Continuing Education and a Vacation in One
Continuing education and ongoing professional development are necessary for me to maintain my LPC and MT-BC credentials. Yet, because my work schedule is so fluid, I’m reluctant to take time off of work to attend trainings. This makes summer usually the best time for me to take any sort of in-depth course because many of my clients or students are taking vacations.
And the truth of the matter is that I also need a vacation because being self-employed isn’t easy. While being self-employed allows me to create a solid business providing services that benefit my community, it takes a lot of effort and work to do so. Add to that the reality that every penny counts for a solopreneur growing a business, and you can see where one must be thoughtful and creative when choosing to take a vacation.
That’s why I was so excited to learn about the summer school program at Radboud University. Radboud is in Nijmegen, The Netherlands, so it also satisfied my desire for international travel. (The Netherlands happens to be one of my favorite places in the world, but that’s a story for a different blog post.)
“Addiction: From the Bar to the Brain”
Needless to say, the ability to spend a week studying at a Dutch university was an ideal summer trip for me. Not only would I be in one of my favorite places, but I’d be deepening my clinical understanding of addiction. The course I enrolled in was called, “Addiction: From the Bar to the Brain.” I chose the course becauge the topic connects into one of my business goals. Substance abuse is a problem where I live in Colorado, and I want to make music therapy services available to those in recovery.
The course description described a transdisciplinary experience that I sensed would be rich. And it was. Even almost four months later I’m still integrating and processing the experience.
Transdisciplinary Learning in a Transcultural Setting
This was the first year that the course was offered, so my cohort was small. Yet, the variety and depth of experiences brought into the classroom by my classmates was impressive. My classmates came from all over the world- India, Australia, Israel, Croatia, The Netherlands, and the UK. Their professional backgrounds ranged from psychiatry, neuroscience, psychological research, and social work.
Again, this was just my CLASSMATES.
Our teacher was Dr. Arnt Schellekens, a psychiatrist affiliated with both the university and Radboud UMC. As part of the course, he arranged for us to hear from a variety of guest lecturers. These lecturers spoke on different aspects of addiction treatment and research in The Netherlands. This included hearing from a woman who spoke about the treatment she had received for her addiction. (I especially found it thought-provoking to learn more about the Dutch healthcare system in which people feel free to seek the help they need without fear of criminal charges or financial ruin.)
Not only did we get to hear about the work done in the field of addiction, but we got to tour different places where research or treatment happens. For example, we got to tour the animal research lab affiliated with Radboud UMC and the bar lab affiliated with Radboud University. This led to conversations around the ethics of conducting research in the field of addiction. We also got to tour an IrisZorg addiction treatment center in the town of Arnhem.
As I mentioned earlier, I’m still integrating what this experience has meant to me. My initial takeaways are related to the content itself and how it will influence my clinical work. For instance, I hadn’t before thought about how withdrawal might look different based on the specific drug and how it interacts with the brain.
With that, I been thinking more about the neurobiological parallels between music and substance use. Both music and substance use have some interplay with dopamine and serotonin. Because of this, music therapy can be an effective adjunct treatment in addiction. Taking this course helps me feel more confident talking about it with behavioral health stakeholders.
However, as time has passed, I’m also wondering about how to take the information I learned to advocate for more widespread societal change in behavioral health. For example, seeing a harm reduction approach practiced universally in the US would be a good thing, I believe. Additionally, I’d love to see a cultural shift in the US where addiction isn’t viewed as a moral failing or weakness.
So… how to make this happen? Unfortunately, there are so many needs, and there is only so much that I can do as one individual mental health care provider. I don’t provide intensive residential treatment. Nor do I determine what third party payors, such as insurance and Medicaid, will pay for. If I contact my elected officials about these things, will they listen to me? Will they want to help create the change we so desperately need?
Sometimes it can feel overwhelming thinking about how to fix the US healthcare system. So much so that I think it’s time to take another vacation. Is it summer in Nijmegen yet? I’m sure I’ll be ready to get away again after the 2019 legislative season begins.