Thursday, September 28, 2006

"We are not 12-step sponsors for pay"

BURBANK, CA: H. Westley Clark, M.D., J.D., M.P.H, director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment of the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), gave the keynote at the annual addiction counselors' conference in Burbank this morning. In the course of reviewing the high rate of turnover, the low level of educational preparation, and the low pay scale in the addiction counseling profession, he said that some people are confused about what counselors do. "We are not 12-step sponsors for pay," Clark emphasized. "I love 12-step programs but we are not. We are driven by state of the art knowledge in a very complex field."

The remark drew vigorous applause from maybe a third or half the audience of several hundred addiction professionals in the ballroom of the Burbank Hilton. The main reason for the low pay and the low esteem in which addiction counselors are held is the constant recruitment of 12-step graduates who see the job primarily as a service opportunity, work for peanuts, and bring with them little but their own experiences. A lot of people in addiction counseling are in fact no more than "12-step sponsors for pay," and this holds back the profession.

At the start of his Powerpoint presentation, Clark showed a photo of Pres. Bush with a sentimental quote about people helping people. As a high federal employee, Clark probably had to show such a slide. Not a single person in the audience applauded.

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