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Faculty Member Helping Counselors Fight Substance Abuse

Dr. John Finneran with students
Dr. John Finneran

In the midst of an opioid crisis and urgent need for addiction and mental health counselors, Keene State College Health Science Associate Professor Dr. John Finneran is finding new ways to share research that will help counselors work with their patients.

“My goal is to help the helpers. The 12 Step Program used by Narcotics Anonymous is a powerful recovery tool that saves lives. Applying an understanding of the 12 Steps in a counseling setting by breaking down each step and taking patients through the process can enhance treatment outcomes,” said Dr. Finneran. “Most important to my work is that we are helping to address the needs of counselors so that they can best serve their patients. To start this process, I conducted a focus group with six counselors from the central New England area to explore the 12 Steps and identify strategies to most effectively distribute this information.”

Dr. Finneran is working with documentary filmmakers to develop a short film that will provide guidance to counselors based on the 12 Step Program. For instance, the first step is admitting the lack of control over addiction – through the film Dr. Finneran will explain how the work behind this step can be incorporated into a counseling setting.

In addition to delivering the film to counselors, Dr. Finneran is educating his students on his work and is preparing fourth-year students within the Health Science Addiction major or minor to observe open 12 Step meetings to gain insights about the recovery process.

“In other Addiction classes, I ask students to give something up that is important to them for several weeks such as coffee or snack foods. If this is not possible, I ask them to institute a new, healthier behavior such as meditation practice or getting enough sleep – something that temporarily disrupts and challenges their daily routine. I want them to experience and to journal about what it is like to introduce and sustain a change in their daily lives. My hope is that this exercise is a first step in helping students who have not experienced addiction to learn and appreciate how difficult such change can be.”

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