Pubdate: Mon, 14 Apr 2008
Source: Ft. Worth Star-Telegram (TX)
Copyright: 2008 Star-Telegram Operating, Ltd.
Author: Alex Branch
Bookmark: (Treatment)


HURST -- At some point every year, Dolores Sutter looks over her
lectern at the faces in her classroom and asks, "How are you going to
take care of yourself?"

The faces range from late teens to middle-aged.

"How is it going to affect you when you see a person relapse who
you've been working so hard to help?"

It's an important question for these future drug- and
alcohol-addiction counselors studying at Tarrant County College's
Northeast Campus in Hurst. They will soon enter a field with clients
who have roughly a 10 percent success rate -- statistics say 9 of 10
addicts will relapse at some point during recovery.

If police are the soldiers in the war on drugs, then treatment
counselors are the medics, marching bravely into hostile, chaotic
territories to help, to heal, to save.

And for 28 years, Sutter has been a general, training students using a
curriculum she wrote for the college and preparing them for the
triumphs and disappointments of addiction treatment.

"I'm the eternal optimist -- I was injected with Pollyanna juice at
birth," Sutter said. "But you have to remember the statistics and rate
of relapse. And you have to keep that in front of you at all times so
you don't become discouraged."

'Inspired so many'

In her classroom, Sutter is energetic, talking with her hands and
pacing behind the lectern. Spirited class discussions are plentiful.

"Sometimes it feels like we're doing a large counseling session,"
Sutter said, laughing. "We encourage students to get to know each
other and build a support system among themselves. They will need it."

Sutter developed the Mental Health Program and Chemical Dependency
Counseling Training Program in 1982 while teaching in the college's
child development program. During its creation, Sutter met with the
heads of area social service agencies and hospitals and asked what
skills, expertise and certifications were needed in Tarrant County.

Chemical dependency counseling, they kept telling her.

Today, the program graduates about 45 students a year, a quarter of
whom usually go directly into addiction counseling. Almost all the
counselors in Tarrant County went through the program; many others
work in other parts of Texas.

"I applied for a job at a treatment center, and as soon as I told them
where I went to school, they said, 'Oh, how is Dolores?'" said Pam
Karnes, 49, who will graduate in May. "Everyone knows her because
she's inspired so many people to do the work."

Some students are recovering alcoholics or drug addicts. Some had
relatives with addictions. Others simply want to help people. This
isn't a career in which to get rich; new counselors typically make
$28,000 to $32,000 a year

"I had worked at a number of jobs, and many of them, regardless of the
pay, left me feeling I was not really making a difference," said
student Michael Ryan, 44. "I felt like I was always just earning a
paycheck after eight hours of work ... and at no point doing anything
meaningful for myself or another person."

'Pill-driven society'

And in the wake of what often feels like an overwhelming drug problem
in America, inspiration is key.

In 28 years, Sutter has watched addiction and treatment evolve.
Technology has improved; more research has been done on the brain and
the effects of addiction. Also, more addicts in treatment are younger,
in their teens and early 20s.

"They're hitting rock bottom earlier," Sutter said.

One reason could be the surge in prescription drug abuse, she

"I believe our society is very much a pill-driven society," Sutter
said. "And unfortunately, you do not know if you are going to have the
gene or genetic disposition to the disease [of addiction] until you
are introduced to the drug.

"Perhaps it has to do with our brains being introduced to those
chemicals sooner."

At the same time, treatment options have regressed. From 1985 to 1995,
treatment was readily available, she said. Then came increased
attention on "managed care," and insurance companies cracked down on
time and money patients can spend on treatment.

It takes most addicts at least a year -- including detox, 28-day
programs and aftercare -- to reach the point where they can recover
and remain sober, she said. Anything less, and the chance of recovery
grows even smaller.

Which recalls the original question: How do you stay motivated in a
field where 9 of 10 people you try to help relapse?

How does she do it?

The answer, she said, is that 10th person. The one who makes

"A student calls me and tells me they are counseling someone who has
made it, who has truly changed their lives," Sutter said, eyes
twinkling. "And they say, 'I used something you taught us in class --
and it worked.'

"That is what fills your heart and keeps you going."
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin