November 16, 2017 - 10:45am
Program teaches the theory of addiction from a variety of different perspectives and disciplines
Meg Hansell loves helping people turn their lives around.
The Vancouver Island University (VIU) alum graduated in the spring with an Addiction Studies Certificate and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and was immediately hired at Edgewood Treatment Centre.
“I love helping people fundamentally change their lives,” says Hansell, a Junior Counsellor at Edgewood. “They enter treatment in a hopeless place, and they leave with the ability to live full and productive lives – free from substance abuse. It’s just such an amazing transformation to watch. It’s not easy work, but it’s certainly rewarding.”
Hansell says VIU’s Addictions Studies Certificate helped her get the job she has now. Developed by Psychology Professor Dr. Elliott Marchant, the program is intended to be taken as part of a degree or to supplement a degree. It can be tailored by students to fit into their primary area of interest, such as counselling or police and social work. Students choose from a collection of courses in eight different departments that offer a variety of perspectives on addiction.
“The combination of courses gives you a deep understanding of the neurobiological basis of addiction as well as the social aspect,” she says. “You finish the program more prepared and able to interact with people with addiction.”
Another aspect of the program Hansell found helpful is that Marchant brings in a variety of guest speakers working in the field, including representatives from Edgewood. Talking to people working in the industry helps students gain a broader understanding of where they best fit.
After working in the field for a while, Hansell plans to go back to graduate school and her ultimate goal is to one day run her own research centre.
“We’re still uncovering how addiction works in the brain, it’s one of those unresolved areas,” she says. “You ask someone what addiction is and there’s no real concrete answer to that question. We don’t understand this concept fully, and that sparks my interest.
The Addictions Studies Certificate has been available for just over a year, and the first graduates crossed the stage last June. Marchant says he started the program because he wanted to teach students that addiction is not a simple problem that can be explained by one theory.
“There isn’t another program like it in Western Canada,” he says. “It’s a theoretical certificate – I’m not trying to train clinicians, I’m trying to train people to think about the bigger picture.”
Students from various programs are enrolled, including psychology, criminology, sociology, child and youth care, and education.
“The program includes a huge amount of cross-facilitation between departments and students choose courses based on their area of interest and how it interacts with addictions – the current fentanyl crisis is not solvable by one approach,” says Marchant.
As part of National Addictions Awareness Week, Marchant is organizing an information session on Wednesday, November 15 from 7 – 8 pm in Building 180, Room 134 on VIU’s Nanaimo Campus. Anyone who wants to know more about his program is welcome to attend.
His information session takes place right after VIU’s Harm Reduction Forum called Risky Business: Staying Safe & Substance Use. The forum runs from 5:30 – 6:30 pm in the same room as Marchant’s info session and is meant to provide a platform for dialogue about the opioid overdose crisis in Nanaimo.
The forum will include representatives from the RCMP, Discovery Youth & Family Services, Island Health and VIU’s Health and Wellness Clinic. It will be followed by a resources fair, naloxone training and pizza from 6:30 – 7:30 pm.
Jenn McGarrigle, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University
NATIONAL ADDICTIONS AWARENESS WEEK ACTIVITIES
On Wednesday, November 15, VIU is hosting two events in recognition of National Addictions Awareness Week:
- Risky Business: Staying Safe & Substance Use Forum: 5:30 – 6:30 pm, Building 180, Room 134, followed by a resources fair, naloxone training and pizza from 6:30 – 7:30 pm.
- Addictions Studies Certificate program information session: 7 – 8 pm, Building 180, Room 134
Tags: Teaching and Learning