Empowering professionals in the drug addiction field through Erasmus+ Mobility Projects: the case of KETHEA

Chaidemenaki Olympia

M.Ed., KETHEA/Therapy Center for Dependent Individuals, Department of Education.

Contact Details: ochaidemenaki@kethea.gr & olychai@hotmail.com

 

Introduction

This presentation will focus on Erasmus+ mobility projects as a means of empowering and strengthening staff members working in the substance abuse treatment field, which is undoubtedly a rather demanding and difficult professional practice. Moreover, this presentation will explore the case of the Therapy Center for Dependent Individuals/KETHEA (www.kethea.gr) and its effort to provide more opportunities to its staff to develop critical thinking, boost self-efficacy, personal fulfilment and completion through learning mobility projects. In the last three (3) years at least fifteen (15) professionals had the opportunity to study, work and train, to develop professional skills and competences and exchange knowledge and expertise in the drug addiction field, by travelling abroad to another participating country, and had rather impressive outcomes.

 

What is Erasmus+?

Erasmus+ is the EU’s flagship programme to support and strengthen education, training, youth and sport in Europe with 33 participating Programme Countries. Erasmus+ has three main targets:

  1. To offer learning opportunities abroad for individuals, within the EU and beyond;
  2. To support partnerships between educational institutions, youth organisations, businesses, local and regional authorities and NGOs;
  3. To reform and modernise education and training and to promote innovation, entrepreneurship and employability;

In order to achieve its objectives, the Erasmus+ Programme implements the following actions:

Key Action 1 (KA1): Learning mobility of Individuals

Key Action 2 (KA2): Cooperation for innovation and the exchange of good practices

Key Action 3 (KA3): Support for policy reform

 

What is mobility project?

Erasmus+ Mobility projects, allow learners and staff to travel to another participating country in order to study, work, teach, train and/or develop professional skills and competences. With regards to staff and professionals the mobility activities are expected to produce various outcomes, such as support learners in the acquisition of learning outcomes (knowledge, skills and competences) with a view to improving their personal development, support the professional development, raise participants’ awareness and understanding of other cultures and countries, to name but a few (Erasmus+ Programme Guide, 2019).

Organisations like KETHEA, active in the fields of education, training and youth, receive support from the Erasmus+ Programme, in order to carry out projects promoting different types of mobility. KETHEA is currently active and provides staff training mainly in adult education (formal, non-formal and informal learning) and Vocational Education and Training (VET) fields. The learning activities within these two fields support professional development of staff in the form of a work placement or a job shadowing/observation for a certain period in a relevant organisation and allow staff to participate in structured courses or training events abroad.

A mobility project will consist of the following stages:

  • Preparation (including practical arrangements, selection of participants, set up of agreements with partners and participants, linguistic/intercultural/learning-and task-related preparation of participants before departure);
  • Implementation of the mobility activities;
  • Follow-up (including the evaluation of the activities, the validation and formal recognition of the learning outcomes of participants during the activity, as well as the dissemination and use of the project’s outcomes).

All the above demonstrate a quite interesting context, whose vastness and complexity will be mapped and presented with regards to KETHEA’s efforts to utilize education and training opportunities for its staff, made available by the European Union (EU) through Erasmus+ programme. Thus KETHEA empowers addiction counsellors through professional development and encourages exchange of know – how in its field of action.

 

The need of Empowerment

KETHEA’s Department of Education has been designing and implementing mobility projects funded not only by Erasmus+, but also by previous E.U. programmes, such as Leonardo, Erasmus, Grundtvig and Youth in Action. Since 2016, KETHEA has made full use of the Erasmus+ funding opportunities for learning mobility and has succeeded to receive annually and continuously grants by Erasmus+.

(But) a question then arises as to why is it so important for KETHEA to empower its staff through mobility projects now more than ever? And, why ERASMUS+ has become a tool for empowering KETHEA’s staff?

The answer may be summarised in the following three (3) reasons:

  1. In a time when Greece is experiencing a severe financial crisis, KETHEA had to respond to the increasing needs of the drug-related population, to name but a few, an increase in the use of legal and illegal drugs, depression, deterioration of both physical and mental health, increasing levels of homelessness and unemployment, marginalization of drug users
  2. The recession has had a dramatic effect on KETHEA’s operation and services. Since the onset of the crisis, KETHEA has been dealing with high turnover rates, mainly due to a restriction in hiring, as well as government imposed salaries’ reductions. These two elements, together with an increase in the work load, and a decrease in other resources, has led to serious strain on the staff.
  3. Additionally, in this gloomy Greek reality someone should also take into consideration that substance abuse treatment is a field constantly changing on both European and International levels in terms of new therapeutic approaches, different drug national policies, emerging needs and new target groups, “new” illegal substances.

It, therefore, becomes obvious that during this time of severe austerity, the need for professionals in the drug addiction field to overcome both personal and organizational difficulties and adjust to challenging changes in their everyday practice, has become more imperative than ever. Moreover, in an ever-changing world, both organizations and professionals must keep abreast of today’s needs as well as any other developments in the addiction recovery process; additionally, they must familiarize themselves with the best practices in addiction field that could be transferred and adopted in their professional context (Πουλόπουλος, 2005).

This is why KETHEA through development and utilization of Erasmus+ mobility projects aim at transferring knowledge, expertise and innovative approaches for dealing effectively with drug addiction, to deepen into techniques and differential therapy models and provide to its staff ways for empowering their professional practice and at the same time minimize the effects of burn out.

Conclusively, KETHEA provides a counterbalance through continuous lifelong training of professionals in the field of addiction and the promotion of scientific knowledge. So, mobility projects are seen as an important instrument not only for the implementation of certain organisational policies on staff education and training, but also the covering of a wide range of current needs of KETHEA’s staff, in order to enhance their motivation and satisfaction in their workplace and facilitate their daily work during the economic recession time.

 

Mobility at KETHEA

As was stated before, during the last three (3) years at least fifteen (15) professionals have received training and education regarding new therapeutic approaches in the drug addiction field on European and International level and gained new knowledge about dealing effectively with drug addiction.

More specifically, through a collaboration between KETHEA and Amsterdam Institute for Addiction Research (AIAR)2, located in the Netherlands, in 2017 five (5) professionals working at KETHEA, receive training through the enrolment in structured courses in the field of adult education. Four (4) trainees received a one-week training, while one (1) received one-month training. The training focused on the following topics:

  1. Brief Interventions for Alcohol, Drugs and Gambling (23-27.01.2017).
  2. Longer term treatment Interventions, Relapse Prevention and Aftercare (20-24.02.2017).
  3. Brief and Longer Term Interventions in the Prison System (20-24.02.2017),
  4. Interventions for Double and Triple Diagnosis Patients (06.03.2017 – 05.04.2017).

The total duration of the project, entitled “Adopting New Educational Methods and Practices in the Addiction Field”, was 13 months (5.09.2016 – 4.10.2017).

 

The following year (2018) another mobility project received funding by Erasmus+ programme, resulting from the collaboration between KETHEA and ECETT network3. This project involved the training of ten (10) KETHEA professionals and each learning flow was implemented in five different member countries of the European ECETT network, with a duration of five days per mobility. This mobility plan offered training opportunities to KETHEA staff through a combination of physical monitoring and e-learning, based on the on-the-job tracking and job shadowing model in Vocational Education and Training (VET) field. The training focused on:

  1. “New intervention models in the main treatment phase (therapeutic community)” in collaboration with the therapeutic organization Phoenix Haga Norway.
  2. “New practices in the prevention of addictive substances” in cooperation with the therapeutic organization MAGDALENA O.P.S. Czech.
  3. “Services rehabilitation in the criminal justice area” in cooperation with the therapeutic organization TREMPOLINE Belgium.
  4. “Alternative measures to reintegrate formerly dependent drug users” in cooperation with the therapeutic organization COOLMINE TC Ireland.
  5. “Services on the street and reduce damage” in collaboration with the therapeutic organization CEID ADDICTIONS France.

All host organizations were members of the ECETT network. The total duration of the mobility project, entitled “Addictions and staff mobility”, was 20 months (1.09.2017 – 30.04.2019).

 

On-going Projects

In 2019 KETHEA, was able for yet another year, to receive funding on another mobility project for Addiction Counsellors. This project, entitled “Active Training for Counsellors in Drug Addiction Field” is a result from the collaboration between KETHEA and Amsterdam Institute for Addiction Research (AIAR) and ensures that twelve (12) KETHEA professionals in the near future will receive training through a combination of physical monitoring and e-learning, based on the on-the-job tracking and job shadowing model in Vocational Education and Training (VET) field.

Each mobility will last fourteen (14) days and involves the participation of two staff members in focused training in drug addiction field. The educational topics are the following:

  1. “Harm Reduction”.
  2. “e-Health Services”.
  3. “Double Diagnosis”.
  4. “Legal Addictions: alcohol, gambling and Internet”.
  5. “Reintegration/working facilities”.
  6. “Treatment Services & Techniques”.

The total duration of the project is 24 months (01.08.2019 – 31.07.2021).

 

One more on-going mobility project under Erasmus+, this time in Youth Sector, entitled “STAY TUNED” through Focused Networking Activities” provides learning opportunities to a group of young people who are adolescents/young adults with addiction problem attending KETHEA STROFI (non-residential, intensive care Therapeutic Community, located in Athens, Greece) through collaboration with a group of young people (about the same age) from the extended network of Centro di Solidarietà di Reggio Emilia Onlus (Italy). Specifically, through a commonly jointed work programme young people from a different social and cultural environment to get to know each other, interact and communicate, to enrich knowledge and enhance abilities and values, transform dysfunctional beliefs and finally further develop their critical thinking on issues like social equality and elimination of any form of prejudice and marginalization. Radio and music are the two main pillars of our five days’ work programme, which is proposed for this particular project.

The participation of young people with differential social, cultural and educational background and personal experiential biography but with a common interest in music and Radio Broadcasting will ensure the knowledge enrichment and successfully enhance their capacities and skills. The mixed composition of the two national groups is a variable necessary for achieving educational goals and participants’ social activation.

Specifically, the ‘STAY TUNED’ project includes a five (5) day work programme, during which twenty-six (26) participants (undergoing drug treatment, youth at risk, students, volunteers), 12 youngsters from Greece and 14 from Italy, together carry out a work programme designed and prepared by them, which includes workshops, exercises, debates, role-plays, simulations, outdoor activities, field tasks etc. The total duration of the project is 12 months (06.05.2019 – 05.05.2020) and will be carried out at Centro di Solidarietà di Reggio Emilia Onlus network.

The following table depicts the number of days spent abroad in mobility projects during the years 2017 – 2018, and it also shows the number of days that are planned for the near future (2019 – 2021).

 

Fig 1: Distribution of mobility days/per year

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KETHEA, however, does not only function as a “sending” organisation, but also as a host organisation. This means that every year it accepts professionals from other organisations in the drug addiction field, aiming to obtain knowledge and enhance their skills, to become self-confident professionals capable of operating autonomously and with a capacity of initiatives and get familiarized with varied treatment techniques. The numbers of staff, from other organisations, having received training in KETEHA are illustrated below:

 

Fig 2: Number of Staff Having Received Training in KETHEA through Mobility Projects/per year

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Which key factors are vital for implementing a good mobility practice?

 

Key Factors

Important key factors in the case of KETHEA regarding staff mobility are the following:

  • Each project is in perfect alliance with KETHEA’S Strategic Development Plan. Practically this means that each learning mobility is in accordance to certain goals that KETHEA sets on organizational and sectorial level. For example, when in 2018 the Department of Education was preparing the funding application for the already approved project “Active Training for Counsellors in Drug Addiction Field” (on-going), KETHEA’s Strategic Plan for the years 2019 – 2020 was taken into consideration, in order to select and prioritize the focus of each learning flow4. In that way KETHEA ensured that, each learning outcome will have great impact not only for the professional development of each participant, but also for the growth of KETHEA as well.
  • Throughout all the stages of the aforementioned mobility projects, from preparation to follow up activities, KETHEA conducts an evaluation of the learning activities and project’s management in accordance with specific methodological guidelines and certain evaluation criteria. Thus a feedback is received by the beneficiaries’ own experiences, allowing KETHEA to improve certain problematic areas and/or to enrich the future submitted proposals. At this point, as a general evaluation remark it should be noted that former beneficiaries of all Erasmus+ mobility actions within KETHEA report a considerable improvement of skills pertaining to current needs of their professional role. Furthermore, beyond the acquisition of knowledge, skills, expertise and training that the individuals gained on their field, counsellors acknowledged the positive influence of their learning experience abroad and reported that it was of vital importance for the personal development, for raising intercultural awareness and the sense of being empowered and motivated during their daily work.
  • The needs and objectives of KETHEA are combined and blended with the learning needs of each individual participant. This is achieved through educational needs assessment survey, which Department of KETHEA conducts periodically (every 2-3 years).
  • KETHEA maintains a vivid and active network of partners in the field of addictions and always explores new opportunities for collaboration, aiming at modernisation and international opening in its field of expertise. Thus a wider and long-term strategy of development in an international context is achieved and the extraversion of KETHEA is strengthened.
  • KETHEA ensures that the beneficiary staff that holds new knowledge is a critical factor for knowledge continuity within the organization, meaning that efforts are made for the dissemination of knowledge from the employee, after each learning mobility, to his/her colleagues.
  • Learning activities such as Open Days and training meetings are organised by KETHEA’s Department of Education, in order to ensure that the learning outcomes are disseminated and widely used within the organization and beyond. In these Open Days former beneficiaries presented their inspiring experience and referred to quality aspects of implementation, impact on a personal and institutional level and the lasting effect that mobility projects introduce to treatment practices and professional attitudes. Additionally, as an outcome of each mobility project a manual is issued, where participants present their own learning experience in a form of a good practice. These manuals proved to be a useful tool for further debate and reflection towards a continuous improvement of the quality of services available to addicted persons and their families.
  • The group of staff involved in these projects has long-standing experience in the design, implementation, development and monitoring of co-funded European projects. The team is described as one with high professionalism and commitment, in dealing with EU projects. These qualities ensure the successful implementation of the projects and bring added value to the mobility projects.

 

Discussion

The positive impact of these key factors of the mobility effort within KETHEA is reflected upon a constant increase in the interest from staff to participate in mobility projects in both adult education and vocational training field. In consequence, mobility has worked well, while the increase in demand indicates that a greater growth regarding submitting proposals for EU budget funding will be efficiently absorbed.

Of course, despite the positive evaluation and feedback by participants, there are still opportunities for further enhancements and areas for improvement. Specifically, although KETHEA always tries to achieve knowledge transferability and continuity, organizational practices should be adopted on managerial level, in order to maximize the impact within the organization. Beneficiaries can contribute to dynamics and development preservation since they bring in new ideas, knowledge and a new perspective. And by doing so, satisfaction and motivation are enhanced within organizational context. All this knowledge must be transformed into practice by adopting innovative policies and good practices from other contexts, whenever this is applicable. Only then can transferability and scalability be truly achieved.

Furthermore, besides addiction counsellors other staff categories should be included such as researchers, trainers and administrative staff. Although the focus on counsellors was unavoidable during the time of crisis and for the reasons analysed before, there is an emerging need/demand, and thus an opportunity for KETHEA, for more inclusive mobility projects in the near future.

 

Conclusion

It is understood that all the above form a dynamic grid of social groups, synergies, expectations, learning outcomes that affect both participating individuals/staff and organsisations. Staff mobility creates, with each learning flow, a group of participants which has an impact on the host organisation. And then, after the mobility, they return to their place of origin, changed in so many and various ways and bringing along change to their own orgnanisation (Byram & Dervin, 2008).

Additionally, the size, scope and diversity of each mobility intensifies an already complex reality, adding variables such as internationalisation, cultural, economic and political dimensions, various fields of study/interest and of course differential approaches and policies among participating countries.

The response by KETHEA to this dynamic phenomenon is being managed in the context of providing learning empowerment, openness, greater understanding and responsiveness to its staff’s needs (KETHEA, 2016). As a learning organisation unwaveringly committed to continuous development, KETHEA fosters innovation and exchange of knowledge through mobility actions, acknowledging that its effectiveness and dynamism stems from its staff.

In these times of continuous changes, an organization, which fosters empowered employees, is an organization ready to handle change. The ability to cope with change, is a survival skill no organization can do without (Kappelman & Richards, 1996, p. 29).

 

Footnotes:

M.Ed., KETHEA/Therapy Center for Dependent Individuals, Department of Education. Contact Details: ochaidemenaki@kethea.gr & olychai@hotmail.com.

2 AIAR is a cooperation between the Amsterdam Medical Centre of the University of Amsterdamand and the Jellinek Addiction Treatment Centre in Amsterdam. AIAR is an educational institution with high expertise and scientific prestige in the field of addictions in the Netherlands. The institution provides innovative educational methodology, combining theoretical background and professional practice.

3 ECETT network (https://www.ecett.eu/en/home/) is about cooperation between organisations and agencies that develop actions in the fields of drug addiction, psycho-pedagogy, social inclusion and vocational rehabilitation, continuing education and non-formal learning. All of these partners have a common goal: to improve the quality and effectiveness of their services in terms of psycho-pedagogical support for marginalized people, as well as their socio-professional reintegration. The link of all these groups is the interdisciplinary and integrated approach to the personal development and integration of these individuals.

4 One of the main goals of KETHEA strategy during the crisis is continuously improving the quality, effectiveness and efficiency of its services by monitoring new developments in order to respond to emerging needs. Basic pillars for succeeding the above are clients’ employability and the support and/or develop flexible therapeutic approaches such as e-Health services, Harm reduction and legal addictions interventions. So, training was focus on these specific areas in order to enhance KETHEA’s service network but at the same time supporting professionals in field through lifelong training framed within an international context.

 

 

References

Byram, M. & Dervin, F. (2008). Students, Staff and Academic Mobility in Higher Education. Cambridge UK: Scholars Publishing.

European Commission. (2019). Erasmus+ Programme Guide.

Kappelman, L. A., & Richards, T. C. (1996). Training, empowerment, and creating a culture for change. Empowerment in Organizations, 4(3), 26-29.

Πουλόπουλος, Χ. (2005). Εξαρτήσεις: Οι Θεραπευτικές Κοινότητες (4η έκδοση). Αθήνα: Ελληνικά Γράμματα.

Therapy Center for Dependent Individuals (KETHEA). (2016). An overview of KETHEA: Treatment Works. Athens: KETHEA Schema + Chroma.

 

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