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SAMHSA News - March/April 2005, Volume 13, Number 2

 ATTC Network Addresses Workforce Development Needs

This is the second article in a series on workforce development. An earlier article focused more on mental health (see SAMHSA News, November/December 2004). This current article highlights two initiatives by one of SAMHSA’s most established workforce development resources in the addiction treatment field, the Addiction Technology Transfer Centers.

Jean Jones, C.A.P., was so burned out by her job as a program administrator at Operation PAR, Inc., in St. Petersburg, FL, she was ready to abandon the field she had worked in for 27 years. Then she had an experience she credits with saving her career in substance abuse treatment: She attended a leadership institute developed by the Southern Coast Addiction Technology Transfer Center (ATTC). This center is 1 of 14 regional ones funded by SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) to increase the knowledge and skills of addiction treatment practitioners.

The week-long leadership institute and the 6 months of working with a mentor that followed not only cured Ms. Jones’ burnout but boosted the morale of her staff, formerly plagued by rapid turnover. The most important lesson? To stop trying to tackle both administrative and clinical tasks.

“I thought I was supporting my staff by helping out,” said Ms. Jones, who noted that she became a supervisor in 1998 without any real training or certainty about what she was doing. Her mentor saw her hands-on approach differently, asking whether she really trusted her staff to do things right. “I backed off a lot as a result,” said Ms. Jones. “And when I backed off, my staff blossomed. I was getting in their way.”

Helping to build an effective workforce is exactly what the ATTCs were designed to do. Established in 1993, the ATTC network consists of a national office and 14 regional centers dedicated to conveying the latest scientific knowledge to the field and improving the work of addiction treatment practitioners. Serving as resource centers, the network creates initiatives, services, and products as specific local or national needs emerge.

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Training Emerging Leaders

The leadership institute in which Ms. Jones participated, for example, was the Southern Coast ATTC’s response to rapid turnover in the addiction workforce. “With so many people retiring and so much turnover in the field, we’re just not grooming people for leadership positions,” said Southern Coast ATTC Director Pamela Waters, M.Ed., who developed the institute model. “People move up the ladder quickly because there are vacancies and agencies are scrambling.” The institute model gives each class of 15 to 20 mid-level staffers a chance to learn leadership skills ranging from communicating with staff to being assertive in meetings, from managing time to setting priorities.

The process begins with what’s called a 360-degree assessment of participants. Participants’ supervisors, peers, staff, and participants themselves log on to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Graduate School Web site and assess participants’ performance in 27 different leadership competencies.

Participants next attend an intensive, week-long training provided by ATTC staff and USDA trainers. They then develop individual leadership development plans and spend the next 6 months working with a mentor on an individual project to enhance one or more competency areas identified as needing extra work during their assessments. During that time, participants are required to take an additional 20 hours of continuing education.

“The training isn’t free,” said Workforce Development Team Leader Karl D. White, Ed.D., of CSAT. “Each agency that sends a participant must agree to free the trainee from regular duties for enough time over the next 6 months following the immersion training to ensure completion of the continuing education requirements. In some ATTC regions, these activities are free of charge. In other regions, depending on an individual’s needs, some continuing education activities may have tuition attached.”

All the ATTCs are now replicating the leadership institute model in their own regions. Regional leadership conferences are being funded and produced by the ATTCs in a joint venture with CSAT’s Partners for Recovery program.

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Enhancing Clinical Supervision

The Northwest Frontier ATTC responded to a different problem: an extremely diverse addiction workforce. “We have counselors who have everything from graduate degrees in clinical services to people who learned their counseling skills on the job,” explained Steve Gallon, Ph.D., the center’s principal investigator and an adjunct associate professor of public health and preventive medicine at Oregon Health Sciences University in Salem, OR, where the ATTC is housed. In response, Dr. Gallon created a curriculum to train supervisors how best to supervise this diverse clinical workforce.

Supervisors play a key role in ensuring that counselors, no matter what their backgrounds, are doing things right, said Dr. Gallon. “The clinical supervisor is really the agency’s representative in terms of encouraging staff to follow the agency’s policies, procedures, and guidelines,” he explained. “And there’s a fair amount of research indicating that if you train someone to implement an evidence-based practice but don’t supervise the delivery of that practice, within a fairly short period of time the person’s proficiency degrades, the quality of care diminishes, and pretty soon what you think is common practice is something different in every single counselor’s office.”

Teaching supervisors the clinical supervision skills they need to mentor counselors effectively is the goal of the highly interactive, 21-hour curriculum Dr. Gallon created. Entitled “Clinical Supervision One: Building Chemical Dependency Counselor Skills,” the curriculum focuses on the teaching and mentoring aspects of supervision.

After an overview of a clinical supervisor’s tasks and functions, the curriculum teaches participants how to observe counselors performing their clinical duties, assess counselors’ proficiencies, prepare feedback, structure meetings with counselors, and design learning plans to improve counselors’ performance.

As a framework, the curriculum uses SAMHSA’s Technical Assistance Publication 21, Addiction Counseling Competencies: The Knowledge, Skills, and Attitudes of Professional Practice.

Dr. Gallon estimates that somewhere between 500 and 1,000 supervisors in the Northwest Frontier region have undergone the training. Idaho, in particular, is taking the curriculum very seriously. A majority of the state’s clinical supervisors have already undergone the training, especially now that the state requires agencies to provide clinical supervision and reimburses such supervision at the same rate as counseling.

The Northwest Frontier ATTC has trained trainers in some states outside its region. And other regions have adapted the curriculum to meet their specific needs and provide the training. For the future, more curricula are on the way, said Dr. Gallon, noting that upcoming topics will include dealing with difficult supervisory situations.

“The feedback has been extremely positive,” said Dr. Gallon. “We have many people saying they wish they had this training years ago when they first started doing supervision.”

For more information, visit the National ATTC Web site at www.nattc.orgEnd of Article

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SAMHSA News - March/April 2005, Volume 13, Number 2

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