Saturday, August 18, 2007

APA Convention Journal (3)

APA Convention Journal (3)

LifeRing convenor and Board of Directors member Craig O. from San Lorenzo was already at the table in Booth 325 when I arrived at 9:25 a.m. on Saturday. I brought a fresh batch of brochures from the Service Center in Oakland, Craig stacked them, and we were ready for the day’s adventures. Once again, I spoke short notes on each contact into a small voice recorder directly after it took place. Without that device, all the day’s faces and conversations would have blurred into a fog by the end of the session. At various times during the day, Craig and I would take turns exploring the hall or just taking a break. Consequently my notes aren’t as complete as they might be. For what it’s worth, here they are:

  • A counselor from Mishiwak IN said she was interested in alternatives to AA and took our literature.
  • A college professor from Grand Forks ND who says she’s now in Sioux City IA teaches introductory psych and took our literature so that she can let her students know there is more than one way to get clean and sober.
  • A professor from George Washington U in DC took some literature to bring back to his colleagues who teach addiction.
  • A young woman from Bend OR who just graduated in psychology from the university there is quite interested to hear that secular alternatives exist because she knows people who are looking for that and she’ll pass the literature on.
  • A professor from Adelphi University says she’ll take the literature to her colleagues who do substance abuse. She is on the board of an Asian-American Pacific Islander organization to protect families from addiction issues.
  • A counselor from an agency in a small town in southern Ohio says there are quite a few people who don’t do AA and there is nothing for them, and there ought to be something for them. She will see if her agency can get something started. She took literature.
  • A psychologist from the Netherlands was curious about us and took the literature.
  • A counselor from “a federal law enforcement agency” in Alexandria VA says she refers clients to AA groups all the time but there are some who don’t cotton to the “higher power thing.” She’s looking for someplace else to send them and hopes we can get a meeting going there.
  • A counselor from Columbus OH who does domestic violence expressed interest and took our literature.
  • A student from Green Bay WI who is not interested in addiction as a career but has a friend who is struggling with addiction asked whether our literature is for clinicians or for clients. I told her we have a LifeRing meeting in Green Bay, listed on our web site, and she should tell her friend about it. She took a bunch of our brochures.
  • A counselor from Oxnard CA came up and said, “So, you’re 12 step?” I said, “No.” He said, “You’re abstinence-based?” I said, yes. He said: “We need more of that in Southern California.” He took literature and left a business card.
  • A counselor from a treatment program in Concord CA spoke with Craig at length and Craig gave me her business card, saying she wants to be contacted about a possible LifeRing presentation to staff there. A lot of her clients don’t like the “higher power concept” and are interested in an alternative. She was happy to hear we have meetings in Concord.
  • A psychologist and her lawyer husband from Manchester NH took our literature. She said that 12-step works for some people, but some people have to sink pretty low before they are willing to go there, and other people want to approach abstinence from a different perspective. “I’ve had a lot of clients that go to 12-step programs and the sponsors that are available may still have their own mental health issues that they are still working on so it is not helpful for my clients and it turns them off prematurely.”
  • A teacher from a community college in Napa CA (heart of the wine country) teaches a substance abuse unit and says she’ll include us in her lectures to students.
  • A counselor with an agency in a small town on the border between KY and TN sees a lot of military guys and is very interested in an alternative to 12-step. She bought the workbook and How Was Your Week.
  • “My clients have a problem with the strong religious focus in the traditional 12-step groups, AA and NA.” – Counselor from a practice group in Washington DC. He reported a lot of negative experiences by his clients with AA. Took our literature and asked to be notified when we have a meeting.
  • The wife of a counselor from Meriden CT says she has a personal friend who started going to AA and could not relate to it at all because of “the God thing.” She has another friend who has been going to AA for years and has got so wrapped up in it that’s all she can talk about; she has no other life any more. She doesn’t think that’s really “healing.” She took some literature hoping to open that friend’s eyes.
  • A counselor in private practice in Philadelphia says she had addiction clients and often they run into problems with AA because it seems very religious to them, so they don’t get any support, and she’s interested in having options available for them. I told her we have a meeting in Telford. She said that’s on the other side of town from her. She took our literature.
  • A young man from the Lawyer Assistance Program in Los Angeles checked in and was pleased to her that LifeRing will be providing support to CA lawyers, at least in Northern CA. He says we need you down here also.
  • A counselor from a VA hospital in the Tampa area had a long discussion with Craig and me. She says “lots of people” need the LifeRing approach and she is going to see if she can get our books into their program and get something started. She bought the workbook and How Was Your Week.
  • A counselor in private practice in San Francisco took our meeting schedule and other literature.
  • A counselor from Walden in Minneapolis MN expressed interest and took literature.
  • A counselor from Middletown RI says her husband will be very interested in our approach, and took literature.
  • The editor of a newsletter, National Psychologist, asked for “one piece of literature” that he could put into his paper.
  • A counselor from Morehouse AL took our literature.
  • A psychologist from Washington DC dropped his business card into our tray and asked that we send him information.
  • A psychologist from Portland OR who is interested in pharmaceutical approaches stopped and chatted for quite a while, and took literature. He hopes that we can get some groups going in Portland.
  • A counselor in family practice in Dearborn MI was interested to hear that non-12step abstinence approaches existed, and took our literature.
  • A counselor from Waco TX has issues with alcohol and drugs in her own family and was interested in hearing about new approaches. She took literature.
  • “For a long time in the treatment community, clients have been paying big money to get a Big Book and work the first three steps…. The treatment community is re-evaluating and moving beyond the 12-step approach.” That’s from a staffer at a newly opened residential treatment program in nearby Sausalito CA, which will emphatically not be based on the 12 steps, she said. She knew about us and wants us to come and establish contact and get a LifeRing meeting started there. We exchanged business cards.
  • A counselor from San Diego asked us some questions and liked what he heard and took our literature.
  • A counselor from Atlanta GA took several copies of our brochures to distribute. She says there’s a real need for something other than 12 step because a lot of people just refuse to do 12-step.
  • A student from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana was “just looking” and took some literature.
  • A counselor from Oakland CA who works at a methadone clinic and also has a private practice knows about us, has referred people to us, and was glad to get new meeting schedules.
  • A student who is interning at a clinic in Palo Alto was interested in hearing about our Burlingame meeting, and took our literature.
  • A student from Santa Clara CA said there needs to be something more than 12-step and took our literature.
  • A counselor from Ypsilanti MI says “We need some alternatives to the AA style. Good luck to you!”
  • A counselor from Austin TX says our meetings in Cedar Park are fine but too far north, “you need more meetings in town.” But she says she will tell her clients about us.
  • A reporter from Pacific MO who covers trade shows and conventions took some literature and said he might write about us.
  • A man wearing the uniform of Moscone Center maintenance staff said he was just arguing with his sponsor about LifeRing and took some more literature and a schedule.
  • A student from Argosy University in Phoenix AZ asked whether we did the 12 steps. When I said, “No,” she said, “Oh! I’m interested. Tell me more.” She took literature.
  • A counselor from Humana Hospital in Napa was interested and took literature.
  • A counselor who also teaches at University of California in San Francisco says she has a patient who is doing LifeRing and doing “excellently,” and she doesn’t know a thing about us. She took one of each and said she may buy the workbook.
  • “People get turned off by the whole philosophy of the 12 steps and the higher power thing,” said a counselor from Honolulu HI. She spent quite a bit of time chatting with us and wants to know how to start a LifeRing meeting.
  • A counselor from Modesto CA chatted with us and took literature. He says they’re building a new recovery facility to be finished in 7 – 8 months that’s going to have meeting rooms with bathrooms and outside entrances, and we would be a “perfect match” for that situation. He left his business card.
  • Dr. Joan Zweben came by and introduced herself, and we shook hands. We had corresponded via email but never met. She is a senior member of the faculty teaching addictions at the University of California in San Francisco. She trains and consults privately with addictions counselors, and has included LifeRing in her lectures and consultations for quite some time. Her students are required to visit self-help group meetings and we see them with some frequency. She has been very supportive. We discussed the LifeRing demographic, and she took all of the literature.
  • A counselor from Louisville KY, hearing that we were abstinence-based but NOT 12-step, eagerly took one of each of our brochures.
  • A counselor in private practice from Silver Spring MD who has clients who “struggle with AA” is interested in our approach and took literature.
  • “We have a clinic in the middle of the ghetto. We have 9,000 patients. And the few who we can get to go to AA will come back to us and will say, ‘Yeah, I gave it to God, and it didn’t do anything,’ and they’ll get angry at us, ‘Why did you send me to them, I thought you liked me.’ And we’re their primary care physician.” -- Psychologist and professor at a medical school in Miami FL. He left his card and would like to get LifeRing going there.
  • A Ph.D. student at Lehigh U in Bethlehem PA was “thrilled” to find there was a non-step approach. She says frankly she hates the 12-step approach; she has a number of family members involved in it, and has had bad experiences. She doesn’t like the powerlessness aspect, or “the god stuff” and finds the whole thing “incomprehensible.” She is glad to find something else and took a lot of our literature.
  • A couple of students from a college in Ft. Lauderdale FL stopped to get an explanation of what we did, and took literature.
  • A top administrator from a psychiatric hospital affiliated with the University of California at San Francisco stopped to chat. She has a lot of substance abuse clients who don’t benefit from the 12-step approach, or don’t want to do it, and she hasn’t known where to send them. She said she was glad to find out about us. She took one of each. She talked about inviting us to do an in-service presentation to her staff.
  • A professor who teaches substance abuse among other things at a college in central Washington State was interested, took literature, and said she will tell her students about us.
  • A student from Western Michigan U in Kalamazoo stopped to chat, and took literature. He said he was attracted by the fact it was secular.
  • A clinical psychologist from San Jose CA who works mostly with children was interested to know we exist.
  • A graduate student working on his Psy.D. degree is going to be doing an internship at a treatment center in the East Bay and is taking our literature with him.
  • “Where do I get in touch with you guys in South Florida? My practice is drug and alcohol abuse. I run alcohol groups. And I run individual therapy for drug and alcohol dependence. And I cannot find non-12 step groups.” Me: “If such groups existed, would you refer clients to them?” He: “Yes.”
  • A counselor in private practice in Martinez CA works as a consultant for EAP programs at nearby major refineries. He says the refinery EAP programs are refusing to accept LifeRing participation on a par with 12-step group participation. He knows about our Martinez and Vallejo meetings.
  • A young man who has a position in APA says he has an uncle who has had his life taken over by AA, and it disturbs him because his uncle no longer has any life outside of that. He took our literature intending to give it to his uncle. I advised him not to expect too much.
  • A counselor from Lodi says she is going to do an internship in substance abuse and was glad to learn a secular alternative existed.

The hall closed at 5, and Craig and I walked to BART. I could barely keep my eyes open on the train home.

(To be continued.)

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