Training opportunities in substance abuse is giving practitioners added clout in treating DUI offenders, in conducting forensic work involving substance abuse evaluation and in treating clients.
The credential requires a practitioner to have background and experience in substance abuse treatment, to pass an exam, and to update the certificate every three years. (For more information on this program, contact the APA Practice Organization's College of Professional Psychology at (202) 336-6100 or at College; also see the September 2000 issue of the Monitor.)
For those who lack substance abuse training and have the means to obtain it on the postdoctoral level, several state-of-the-art postdoctoral programs exist across the country, those involved say. These include:
The Rutgers University Alcoholism Institute in Brunswick, N.J.
The University of Washington's department of psychology, headed by G. Alan Marlatt, PhD.
The University of New Mexico's department of psychology, where well-known researcher William R. Miller, PhD, conducts studies on addictions treatment.
Another excellent venue for practitioners who lack the time for on-site learning is a program run by the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment called Addiction Technology Transfer Centers. Psychologists can access this program on line at www.nattc.org and sign up for distance-learning courses as well as hard-copy manuals and books covering the latest in treatment findings.
In addition, APA is pursuing a number of initiatives that promise to open more doors for psychologists, says James G. "Gil" Hill, PhD, director of APA's Office of Rural Health and Substance Abuse. These include:
Keeping in regular contact with government agencies related to mental health and substance abuse and making them aware of psychology's agenda.
Joining forces with the American Society of Addiction Medicine, a progressive cadre of physicians, psychologists and other health-care practitioners interested in substance abuse treatment.
Collaborating with the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality, a government entity that considers psychologists primary-care providers in the treatment of tobacco dependence.
Integrating psychologists into the National Institute on Drug Abuse Clinical Trials Network as treatment providers in community-based research protocols.
Staying up-to-date with the recently released National Treatment Plan for Substance Abuse, a comprehensive goal-driven plan by the Center for Substance Treatment that enumerates a wide range of activities for psychological involvement, including screening, diagnosis and rehabilitation.
Despite this progress, however, those in the field bemoan a general lack of substance abuse training in psychology doctoral programs. This gap will likely fill, they believe, as the need for such training becomes increasingly clear.
"Effective treatment of substance use disorders is not a mysterious art," says Arnold Washton, PhD, who heads an addiction treatment center. "Scientific evidence points to the efficacy of therapeutic styles and treatment approaches that are well within the repertoire of many if not most psychologists."
Those approaches, he maintains, simply need to be incorporated into standard training.