How to help those in need through Addictions Work
If you want to help others, and have chosen to do so in the field of social services, it’s important that you understand all of the problem factors a person might have in their life, including addiction. That’s why Centennial College created the Addictions Work: Professional Practice Skills Certificate Program, designed for professionals who want extra training. Denise Halsey is the Program Coordinator, Curriculum Developer, and a Professor in the program, as well as being a Centennial College graduate. She’s also a veteran of the social work field, having worn multiple hats, and understands the importance of proper training in Addictions and Mental Health in the field of social work. Here’s why she made the program, what it offers, and why it’s important.
"I’ve been in the social field for about 100 years," Denise jokes. "I’ve worked in nearly every area." Denise has been a juvenile corrections officer, worked in treatment centres in the private and public sectors, and worked in shelters, among other things.
"Addiction is so prevalent in our society," she says. "The mental health and addiction piece is everywhere, and it’s only within the last five years that people have been putting it together that it’s addiction and mental health. I’ve worked as a social worker for over 25 years, and everywhere I’ve worked, it’s been there."
"From working in all of those different places," she says, "I’ve come to understand how close addiction and mental health are, so I got really excited when Centennial stepped up with the Addiction and Mental Health two-year diploma." Now, she’s creating her own additional component with the certificate program.
What it offers
The Addictions Work certificate program is a short, five-course offering, that focuses on the practical and mental health components of dealing with patients suffering from addiction.
"All five of them are very, very specifically put together," Denise says. "It is for graduates from all areas of the social field, as well as those who have worked in agencies, but don’t necessarily have all of the pieces. It’s all very current. I know a lot of people on the frontlines at shelters that are excited over these courses."
"We’re able to explain the theories behind Addiction, and teach you how to apply them, to be present, mindful and effective while still honoring the person in front of you," she explains.
"This program is about the missing pieces," Denise explains, giving an example. "Like when I worked in withdrawal management, it surprised me how many people did not know about psychopharmacology. You’d think because of the mental health piece, they’d know about that." Psychopharmacology for Addiction Treatment, the study of how drugs affect mood, is one of the courses offered here.
"We have a few courses starting in June," she adds. "One is Withdrawal Management, Overdose Prevention & Harm Reduction, and that I’m really thrilled with, because it talks about areas a lot of people don’t know about or have much knowledge around."
"Even my husband, who works for family services, wants to take the Trauma-Informed & Solution Focused Counseling course," she says. "We usually focus on the trauma of clients and their families, but what about your staff? We all, by vicarious trauma, can be hurt by the people we work with, because they’re so wounded. It became one of my soapboxes."
"The program is all about making sure you know the theory behind all the necessary components, and making sure you can apply it," Denise says. "So, the practical skills and a lot of the work that you’ll do, some of it is their own research, some of it, I have guest speakers coming in who are specialties, like one of my old students, who was 35 years incarcerated, and had been marginalized,
systemically stigmatized, etc. So he will come in and talk about the experience, like many other that will come in, so you can get face to face experience."
An important thing to learn
Denise is passionate about this certificate, stressing that it’s important for anyone looking to get into the social services field.
"I never set out to work with addictions, but no matter where I work, it’s there,” she says. "It’s almost an undiscussed piece. People avoid talking about it, or there’s stigmas around it, or it’s ‘people like them, not like us.’ But people are recognizing it’s there, no matter what area you work with. For me, it’s almost been this hidden conversation. It’s so prevalent in our homes, in our work, and in our lives, that it’s almost a universal trauma."