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2014 Outstanding Clinicians Awards

July 28, 2014
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Now in its sixth year, Addiction Professional's Outstanding Clinicians Awards honors clinical professionals who demonstrate a commitment to informed practice and who never waver from a focus on the individual patient. Professional colleagues and readers of the print magazine and website nominate individuals in the categories of counselor, clinical manager, nurse and physician. This year we received around 100 total nominations, and we are grateful for the enthusiastic response.

The following profiles of Lisa Finlay, Tom Callahan, Jackie Leitz-Sanfelippo and Ken Roy, MD, reflect the dedication seen every day in these honorees' own organizations as well as in programs across the nation. We will formally honor this year's winners on Aug. 23 at our National Conference on Addiction Disorders (NCAD) in St. Louis.


Lisa Finlay

Position: Lead clinician

Organization: Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abusers (TROSA), Durham, N.C.

Quote: “On a general level I don't have an agenda for every resident. What they want to work on is what we work on.”

Comment from a colleague: “She is patient with her clients and meets them where they are; sometimes she is the first person in their lives who accepts them as is.”

Lisa Finlay does not adhere to one clinical approach alone in her work at Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abusers (TROSA), a therapeutic community (TC) for men and women in North Carolina. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness approaches are just some of the research-supported practices commonly used in the groups Finlay runs. For her, it is about getting a complete read on a resident.

“Coming from an outpatient program before this, I really have enjoyed working in an inpatient setting. I'm working with people on all aspects of their lives,” says Finlay, 53.

She currently is prioritizing an effort to become more skilled at treating the process addictions that often surface in the recovering substance addict. Her ever-present drive to learn more inspired the former supervisee who nominated Finlay for the award to write about her, “Lisa is committed to learning about addiction and recovery; she never acts like she knows it all.”

Finlay still can be considered relatively young in the counseling profession, having started around age 40 and discovering a second career. She had acquired counseling skills originally in her work with a battered women's coalition. She now gets energized by seeing successes and playing a role in bringing about change in someone's life.

And TROSA is about equipping residents with the tools for change. Most of its operating costs are covered by revenue from a number of on-site businesses staffed by residents who build vocational skills and learn the importance of teamwork. A record number of residents, close to 500, are in the two-year residential program now; on a quarterly basis around 25 to 30 graduate in what becomes a highly emotional ceremony; many often mention Finlay by name as the person who taught them important coping skills.

The work is challenging for both residents and their clinicians—given that this is a TC, structure and rules predominate (Finlay says male and female residents cannot speak to each other for the first six months unless the topic is work-related; only after a year can there be any active socializing). Yet Finlay clearly has brought a perspective that has contributed to making the program more well-rounded.

“I really hounded the president of the organization to get hired,” she says. “Traditional TCs did not include counseling or psychiatry.”

Finlay sees around 25 residents per week in counseling, does supervisory work with interns in the organization, and assists in credentialing training for individuals who have graduated from the program. She tailors her approach to the personal stories she hears from individuals or in group. “I kind of like to ad lib and go where the group goes, and in a sensible way,” she says.


Tom Callahan

Position: Executive director

Organization: Cove Forge, Williamsburg, Pa.

Quote: “A lot of people who go through school don't get a lot of information about addiction and how it works. I want our clinicians to believe that anybody they meet is capable of recovery.”

Comment from a colleague: “He views himself as a subservient leader to his staff, and is committed to one mission, and that is to help those afflicted with the disease of addiction.”

Tom Callahan has served in multiple roles at Cove Forge, a 225-bed west central Pennsylvania facility offering multiple levels of care (it has been owned by CRC Health Group for most of Callahan's 14 years there). While now in the director's role, he still engages in clinical supervision and maintains close ties with the counseling staff, while also maintaining a private-practice caseload.

“I think it's really important for me to keep my skills sharp and to stay in touch with what got me into the field to begin with,” Callahan says.

He describes himself as “a grassroots kind of guy” who enjoys addressing issues from the ground up, This aptly describes the work he has done to establish an initiative that likely will prove to have a lasting impact across the CRC family of centers, and perhaps beyond.