Sunday, August 19, 2007

APA Convention Journal (4)

At 9:11 a.m. when I reached the LifeRing booth, someone was already leaning over it, checking out the literature. He turned out to be the head of the substance abuse unit at a teaching hospital in LaCrosse WI.
  • He said, "Anything that is an alternative to AA is useful and of interest." He said he has "tons of people" that won't do AA. He took one of each of the brochures. He said that if we had a meeting there he would definitely refer people to it.
  • A few moments later the woman who was staffing the AA booth three booths away came by and returned one of our brochures that she had borrowed. She said it was "interesting" but she wasn't going to keep it.
  • A counselor from Pittsburgh PA took one of each of the brochures.
  • A solo practitioner in Palo Alto CA with substance abuse clients -- a former lecturer at both Stanford and UC Berkeley -- took all of our free literature and spent some time leafing through How Was Your Week.
  • A counselor from the Army substance abuse program in Alexandria VA said he had never heard of us. The Army is using something called Primed for Life, he said, and he is not happy with the results he is seeing. He wanted me to give him a workbook. I said the Army could afford to buy one. He said he would check into it online.
  • A psychologist from the Washington State prison system said she was interested in a secular approach and took literature. "We need to give people choices," she said.
  • The director of an alcohol and drug abuse institute and professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Washington in Seattle said that alternatives to 12-step were very interesting to him, and took all of our free literature. He said he is a firm believer in giving people alternatives to choose from.
  • "AA has so many people court-ordered attending that it's been diluted. Nobody's serious about recovery in those meetings. The serious people don't go to AA anymore." That was a counselor from Jonesboro AK. "An alternative would be good."
  • A nurse who is now working for the new Prometa program stopped by -- she knew LifeRing because she had been on night duty at the Merritt Peralta Institute in Oakland where we have a meeting. She gave me a hug. She says they have the Recovery by Choice workbook at Prometa and already have one client who does LifeRing and is doing well. She's looking forward to continuing to refer to us.
  • A graduate student at the University of Michigan who is working on a research project on substance use among teens took our literature and expressed interest.
  • A student from the University of Birmingham in AL said it would be very nice to see something other than 12-step. He asked whether I had seen the South Park caricature of AA. He said it made fun of the AA religious approach, pointing out that a religious approach turns a lot of people off. It also made fun of the disease notion, depicting it as an excuse for continuing to drink. He said it would be good to see an alternative to 12-step emerge.
  • A counselor from Plainfield NY perked up when he heard we were not 12-step. He took all of our free literature. He has substance abuse clients and wants to offer them choices.
  • A post-doc from a family practice in Piedmont CA says he has had clients who have struggled and struggled with the 12-step approach and then his supervisor told him about LifeRing, so he sent them to LifeRing and they are doing better. When he finishes his internship he is going to be working in the prison system.
  • A counselor from a university in New Jersey who is finishing her doctorate and has worked in substance abuse in the past – she is an older student – says “a lot” of her patients were deeply troubled by “the god thing” in AA and got no benefit from it. She is very pleased to hear there is an alternative and wants to know do we have groups in New Jersey. She took the literature and says she will definitely read it.
  • A researcher from the Alcohol Research Group in Emeryville CA (next door to Oakland) spent 15 minutes chatting with me. She does outcomes research and might be interested in doing an outcomes study of LifeRing. We had a very nice chat.
  • A clinician at a university health center in Sacramento CA who works with students was aware of Lifering and wanted to know did we have a meeting in Sacramento. She said she definitely would refer people to us if we had a meeting there. She says AA works for some people but turns a lot of other people away and an alternative is necessary.
  • A counselor from Long Island NY became receptive when she heard we were a non-step group. She took the brochures and said she would give them to the people in her agency who do addictions. I told her about the Smithtown and Deer Park LifeRing meetings; she said that was not far from her agency.
  • A counselor from Berkeley says he knows about us already and gives out our schedule to patients; I gave him a copy of the current local schedule.
  • An older gentleman from Atlanta joked with me, saying that he was “a secular Christian,” meaning, an atheist. He was very interested and took our literature.
  • A couple of women counselors from a residential program in Utah said they were interested in alternatives and took our literature.
  • A counselor from Seton Hall University in New Jersey took the literature to give to a colleague who does substance abuse counseling in Orange.
  • A student who is interested in becoming a psychiatrist expressed interest in our approach and took two brochures.
  • A counselor from Mishiwa IN took our literature.
  • A counselor from Ft Lauderdale FL who bought the Recovery by Choice workbook two years ago has been using it with his clients said he is having good results with it. It is “more cognitive, more motivational, than the traditional 12-step ‘do as I say’ approach.” His clients like that.
  • A clump of people around the desk – too many too fast for me to note their name tags – grabbed literature and said they needed if for their clients “because AA doesn’t work for everyone.”
  • A counselor in private practice in New Jersey and New York says it’s good to have alternatives. “We need them.” She took literature.
  • A couple of high school seniors stopped and each took a brochure.
  • A woman from the AA booth – a different one than the earlier one -- hovered. I gave her a friendly “hello” and we exchanged sobriety dates and chatted about how good it was to be sober. She asked a few questions about our approach, I explained it to her. I asked her, did she want literature. She said, “No thanks.”
  • A student from Cincinnati OH said she hadn’t decided on a career, but maybe would go into substance abuse recovery. She took a brochure.
  • A psych student from Nacogdoches TX wanted to know whether LifeRing subscribed to the disease model. I said our only criterion was the desire to get clean and sober and we left it up to individuals whether they found the disease model useful. He said he had read studies where the disease model served as a rationale for relapse. He is going to start graduate work in substance abuse in the fall. He does not like the 12-step approach because of its religiosity and because of the disease model. He took our literature.
  • A counselor doing addictions counseling in Glendale CA says she has clients that go in and out of 12-step inpatient programs – “hello, something isn’t working there.” Very interested to hear there is an alternative, took our literature.
  • A Ph.D. who works for the New York City Police Department took our literature and is going to pass it along to the substance abuse people in her office.
  • A counselor from Toronto took literature.
  • A person from Riverside CA took literature.
  • The sales manager of the company that owns the new Prometa program took one of each of our brochures and says he wants to take me to lunch sometime because he is interested in our secular approach.
  • “Being in combat cuts two ways. Some people get more religious. For other people, the whole religion thing drops away. They want nothing more to do with it.” -- A counselor at a VA facility in Pittsburgh PA. He says when they send those veterans to 12-step groups they just don’t relate to it at all. He is happy that there is a secular alternative.
  • An undergraduate from La Mirada CA stopped, asked a few questions, and took a piece of literature.
  • A counselor who works with teens in Edmonton AL took literature.
  • A psychologist from North Anderberg MN says she has a brother who just got out of Hazelden, which is 12-step. She took our literature in case that doesn’t work for him, she has us for a Plan B.
  • A private practitioner from San Diego who has addiction clients was interested to learn there is a secular option, and took literature. “I have group members who go to AA or NA and they come back to me and say it is not working for them. I want them to keep going and try something new.”
  • A student intern from Wausau WI who does alcohol and drug recovery groups was interested to hear that we existed and took our literature.
  • A young man who is on his way to a substance abuse counseling job in Victoria BC knew about us from his former job at Kaiser in San Rafael CA, and was tickled to hear we had a LifeRing meeting in Nanaimo, next door to Victoria.
  • Two counselors from Denver – one from a university there, another from a mental health agency – stopped and asked a lot of questions and were very supportive. One of them bought the workbook. I told them to be sure to connect with the LifeRing meetings in Denver.
  • A counselor from Long Island knew Smithtown and Deer Park, where we have LifeRing meetings, said she is not far from there and she is going to read our literature and send people to those meetings.
  • A counselor from Columbus GA working for a private mental health agency there said they recently opened a unit for military people at nearby Ft. Benning. He corroborated what another counselor told me earlier about the effect of combat on religiosity. He says trauma generally can cut two ways, either reinforcing religiosity or tearing it down. He told me about a very devout churchgoing young woman who was brutally kidnapped and raped, but survived. She could not understand how God would let this happen to her. He says when people come to him – the substance abuse counselor – with questions like that, he sends them to the chaplain. He strongly agreed that treatment programs need to offer both a religious and a secular option to serve their clientele.
  • A counselor from Lafayette CA, a suburb in the San Francisco Bay Area, had not heard of us but said she was glad to do so, and took the local meeting schedule. She was pleased to see that there were meetings every day. She just go her license to practice.
  • A counselor from Cincinnati OH said “we need more secular material out here, we need more secular groups.”
  • A psychology teacher from Wright State University in Ohio, who has done outcomes research and is familiar with Motivational Interviewing, said he was very enthused to find out we existed. He will mention LifeRing in his lectures and keep our literature available in his office to let people know there are options.
  • A counselor with the county mental health facility in Bakersfield CA (Kern county) perked up when she heard we were not 12-step but secular. She took the literature and said she would read it.
  • A counselor in independent practice in San Mateo CA took our literature and said that secular groups are necessary.
  • Tom Horvath, the president of SMART Recovery, dropped by again and we had another friendly chat about the issue of how to develop more group leaders.
  • A counselor from San Diego wants to know, do we have a meeting there? He will send people if we do.
  • A counselor from Las Positas college in Livermore CA had a long chat with Gillian E. (who joined me at the Lifering booth after lunch). He has a brother who is struggling to get sober in Ft. Bragg CA, and was enthusiastic to hear there was another approach besides 12-step. He took one of each of the brochures to give to his brother.
  • Two students from Tampa stopped by, appeared a bit bemused by the whole concept, but said they would check it out on the web. They took some literature.
  • A counselor from the juvenile drug court in Sacramento took our literature and wants to know when we’ll have a meeting in Sacramento.
  • A counselor in private practice from Mineola Long Island NY took our literature and said she can refer people to our Deer Park and Smithtown meetings.
  • A retired psychologist from Gillette NJ says she’s out of it herself but she sees much too much religion around and she’ll pass on our literature to her younger colleagues.
  • A senior researcher from the Pearson Group, the huge publisher that owns the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), stopped to talk about his daughter who is having serious drug and alcohol problems. He asked many questions and took our literature and he will try to get his daughter interested.
  • A graduate student in San Francisco who is beginning his doctoral research was very interested in LifeRing, chatted for quite a while, and took literature.
  • A young counselor who is going to work on a reservation near Phoenix AZ was quite interested. She bought How Was Your Week and took other literature.
  • A social worker from Rochester NY stopped and took literature.
  • A counselor from a residential program for teens in Camarillo CA chatted and took literature.
  • A counselor from Singapore Malaysia asked questions and took literature.
  • The head of an alcohol recovery clinic in South Korea stopped, chatted, and bought a workbook.
  • Two women from Texas Women’s University in Denton TX spent some time chatting, and took a lot of literature to give out to their colleagues.

As the exhibit hall closed and I took apart the display and packed the remaining literature, two more people came up, one of them breathless, and wanted information. I dug into the box and gave them brochures. After I disassembled the PVC pipe frame, I took a hard look at the cardboard display panels and tossed them into the trash. They’d taken a beating. For the next show we need to upgrade and freshen up the display.

I am very grateful to Gillian E. who gave me and the remaining display materials and literature a ride across the bay in her car.

-- MN.

1 comment:

Dale P. said...

A snippet...

"The Army is using something called Primed for Life, he said, and he is not happy with the results he is seeing. He wanted me to give him a workbook. I said the Army could afford to buy one. He said he would check into it online"

"Prime for life!" was also used in KY ADE. It is produced by Prevention Research Institute (PRI)and contains some of same tools as the LifeRing workbook.It's subtitled "a risk reduction program."