The philosophy and practice of the Therapy Center for Dependent Individuals place training and education as a central axis in its therapeutic approach and operation.
When drug addicts enter treatment for the first time, training and education along is seen as an equal to treatment priority. The emphasis of both treatment and education is to facilitate drug addicts to critically reflect on their way of living within a given social context and to help them develop relationships on a creative and healthy basis. Within this perspective education reinforces drug addicts as novice learners to start taking responsibilities and to discover the skills they already have and of which they were not previously aware of.
In the following stage, people in treatment are reinforced to make a new start in their education and compensate for the lost years of training. It is well known that drug users often drop out of school soon after they start using drugs or because of their drug use fail to fully attend classes. In a later stage in treatment, as soon as they enter the stage of social rehabilitation, the opportunity is given to members in treatment to begin to develop their practical and theoretical knowledge, that are necessary for applying for a job on an equal opportunities basis.
Education as it is previously described is largely provided within KETHEA, or when necessary, the Therapeutic Community (TC) members are referred to other training or educational facilities within the local community.
Currently at KETHEA four transitional schools are in operation in the major cities of Athens, Thessaloniki, Larissa and Heraklion, Crete. These schools are meant for TC members who either, dropped out of school during their compulsory education years or managed to complete high school but wished to get prepared to continue in tertiary education. These students may then be registered in state schools making use of a “home schooling” opportunity in order to participate in the mid-term or final examinations.
Moreover, almost all KETHEA therapeutic programmes have trained adult educators offering training and education to TC members. Most adult educators work part time for the organisation and their role is to facilitate vocational training or offer broader education for personal development to TC members.
Training and education in KETHEA is not merely a privilege of the people in treatment; it constitutes a right and obligation of all staff members, working either in therapeutic or administrative posts.
The system of sabbatical provision, scholarships and grants for education opportunities for staff members are integrated in the philosophy of the organisation. These are offered to the employees after a certain time of employment in the organisation and on the provision of fulfilling certain criteria.
The aim of this provision is multifaceted: continuous education and training for the people working in the field of addictions are necessary, since treatment methods are constantly evolving and the kinds of drug dependence change and multiply. Moreover, KETHEA in the twenty-five year of its operation developed new services and specialised in certain fields and sectors of intervention. It is therefore necessary that staff gain new knowledge and continuously follow-up the developments in other countries, as well as the new approaches applied by other organisations.
It is also known that people who work in the field of addictions are far more in risk for burn out than other professionals. These educational breaks from the work routine are deemed one of the best ways to prevent people from burn out symptoms.
Finally, in our country there is only one post-graduate course available at the university level in the field of addictions and hardly any courses at the undergraduate level in this domain.
The greater, however, contribution of KETHEA in the field of education is the development and implementation of training programmes for mental health professionals in collaboration with high status academic institutions. In these programmes participants are professionals that come from both KETHEA and other national organisations as well as professionals from organisations from other countries.
Within this sector, in 1998 a training programme entitled “Addiction Counselling: Knowledge, Skills, Attitudes in Professional Practice” was launched. This programme was developed in collaboration with the Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego (UCSD) based on an agreement that was signed in 1998 between UCSD and KETHEA. The aim of this programme is to offer training to professionals in the drug treatment and prevention field, enhancing further understanding of drug addiction and planning, implementation and evaluation of treatment programmes for dealing with drug addiction. The programme has a total duration of 180 hours, organised in six weekly periods within two years. The programme content includes theory, written assignments, exams by each thematic unit and final exams. Mental Health Professionals who complete the requirements of the programme are awarded with Level I certificate on addictions from UCSD. Since 1998, five groups of professionals have completed the course. This includes 199 people from KETHEA and 111 from other organisations from Greece or other countries that is a total of 310.
The year 1996, another programme “Introduction to Group Dynamics” was initiated. The aim of the programme is training professionals on communication issues, group dynamics and interpersonal relations. The complete programme lasts 200 hours complete in one year. Other intense programmes of 100 hours were also launched in the same field and are addressed to professionals working in other drug treatment organizations in Greece. This programme is organised in collaboration with the Faculty of Communication and Mass Media Studies, of the University of Athens.
In 2002, the programme “Management and Social Planning in the Field of Drug Addiction Treatment” was also introduced. The aim of the programme is to train professionals in social policy and social planning, in running social organisations, in organisation and administration of human resources, in systems planning and the evaluation of services. The duration of the programme is 200 hours and it is completed within a year. The programme is organised in collaboration with the National School of Public Health (NSPH), the Department of Psychiatry of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and the Department of Social Work, Boston College. Successful attendance of the thematic modules and the submission of a dissertation, leads participants to the award of a Certificate of Postgraduate Training by NSPH. Those who also wish to get a Level II certificate on addictions by UCSD sit for special exams.
In 2003, the programme “Family Therapy Training in the Field of Drug Addiction” was launched. The programme has been developed by KETHEA which is also a certified Training Institute on Family Therapy by the European Family Therapy Association (EFTA). The aim of the programme is to highlight the significant role of the family throughout the treatment process of dependent persons. The programme includes 150 hours of theory, 500 hours of clinical practice, 150 hours of supervision and 150 hours of personal therapy as well as the submission of a research project. The programme is completed within 2 years. With the successful completion of the programme a certificate of attendance is granted by KETHEA.
The current issue of Exartiseis presents two important articles regarding the aforementioned training activities of KETHEA. The first one is an evaluation study of 102 mental health professionals who participated in a training programme for dealing with drug addiction between the years 2002-2005. The second one focuses on a group of thirty former users who participated in KETHEA programmes STROFI and PLEFSI. Through this examination the operation of the school of secondary education is described in combination with the treatment of drug addiction, delinquent behaviour and school failure.
Two more articles were selected from the international experience. The first concerns the relation between educational attainment and professional efficiency; and the second concerns alcohol consumption and the use of substances during adolescence and the effect on educational performance.
Last, but not least, in the first pages of the current issue of Exartiseis there is an extremely interesting interview with Martien Kooyman, who was the first trainer of KETHEA staff members, already since the early 1980s. This interview emphasises his personal career development, his contribution to drug policy planning in his homeland, the Netherlands, but also observations from his “Greek experience”.
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