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College campus in the works for addiction and mental health professionals

August 27, 2015
by Julia Brown, Associate Editor
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Destination Hope, a 10-year-old dual-diagnosis and gender-specific treatment center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and The Academy for Addiction Professionals (The Academy), an education-focused organization, are in the process of establishing a college campus that will offer degrees and educational tracks for those in recovery and others to become professionals in the mental health and addiction field.

Ben Brafman, LMHC, CAP, president and CEO of Destination Hope and director of The Academy, says the concept began with taking addiction, treatment and recovery and thinking backwards. “The biggest concern across the board after a client leaves traditional treatment is the aftercare services and case management, so I thought what if we were able to not only get a person into recovery and get them better, but also provide them with a skill and education,” he says.

“To be able to say to families, ‘Not only is your loved one going to come into treatment, get better and have access to continued treatment, but they’ll also be able to make money and be a productive member of society.”

The concept, Brafman says, is that those who need treatment would come in for services, step down after 30 to 90 days, and then housing and education related to addiction and mental health would be available to them on a sober campus.

“In my experience from running a treatment center, many clients that come through treatment want to get into the field,” he says. “They may not be sure what they want to do, but they’re so grateful and they feel such a connection that they really want to learn how to be a counselor or case manager or be in admissions or marketing.”

Currently, The Academys—directed by Brafman and accredited through the Florida Certification Board—offers in-person and online certification training, professional development and continuing education in behavioral health. Certification programs that are currently offered include those for addiction professional, addiction counselor, recovery support specialist, recovery coach and behavioral health technician.

Its two established classrooms are located in Fort Lauderdale and Delray Beach, in which a few hundred people attend. Its online presence is much larger, with more than 3,000 students, Brafman says. The Academy will the fund the future campus.

“But we want to expand The Academy from the Florida Certification Board where they’re just getting a certification to bachelor’s and master’s programs, liberal arts and different types of degrees,” he says.  “There’s a demand for it, the marketing is there for it, and there is certainly a need for it. Our business plan is there and it’s just a matter of finding the next location that will be accessible to students.”

Brafman adds that he estimates that the campus will be up and running in about six to 18 months; he’s currently in the process of authoring a textbook that will be required reading for students and is scheduled to be released at the end of this year. 

He says that while certification programs are usually 14 months, anyone eager to learn about a specific topic—pharmacology, for example—can take an individual online or in-person course. Classes can be taken by anyone who has been impacted by the disease of addiction.

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Comments

I read this article with shock and disbelief. The entire concept is stupid at worst and misleading at best. Read all the academic and professional literature on when recovering folk should enter the field as counselors. The average is 3 to 5 years, and 2 at the least post-treatment. There are many reasons why - the least of which is that you need to be stable and established in your own recovery and able to walk the walk - before you are able to counsel others.

As an instructor of professional development and ethics for substance use disorder counseling students, I give this assignment each semester: "Alcoholics Anonymous guidelines suggest that recovering counselors have three to five years of abstinence before beginning to work in the field. Other substance abuse counseling ethicists agree with the three to five year minimum and include the term "sobriety". What reasons would different authorities have for recommending three to five years of sobriety and abstinence prior to beginning work in the field? Why do you believe these authorities emphasize abstinence as well as sobriety?"

I believe that organizations considering programs like this take a hard look at their motivation for doing so. If they decide that it is still ethical and morally right to blur the boundaries between treatment and academics, then they at least need to publish a prominent informed consent in their admissions policies that potential employers (ethical ones, anyway) won't consider them qualified candidates until they have 2 to 5 years of sobriety under their belts.

In response to Richard's comments above, I would like to first say that Destination Hope and the Academy for Addiction Professionals do a tremendous job in our community. As someone who works in this field and has seen firsthand how much they have helped a close family member, they are a testament to what a good treatment program model should embody. Richard, as an instructor in this field and influencer to many students, I would imagine you would commend and even boast how the Academy is an excellent resource to students and people in recovery. If you read the article in its entirety, Ben does not give an exact timeframe of when someone who is in recovery should start their education to work in this field. We agree that people should have the experience and gain longevity within their recovery before they make a serious committment to become certified to help others. Obviously, the longer they are sober and have adjusted back into society (getting a job, housing, building relationships) the better. Everyone is different and there is no "set time" for someone to feel inspired and ready to earn a degree if it's their calling and passion. We don't disagree that it will take several years as research does show, but for you to call this "stupid" and "misleading" is the exact reason we need to education people. We need to educate, promote and lift each other up. You're an educator-let's find ways to work together, rather than criticize.

In response to Richard's comments above, I would like to first say that Destination Hope and the Academy for Addiction Professionals do a tremendous job in our community. As someone who works in this field and has seen firsthand how much they have helped a close family member, they are a testament to what a good treatment program model should embody. Richard, as an instructor in this field and influencer to many students, I would imagine you would commend and even boast how the Academy is an excellent resource to students and people in recovery. If you read the article in its entirety, Ben does not give an exact timeframe of when someone who is in recovery should start their education to work in this field. We agree that people should have the experience and gain longevity within their recovery before they make a serious committment to become certified to help others. Obviously, the longer they are sober and have adjusted back into society (getting a job, housing, building relationships) the better. Everyone is different and there is no "set time" for someone to feel inspired and ready to earn a degree if it's their calling and passion. We don't disagree that it will take several years as research does show, but for you to call this "stupid" and "misleading" is the exact reason we need to educate people. We need to educate, promote and lift each other up. You're an educator-let's find ways to work together, rather than criticize.

It’s a good idea to educate people, who come to a treatment center for recovery from mental health issues and addiction. There are a lot of job opportunities in the field of counseling services and behavioral health services and a one year certification program can act as a foundation course for advanced studies. In that way, we must congratulate Destination Hope and The Academy of Addiction Professionals. Thanks to their efforts, the people in recovery can very well become mental health professionals themselves. For more information about career prospects in this field, you can visit www.therapytribe.com and find a career counseling therapist in your area.