Errol Rodriguez, Ph.D., Gordon F. Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies assistant dean and director of the master’s program in general psychology and mental health counseling, has spent much of the last decade studying families who have been affected by addiction. “Somewhere between four and five significant others are affected by one person’s addiction,” explains Dr. Rodriguez. “We know that somewhere around 23 million people are substance abusers annually, so that’s about one-third of the country each year that’s affected.”
One way Dr. Rodriguez hopes to reach more of the people affected by substance abuse is through Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT) interventions. Rather than the traditional model of intervention, which involves a surprise confrontation with the addict, the CRAFT model is a strategically planned intervention where family members first discuss their role in enabling abuse and then determine what they can do so the using person begins to feel the consequences of his or her substance abuse.
“It’s a powerful behavioral therapy approach,” Dr. Rodriguez says. “With over 80 percent of the people who begin the CRAFT model, their significant other enters treatment.”
“That doesn’t mean they stop using,” Dr. Rodriguez clarifies, “but family members often feel a great sense of relief knowing that their loved one has started to get help.”
Dr. Rodriguez’s most recent research focuses on a new type of abuse: Internet addiction, particularly among adolescents.
“Some young adults are really glued to their phones, to the Internet, in a way that becomes problematic for their lives and their families,” Dr. Rodriguez says. “It’s different from other teenagers who enjoy their phones but don’t seem obsessed with them.”
Dr. Rodriguez is examining vulnerabilities to this type of compulsivity. “Is it similar to other addictions, like alcohol or marijuana?” Dr. Rodriguez wonders. “Are some of the same markers that put teens at risk for other behaviors, things like low self-esteem and eagerness to fit in, involved in compulsive Internet use?” In the coming year, he’ll begin to find out.
This piece appeared in the Erudition 2013 edition.