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Who will be the new trainers?

July 15, 2011
by Mark Sanders, LCSW, CADC
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A project in Illinois seeks to carry forward the knowledge base

Using notes from lectures he heard by Walter Green, MD, while he was a client in alcoholism treatment, the late Father Joseph Martin went on the lecture circuit himself and revolutionized the field of addiction treatment. With these lectures, Father Martin reduced the stigma of addiction with speeches he gave on alcoholism, now recorded as his famous “Chalk Talk” series.

Father Martin used this platform to deliver the message that alcoholics are not bad people, but rather suffer from a disease that needs to be treated. His message resonated worldwide.1

Over the course of the past quarter-century, other speakers/trainers have emerged to shape the field of addiction treatment and recovery, including but not limited to:

  • Jacqueline Small, author of Becoming Naturally Therapeutic. She reminded the field that while counseling techniques are important, the possession of naturally therapeutic qualities such as empathy, warmth, genuineness and a loving heart can go even further to help us keep clients engaged in treatment.2

  • Claudia Black, PhD, and Jerry Moe. Their lectures reminded us that while it is important to work with adults in chemical dependency treatment, we also need strategies to work with their children who suffer as a result of their parents' addictions.

  • Peter Bell. His pioneering work focused on the cultural aspects of addiction treatment and recovery. His speeches highlighted the belief that addiction is best treated if the cultural context in which it develops is taken into consideration.3

  • Stephanie Covington, PhD. Her lectures and writings have strongly influenced how the field works with chemically dependent women.

  • Stephanie Brown, PhD, and John Bradshaw. Their presentations reminded us of the importance of focusing on the entire family.

  • Terence Gorski. In the late 1980s and 1990s, when pessimism surrounded the field because inpatient treatment facilities were closing throughout the nation, Gorski affected the way treatment was done through his presentations on counseling for relapse prevention.

  • Cardwell C. Nuckols, PhD, is currently educating the nation in summer institutes and other conferences on addiction as a brain disease and its clinical implications.

  • William White and Don Coyhis are providing a great deal of education on the importance of anchoring recovery in the client's natural environment and of using indigenous healers along with trained professionals to facilitate recovery.

Goals include how to provide more effective client education, how to deliver better in-service trainings to co-workers, and how to pursue training as a career path in the addiction field.

Mark Sanders, LCSW, CADC
Mark Sanders, LCSW, CADC


The field of addiction treatment is currently facing numerous challenges and transitions, which highlight the need for informational, inspirational and visionary trainers to help guide these challenges. Some of these issues include a movement from doing business as usual to how to adopt evidence-based practices; the potential for nationwide cuts in funding for addiction treatment and how to address this challenge; the high incarceration rates for chemically dependent clients; the treatment of multi-problem clients who present with co-occurring conditions; and the uncertainty as to how the new healthcare initiatives nationally will affect addiction treatment and how the field can best prepare for them.

Many veteran trainers in the addictions field are in the fall or winter of their training careers. I have spoken with several who have told me they intend to retire soon. This raises an important question: Who will help identify, prepare and mentor the next generation of trainers in the field?

Goals include how to provide more effective client education, how to deliver better in-service trainings to co-workers, and how to pursue training as a career path in the addiction field.

Illinois project

A decade ago, six master trainers in Illinois came together to ponder how to prepare the next generation of trainers in the addiction field in the state. We decided to take action. We approached the state certification board for addiction counselors and asked if it would allow us to conduct an annual “Training of Trainers” at the annual state addictions conference for anyone interested in learning to be an effective trainer.

We received an enthusiastic yes and have offered this training for the past decade, alternating between a Fundamentals of Training and an advanced Training of Trainers two-day workshop. Some topics covered in the track for the Fundamentals of Training include:

  • How to select a training topic;

  • How to discover your passion as a trainer in the addiction field;

  • Delivery formats, including workshops, plenaries, keynote addresses, and how to assess your readiness to move from one format to another;

  • How to research your topic;

  • How to improve training delivery, including speech openings,
    closings, storytelling, and use of humor in trainings; and

  • Finding opportunities to practice.

Topics covered in the advanced Training of Trainers include:

  • Training as a career path in the addictions field;

  • How to go from free to fee;

  • Marketing;

  • How to build and maintain a part-time or full-time business as a trainer in the field;

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