles] And I haven't really had a good answer for them except talk to my colleague, Kevin Doyle. How do you recruit faculty?

0:13:04 Kevin Doyle
Well we have two things I guess I would say. We just hired two new faculty this week.

0:13:08 William Moyers

0:13:09 Kevin Doyle
And we did a national search and got a tremendous pool of applicants.

0:13:12 William Moyers

0:13:13 Kevin Doyle
For an institution such as ours, to be a full-time faculty member in a counselor training program, you really do have to have a doctorate. Particularly in counselor education would be the priority. And so we did find candidates who met that. And we're really excited for the two of them to join us. So that will give us six full-time faculty members, not counting myself. So six folks who are focused on teaching the classes. We do use a fair amount of Adjunct Professors though too.

0:13:39 William Moyers

0:13:40 Kevin Doyle
And that's where we can be a little broader.

0:13:42 William Moyers

0:13:42 Kevin Doyle
We have some social workers, we have Dr. Steve Delisi, a medical doctor. We have some psychologists as well as counselors. So we have a multi-disciplinary team of adjuncts who teach you know as few as one class a year, as much as maybe one or two classes a semester, depending upon what they do. And they bring really good different perspectives, not all of them. Some of them are Hazelden Betty Ford employees who work on our treatment units.

0:14:07 William Moyers

0:14:08 Kevin Doyle
But some work at other institutions—

0:14:09 William Moyers

0:14:09 Kevin Doyle
—Like we have one person who works for the VA. Who brings that nice perspective about veterans.

0:14:12 William Moyers
Sure. Yeah. Yeah.

0:14:14 Kevin Doyle
And others who are just in various places around the country. So the “how” would be watch for an ad when we're recruiting or reach out to me.

0:14:21 William Moyers

0:14:21 Kevin Doyle
If there's that interest. So, and then the big question of course is, do you want to teach in person on campus the so-called "old-fashioned" way—

0:14:28 William Moyers

0:14:28 Kevin Doyle
—Or do you wanna teach online.

0:14:29 William Moyers
Sure. Yeah. Yeah.

0:14:30 Kevin Doyle
And those are two pretty different things.

0:14:32 William Moyers
Kevin, we have about two minutes left. I wanted to ask you the future of the Graduate School. Where do you see it going in the next two to five years?

0:14:44 Kevin Doyle
Yeah, Higher Ed is in a really interesting time right now—

0:14:47 William Moyers

0:14:47 Kevin Doyle
—With the Great Resignation and all of the things that are happening. I think what we have kind of going for us is that many people are looking for meaning. Meaning in their career, meaning in their lives.

0:14:59 William Moyers

0:14:59 Kevin Doyle
And it's not hard to find that when you're working with people who have life-threatening substance use disorder. So I think that bodes well for us and unfortunately, the opioid crisis, the epidemic crisis that we're facing, indicates that we're gonna have a tremendous need for counselors. And the job outlook for counselors is very solid.

0:15:16 William Moyers

0:15:17 Kevin Doyle
So we need people to help in this crisis. But I also think that students are looking for more and more flexibility. And so, right now we essentially have two choices. You come to Center City and sit in the classroom. Or, you are asynchronous learning wherever you are. But what about a synchronous time where you—‘cause students who apply for our program and now for the online program and they'll see, ‘What time is class?' [Moyers chuckles] And we'll say, asynchronous means you're doing your work at 2:00 in the morning, what works for you. But are there people out there who would like to learn, don't wanna move to Center City, but can make themselves available from 6 to 9 p.m., whatever time zone they happen to be in?

0:15:50 William Moyers
Right. Right.

0:15:51 Kevin Doyle
So I think that's something we'd like to start looking at too.

0:15:53 William Moyers
Yeah. Last question before we go. What happens to most of the students who earn their degrees at our Graduate School? Where do they end up working or what do they end up doing?

0:16:03 Kevin Doyle
Yeah. A really significant percentage of them come to work for us.

0:16:07 William Moyers
Oh really?

0:16:08 Kevin Doyle
The last data that I saw was I think 42 percent over a certain period of time—

0:16:12 William Moyers

0:16:13 Kevin Doyle
Chose to continue working for Hazelden Betty Ford. Which of course we love!

0:16:15 William Moyers

0:16:16 Kevin Doyle
We're not a training institute for Hazelden Betty Ford. We are a degree-granting institution. But if you do your internship at a Hazelden Betty Ford program, and that's a big draw that a lot of our students do that—

0:16:26 William Moyers

0:16:28 Kevin Doyle
And they feel comfortable and they see the work being done. Then it's logical that many of them will stay with us. However, we love training people who go to work anywhere. [Moyers chuckles] Because there's such a need. And so, people tend to work in residential or outpatient treatment programs. Close to their homes—

0:16:42 William Moyers

0:16:43 Kevin Doyle
So if they're, you know, a student from Mississippi, then they'll be part of the workforce in that particular state, for example.

0:16:48 William Moyers

0:16:49 Kevin Doyle
But with our geographical reach at Hazelden Betty Ford, Oregon, Washington, California, Minnesota, Chicago, Florida, all the places we have programs, we—I'd venture to say we have graduates working in all of those places too.

0:17:00 William Moyers

0:17:01 Kevin Doyle
And then the last thing I'll say William is that we have had some tremendous leaders grow out of our grad school. That are now moving into very significant leadership roles—

0:17:08 William Moyers
Cool. Cool. Cool, yeah. [smiles, nods]

0:17:09 Kevin Doyle
Within Hazelden Betty Ford. And I'd leave some out if I started to name them—

0:17:12 William Moyers
Yeah, right, right!

0:17:13 Kevin Doyle
But they've moved into really significant positions within our organization.

0:17:14 William Moyers
Yeah. Yeah. What I love about that is the fact that our Graduate School is planting seeds of experience, seeds of academia, expertise not just within our system of care. But in treatment centers from the Salvation Army to for-profit, not-for-profit. And in agencies all across the country and around the world. So the mission of Hazelden Betty Ford is being spread through the good work of the Graduate School.

0:17:39 Kevin Doyle
That's exactly right. We had a virtual open house yesterday and one of our grads who was—our alumni who was on there—is employed by the Salvation Army.

0:17:46 William Moyers
Oh cool. [grins]

0:17:47 Kevin Doyle
And was talking about the work that she's doing there.

0:17:48 William Moyers
Yeah. I've run into somebody there too. So thanks for the good work that you and that incredibly faculty and that team at Hazelden Betty Ford are doing in the Graduate School. Kevin Doyle, the President and CEO of the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies, thanks very much for being with us today.

0:18:03 Kevin Doyle
Thrilled to be here.

0:18:04 William Moyers
[turns to camera] And thanks to all of you for tuning in to our Let's Talk podcast. My email address if you have any criticisms or questions or concerns is Remember, from academic higher ed to prevention and research to treatment, recovery advocacy, and resources for the community, Hazelden Betty Ford covers it all. So tune in next time for Let's Talk. We'll see ya then.

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