What Abbotsford Needs To Learn About Addiction Treatment

Editor’s Note: We first published this article back in November, 2013, in the hopes that scientific research, facts and knowledge could replace the inerudite, anti-intellectual flailings of the uneducated, ill-informed and just plain wrong members our aged, conservative power structure who insist on attacking homeless drug addicts with bylaws, billy clubs and nonsense.

A recent series of comments on Facebook filled with hate and anger at the homeless drug addicts who, according to the Facebook poster, “Need to take responsibility for their situation …” prompted the republication of the original article in the hopes that those who know how to read and have the ability to absorb new ideas will discover why some of the desperate people on our streets are in the place they are.

Maybe, just maybe, if one of the old, white men who misused their legislative authority by giving us our current policy of displacing and dispersing, abusing and harassing, bullying and persecution, might see the light and find it in their hearts to stop violating and oppressing citizens who have no ability to defend themselves.

Neither ignorance nor belief can justify what is being done to Abbotsford’s homeless.

Those responsible should hang their heads in shame.


In an article published on thefix.com called ‘The Mental Health Field Fails at Addiction Treatment’, doctoral candidate in counseling psychology Yvon Pabian wrote of her profession, “We don’t want addicts as clients. We have little knowledge of, and less training in, addiction issues. We also have the same stigmatizing attitude toward addicts as the rest of society.”

If you replace the word ‘citizens’ for ‘clients’ in above quote you will get a fairly good description of Abbotsford’s relationship with it’s drug addicted citizens. Just like its ultravires and illegal Anti-Harm Reduction Bylaw, the City’s Anti-Homeless Bylaws, combined with PD Chief Bob Rich’s policy of treating addicts and homeless citizens at the end of a billy club, displacing and dispersing them five yards at a time, flies in the face of what we now know about addiction.

The City’s and the APD’s ignorance has landed it in court facing multiple law suits and a civil rights complaint over it’s treatment of drug users. Mayor Banman’s insistence on spending as much money as it will take to defend Abbotsford’s Anti-Homeless Bylaws and do whatever it takes to defeat his homeless fellow citizens will continue to erode Abbotsford’s reputation in the outside world and eat away at the fabric of the community.

We’ve republished the article below from thefix.com

The Mental Health Field Fails at Addiction Treatment
By Yvona Pabian

On the road to becoming a psychologist, I noticed a troubling inconsistency between my clinical experience and academic training: Despite the fact that I regularly encountered clients with addiction-related issues, I received little addiction training in graduate school. The prevailing message was that treating addiction issues fell outside of the work of psychologists and other mental health professionals. I have come to understand that this serious failure must be addressed in order to assure that clients with addiction are treated competently.

Substance Use Disorder (SUD) is the most prevalent mental health diagnosis among the general population. It is the nation’s leading cause of death, disability and disease and is implicated in many social problems, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Traditionally, addiction counselors who are in recovery have played the leading role in SUD treatment. But mental health providers are increasingly well placed to implement most aspects of addiction prevention, early intervention and treatment for people with both emotional disorders and SUD.

Yet many graduating students in mental health fields simply do not want to work with substance abusers. (For example, one study found that 70% of graduates did not find addiction work satisfying.) Once in practice, they are slow to respond to the addiction field’s demand for their services. It is possible to be a licensed psychologist having only very limited knowledge of SUDs. Critics have concluded that the lack of graduate addiction training can only be described as institutional denial or minimization of the significance of addictive disorders.

In her distinguished 2001 paper, “Helping ‘Difficult’ Clients,” Lisa Najavits, an addiction specialist, discussed her own initial reaction to addiction treatment: “If I had any prior impression, it was likely negative (an impression I have since realized is fairly typical in the mental health field): ‘They can’t get better,’ ‘I don’t understand that area of work,’ and ‘Alcoholics Anonymous is the main treatment for that.’”

My initial reaction as a psychology graduate student toward SUDs was no different.

I became interested in the treatment of SUDs when I realized that I lacked skills in diagnosing and treating addiction issues. I lacked knowledge of addiction theory, the biological basis of addiction, screening instruments and evidence-based treatments. I did not know how to manage people with a dual diagnosis. And I mainly focused on treating clients’ emotional problems, which I felt more confident in addressing. My deficits at times resulted in less than optimal client care.

The lack of graduate addiction training can only be described as institutional denial or minimization of the significance of addictive disorders.

I decided to pursue a clinical volunteer position at an outpatient addiction treatment facility in order to build confidence and gain skills in addiction counseling. Addiction counselors taught me invaluable skills in addiction treatment and shifted and corrected my flawed thinking about addiction. But I was puzzled that no treating psychologists were on staff. As a result, clients with SUDs—many of whom had multiple and complex problems—were receiving treatment only for their addiction.

The ugly truth is that people with SUDs are often viewed by mental health providers as morally weak, self-indulgent, unpredictable, dangerous and blameworthy.  I, too, felt somewhat judgmental of addiction clients’ predicament, frustrated with clients who relapsed, and skeptical about their prognosis. Not surprisingly, Illicit drug users report that they experience addiction treatment as filled with judgment. Addiction expert John Imhof even says, “The addiction treatment provider may possess such a significant amount of negative feelings or attitudes toward the addicted client that any hope for objective and effective diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation becomes diminished, if not completely eliminated.”

It is crucial that the mental health field critically examine its attitudes toward addiction work and its competencies to treat SUDs. Experts recommend that the field take a number of steps to improve psychologists’ and other mental health providers’ work with SUDs—both in academic training and in clinical practice.

As long as the addiction field and the mental health field remain artificially separated, we will, at best, continue to provide compartmentalized treatment that does not meet the needs of the whole client; at worst, clients will receive incompetent and harmful care.

1. The two fields must be integrated so that both professions work together for the good of the client.

2. Mental health providers need to be routinely trained in addiction issues.

3. They need to shift their thinking to viewing addiction treatment as a part of traditional mental health services.

4. They need to establish partnerships with addiction organizations to build their capacity to respond to addiction issues.

5. Addiction training needs to be included as a prerequisite for the accreditation of mental health training programs, the licensing of mental health professionals, and license renewal.

In addition, universities are not taking responsibility for guiding mental health field students to intervene with addiction cases.

6. Faculty need to be trained to provide education in addiction assessment and treatment as a part of the mental health program’s core curriculum.

7. They must increase their awareness of their own attitudes toward SUDs and challenge these attitudes’ negative effect on their instructional practices.

8. In order to advance innovative thinking about mental health providers’ role in addiction treatment, the profession must encourage students to be “torchbearers” of new ideas.

“First do no harm” is a pillar principle of medical ethics. If the mental health field takes these recommendations seriously, it can go a long way toward doing no harm to clean with addiction—and even doing them much good.

Yvona Pabian

Yvona Pabian

Yvona Pabian is a doctoral candidate in counseling psychology at Cleveland State University. Her clinical interests include addiction issues, co-morbid disorders, crisis intervention and diversity. Her research interests include the study of clinical judgment, addiction competencies and ethics.

Join the discussion One Comment

  • The Editor says:

    Keith Smith Says: http://www.tdpf.org.uk/…/after-war-drugs-blueprint…
    After the War on Drugs: Blueprint for Regulation | Transform: Getting Drugs Under Control
    Buy a hard copy of the book >There is a growing recognition around the world

    Keith Smith http://vancouver.ca/peopl…/four-pillars-drug-strategy.aspx

    Four Pillars drug strategy
    Vancouver’s Four Pillars Drug Strategy is a coordinated, comprehensive approach

    Keith Smith Abbotsford will be buried in BLOOD BORN diseases and health complications inside 10 years due to their ignorance and politics medalling in a MATTER OF PUBLIC HEALTH NOT PUBLIC POLITICS……me personally…I’d rather have a REGIONAL HEALTH AUTHORITY TAKE CARE OF MEDICAL MATTERS vs. CITY HALL…..LISTEN NOW CITY HALL OR PAY DEARLY LATER …..FOR YEARS !!!!!!!!!!

    From Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/294243091896/

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