Academic Minute Podcast
Cailyn Green, SUNY Empire – Treating Neurodivergent Clients in Addiction
What’s the best way to help neurodivergent people struggling with addiction?
Cailyn Green, MS, Ph.D., CASAC is the Assistant Professor of Addiction Studies at SUNY Empire State University. She has been a part of the SUNY academic team since 2014. She earned her BA degree in psychology from Wester New England University, her MS degree in forensic mental health from Sage Graduate School and her Ph.D. in criminal justice with a specialization in addiction science from Walden University. Dr. Green is also a Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor in New York State. Dr. Greens area of expertise is supporting clinicians who work in the addiction field to best serve their clients. She spent her hands-on clinical time working directly with the recently incarcerated population.
Bernadet DeJonge has been a faculty member in the School of Human Services (SOHS) since 2021. She holds a Ph.D. in Counseling Supervision and Education from Oregon State University and an MA in Rehabilitation Counseling from Western Washington University. Bernadet is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) and maintains full mental health licensure (LMHC) in Washington State. She has developed and taught courses in DEIB content at the bachelor’s and master’s level, including multicultural counseling at multiple institutions
Treating Neurodivergent Clients in Addiction
The term ‘neurodivergent’ is relatively new in the field of addiction science and was initially created to describe clients with different mental and neurological functions. Examples include ADHD, intellectual disabilities, obsessive compulsive disabilities and autism spectrum disorders. Neurodivergency as a term has gained traction, and currently there is a movement in the field of Human Services to better serve clients with these diagnoses.
In examining the demographics of substance use professionals, there is clearly a shortage of neurodivergent trained clinicians. There is a lack of research that counselors could use to adapt or mold existing therapy practices to best suite their neurodivergent clients. Research has identified using social emotional learning, universal design learning, and social learning theories may help in supporting this population.
Social emotional learning is a theory which uses the clients social and emotional surroundings in their treatment. Social learning theory is common in substance use counseling and it encourages a clinician to guide a client in recognizing how their behaviors are impacting their social surroundings and vice versa. A strength of social learning theory is that it is transferable with clients from diverse backgrounds. Neurodivergent clients often have differences in the way they process and express their emotions. The emotional component of social emotional learning is important when working with substance use clients because substances have the power to alter a client’s emotional processing. The idea of utilizing a social emotional learning approach when working with clients who present with substance use issues and neurodivergent diagnoses, might just be the intervention the field of addiction is looking for.
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