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A broader view of trauma

May 1, 2009
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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A leading lecturer and trainer examines trauma in the context of addicted families

As workers in the helping professions have become more attuned to the complex family dynamics that contribute to illness and recovery, they have gained a greater appreciation of the many ways in which family members might experience trauma. Internationally known addiction author and trainer Claudia Black, PhD, focuses a great deal in her present lectures on the more subtle and chronic ways in which trauma presents in addicted families, outside of the incidents of violence that often dominate the conversation.

“I talk about issues of abandonment, and the unpredictability that occurs in addictive homes,” says Black. “These problems can lead to a disruption in parenting, in work relationships, in more intimate relationships, and in the relationship to self.”

This July at the International University for Graduate Studies' 28th annual Summer Residency Program in St. Kitts, West Indies, Black will have an opportunity to present course material on trauma, family dynamics and other addiction-related topics over a four-day period. The university's July 4-11 program is designed for alcohol and drug abuse counselors, therapists, educators and other professionals seeking master's or doctorate degrees.

“Typically I go in and spend a day,” Black says of her usual course presentations. Topics she will address at the International University program will include appropriate family interventions across the continuum of treatment, family dynamics that relate to relapse, and issues in treating co-occurring sex addiction. Black's newest book is Deceived: Facing Sexual Betrayal, Lies, and Secrets, released in April by Hazelden Publishing.

Renewed focus on families

Black seeks in her presentations to facilitate professionals' recognition of the entire family as a client. She says that within the last few years she has seen more of a commitment to family programming in addiction treatment organizations, but adds that this is not a newfound phenomenon for many organizations in the field.

“We had a strong commitment to this in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but then we saw changes in the payment structure for the field,” Black says in reference to managed care's emergence and its calamitous effects for some providers. “The baby got thrown out with the bath water, literally.”

Now Black is seeing that agencies that weren't offering any family programming a short time ago are launching two- and three-day family programs. “There are still enough people in the field who have a history of knowing that the family is pivotal to the longevity of recovery,” she says. This knowledge extends beyond the specialty addiction sector to affect social workers and other professionals who also have become more informed about the existence and dynamics of addiction in families, she says.

Black says she shares in her current presentations a variety of tools she has developed for addressing aspects of depression, anger and relapse in families. She refers to anger as the most disrupted feeling in many of these troubled families, saying it can manifest as either chronic anger (even in some individuals who have been in recovery for some time) or extreme anger avoidance.

“There are people who are still raging at home, and a lot of this can have to do with their history of having experienced trauma in their lives,” Black says.

Trends in continuing education

Black says that while she has observed a decline in product sales in general at professional meetings in the field, the demand for continuing education credits and training remains strong in treatment organizations. While long-distance travel is no longer as easy for many organizations to pull off, there are greater expectations for online learning and satellite teaching opportunities, she says.

“We're going to see more of these meetings becoming more green,” she adds, with electronic handouts becoming the norm.

Black is looking forward to the opportunity this summer to address a highly experienced professional audience-and one with an international flavor-in St. Kitts. “This is an opportunity for me to ask them about the cultural overlay to some of the issues I discuss,” she says.

Other topics to be discussed by presenters at the International University's Summer Residency Program will include treating and preventing emotional abuse in the workplace, counseling special populations, and encouraging ethical practice through clinical supervision. For more information about the university's summer program and credit requirements, call (888) 989-4723 or visit http://www.iugrad.edu.kn.

Addiction Professional 2009 May-June;7(3):30-31