Main Street 304 York Street Westminster, Md. 21157 Gettysburg, Pa. 17325 (410) 876-3030 (410) 596-4917

The Rhizome Substance Abuse & Addiction Treatment Network
Description The Rhizome Substance Abuse & Addiction Treatment Network is a unique intervention and treatment approach to working with adolescents, adults and families who are afflicted by substance abuse and addictions. In the addictions field there has been a tradition of working with substance abusers and addicts in both community outpatient and residential rehabilitation centers through individual and group therapy and a twelve step approach emphasizing participation in self-help groups (Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous). This approach dominates the field of addictions and may be of great value to many facing the long term challenges of addiction but may be limiting in terms of intervention options. I have been working in the fields of addictions, mental health and family therapy for 37 years and have observed that many adults referred for addiction treatment reject the twelve step approach; in research 50 per cent or more who are fortunate to recover do so without participation in self-help and nearly all adolescent addicts reject the twelve step model. Another striking factor has been that despite the literature that indicates addiction is a “family disease” there is little or no true family treatment offered in community outpatient drug and alcohol clinics or residential rehabilitation programs. Instead, family education, relapse prevention and workshops are offered to parents. Although of some value education alone has been shown to not be effective in changing patterns of substance abuse and addictive behavior. The main reason for this I believe that in many families of addicts dysfunctional patterns of family behavior, such as enabling, overprotection and rescuing behaviors on the part of family members inhibit possibilities for change. Along with the addict families become imprisoned and victimized by the substance and often inadvertently maintain addictive behaviors by not holding the addict responsible or accountable for their behavior. Addicts are notorious for organizing loved ones and significant others around their illness in such a way they are protected from the effects of addiction. Many families have considerable difficulty escaping from these realities and spend countless frustrating years sending their addictive loved one to inpatient and outpatient centers in an often fruitless effort to be “cured” of their addiction. The families are rarely if ever told they could directly influence the course of the addictive process by intimate involvement in the treatment process and taking action to support and challenge the addict to give up the substance. In creating the Rhizome Substance Abuse and Addiction Treatment Network process I am attempting to add another dimension to the treatment of addiction. The central 1

feature of this process is to identify and activate the social network of the substance abuser/addict who functions as “treatment agents” in supporting and challenging the addict to change their behavior. I assist the addict and family in developing a social network team that can include the addict, parents, siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and natural supports such as pastors/ministers, friends, neighbors, peers, teachers/educators, community involved agencies such as juvenile and adult probation and significant others as identified by the addict and their family. This team meets on a regular basis, usually once weekly with me to develop an assessment, intervention and treatment plan for the addict. Network meetings are held in home on a regular basis to implement the plan as designed by the team and can be supplemented by individual sessions with the addict. The social network team is charged with the responsibility for developing rules, guidelines and expectations for the addicts’ behavior. Some of these expectations may include but not be limited to work, spending money and managing finances, attending self-help groups, diet, nutrition and exercise, peer interaction, restrictions on where they are allowed to go, attendance at network meetings and so forth. In addition the network is responsible for taking random and on demand drug screens in consultation with the family therapist. The addict is directly accountable to the social network and is given considerable support and challenge as needed. For example, if the addict violates rules and expectations or uses alcohol/drugs the network will develop and implement meaningful consequences for such behavior. The overall goal of social network intervention is to motivate the addict to give up substance use and to assist in the long term process of remaining substance free (recovery). Advantages of the Rhizome approach • The family and natural support social network are imminently more capable of supporting and challenging the addict than the professional community in that the addict will likely respond over time more positively for those who love, care and know them best • The social network approach lends itself to more sustainable outcomes in that participants are likely to be involved with the addict in the long term • The addict benefits from being held accountable by the social network for following rules, guidelines and expectations as set forth rather than by referral agencies, courts or treatment professionals • Enablers who are organized and victimized by the addiction can be influenced to move from a protective and rescuing position to one of change and treatment agent. • Collaboration between families of addicts, natural supports and family therapists working together provide a more optimistic context for recovery and problem resolution. Families involved in this process consistently report that being involved has positive effects in that they are contributing to turning around the problem • The substance abuser/addict has a direct opportunity to make amends and re-build bridges with loved ones and significant others he/she has hurt or offended by substance abusing or addictive behavior. The re-building of relationships is essential for healing. 2

The Rhizome Substance Abuse and Addiction Treatment Network is an innovation in the treatment of addiction. The activation of the family and natural support network of the addict is a powerful tool for changing behavior. Social network intervention is practiced all over the world in such modalities as the Open Dialogue, Family Group Decision Making, Wraparound process and the Social Network Intervention of Ross Speck, M.D. The process can be utilized in working with adolescents or adults suffering from addiction or co-occurring mental health disorders and is an alternative to placement in residential rehabilitation centers or as a step down from an inpatient setting. The process may be used as an adjunct to traditional individual and group therapy offered in outpatient and residential settings. The process is a strengths-based, collaborative process focusing on strengths, gifts and potentials rather than traditional deficit-based, pathological thinking and practice. The emphasis is on creating partnership between addicts, their families and natural support systems, family therapists and community involved agencies such as probation agencies, courts, recovery programs, outpatient and inpatient drug and alcohol programs, schools, self help programs and professional practitioners where knowledge and resources are pooled in an interconnected manner. For example if the addict is referred for social network treatment the referral source and community involved agency staff will be invited to join the team. I am actively connecting this process in Carroll County, Maryland and Southern Pennsylvania with lawyers, courts, community agencies and families. In addition I offer training and consultation to community based alcohol and drug programs and residential rehabilitation centers in this process. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, would like additional information or provide feedback on how to improve the process. Dean C. Wolf, LCSW-C Licensed Clinical Social Worker Board Certified, Approved Supervisor Partners for Creative Collaboration


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