Author: Scarlett Baker, AA

Scarlett is The SASSI Institute's Project Director and Director of Training Services.

The Power of Narrative Therapy

Last month, Dr. Hugh Marr, a longtime trainer on the SASSI and clinical psychologist in the private practice of psychotherapy in the Washington, DC area gave an interview on the Shrink Rap Radio podcast. Dr. Marr has taught both substance abuse counseling and psychotherapy at area universities; and has worked in all phases of community mental health, culminating in running a partial hospital program for clients with the co-occurring disorders of substance use and major mental illness. He is the author of A Clinician’s Guide to Foundational Story Psychotherapy: Co-changing Narratives, Co-changing Lives (Routledge, 2020); and the coauthor of the books What Story Are You Living? (CAPT, 2009) and Introduction to Archetypes (CAPT, 2002). His forthcoming workbook for a general audience, also to be published by CAPT, will be titled Finding Your Story. You can view a clip from that interview here or a link to the interview in its entirety can be found here.

The SASSI Institute is excited that Dr. Marr has developed a workshop based on his five-star rated book: A Clinician’s Guide to Foundational Story Psychotherapy: Co-changing Narratives, Co-changing Lives. This workshop is being offered through The SASSI Institute’s Professional Development Platform. A link to a flyer with additional information on the workshop can be viewed here.

We hope you enjoy the interview and that you will join us for this informative webinar.

To register for the webinar and see our other titles, click here.

Healing the Family: Conjoint Family Therapy for Addicted and Dysfunctional Families

Please join us for this insightful live webinar presented by Dr. Donald Osborne. Following is a description of what will be discussed:

Addiction is a Family Disease
Families are systems of relationships with each member playing their part to maintain a homeostasis or equilibrium. This is true of addicted and dysfunctional families as well as healthy ones. Individual family members assume roles within the system. Families with an addicted member may point to the addict as the troubled one and fail to recognize the damage being done to everyone in the family. Families very often unintentionally contribute to the addiction. Roles and behavior follow predictable patterns. Children are particularly vulnerable to developing life-long dysfunctional ways of coping, including developing serious mental health issues or becoming alcoholic or drug dependent themselves. Treating an alcoholic or otherwise addicted individual and not helping the entire family change as a unit frequently leads to treatment failure. Family education is not enough. Conjoint family therapy or multiple families group therapy has worked well in disrupting the dysfunctional homeostasis of addicted families, and then helping them construct a much healthier system of relationships. The chance of addicts recovering increases as their whole family recovers. Dr. Don Osborne delivers a webinar on counseling the family unit as a focus of addiction treatment.

What You Will Learn:
• An Introduction to systems theory
• Systems theory’s application to understanding human interaction
• How to get family members to participate in therapy
• An introduction to transaction analysis as a communication tool for changing family interactions
• A historical perspective of the special application of systems to addicted and dysfunctional families
• Family roles
• Family Scripts
• How to use genograms to identify life scripts and repeated patterns of behavior
• How to use Olsen’s Circumplex family model to help families change
• How to help families contract for new behavior

Please click here for registration information.

Foundational Story Psychotherapy Webinar

We are happy to announce the next in our line of Professional Development webinars: Foundational Story Psychotherapy: Understanding and Co-Changing Clients’ Stories (Part 1) presented by Dr. Hugh Marr. Below is additional information on this workshop:

We humans are narrative creatures. Much of our communication, our cognition, our memory, and even our understanding of our self is storied. By late adolescence virtually all of us have developed a life story, a story that helps determine what we expect from others, in which settings we are most comfortable, how we treat ourselves and what we can hope for. Our life story is comprised of smaller vignettes or foundational stories. As a result, the coin of psychotherapy is narrative, and clients tell an average of 4.1 stories in each session.

Despite the ubiquity of narrative, most of us receive very little education in the structure of narrative and its application to substance abuse and mental health counseling. Given our narrative bones, all therapies must deal with narrative, although most of them do so implicitly, focusing on only a limited number of aspects of story.

In this workshop, we will examine the narrative underpinnings of substance abuse counseling and psychotherapy; and we will broaden our understanding and use of different approaches to alter both foundational and life narratives. We will look at the special impact of trauma on clients’ life stories and the resultant substance abuse and emotional struggles. Participants will come away with greater ease and more tools to understand and help clients change the problematic stories they live.

This workshop is designed to enable participants to:

  • Define foundational and life stories and describe the relationship between the two
  • Gather and use client’s stories to help them understand and change substance abuse and emotional problems
  • Describe the importance of witnessing and demonstrate thematic listening
  • Identify the relationship among substance use, mental illness, and trauma
  • Describe one use of story-based ritual to assist therapists in creating healthy boundaries between work life and home life

Visit www.sassi.com/other-training-online for registration information, provides 4 CEs. 

New Professional Development Webinars Available

The SASSI Institute is pleased to announce that we are launching a line of Professional Development webinars. We will be doing these in partnership with guest lecturers on topics that may be of interest to professionals in the addiction field.

Our first such webinar is Comprehensive Screening & Advanced Assessment of Addiction presented by Dr. Don Osborne. Below is additional information on this workshop:

The Screening and assessment processes are critical to effective addiction treatment. In fact, treatment can only be as effective as the thoroughness of the assessment process. The screening and assessment processes can and should result in clients’ reduced denial or “resistance” and easily transition into therapy.

In this training program you will be able to:

  • Understand screening and assessment.
  • Be able to describe a comprehensive concept of addiction’s progressive nature with problems, tolerance and loss of control.
  • Be able to determine the kinds of questions to ask a client that are most relevant during an initial interview.
  • Be able to formulate specific relevant questions to ask during the interview process.
  • How to use Motivational Interviewing to engage clients and develop a rapport with them.
  • How to obtain collateral information about the client.
  • How to use the DSM-5’s criteria for SUD to diagnose clients and decrease clients’ resistance to treatment.
  • Gaining clients’ trust, reduce denial and resistance to treatment.
  • Gain clients’ agreement that they are addicted to some substance or behavior at a particular stage of the addiction process.
  • How to determine the specific level of care advocated by ASAM.
  • How to transition from screening to the assessment to the therapy stages of treatment.

Visit www.sassi.com/other-training-online/ for registration information, provides 4 CEUs. 

Criminal Justice Publication Accepted

Hello friends and colleagues,

We hope you and your families are all doing well. We wanted to call your attention to our very latest peer reviewed publication, released earlier this month. The title is: Criminal Justice Alcohol and Drug Screening in Practice: Using the Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory to Identify Substance Use Disorder in Offenders.

Now in its fourth iteration (SASSI-4), this article discusses the SASSI screening tools’ utility with criminal offenders and reviews a case study of a young male’s clinical evaluation while incarcerated. While SUD is not the only contributing factor to criminality, it significantly increases the likelihood of legal infraction and violations, placing these individuals at a higher risk of re-offending. Thus, identifying SUD as early as possible in the clinical relationship helps provide tailored treatment to those who need it, while simultaneously reducing the risk of future legal difficulties.

For this case study, we reviewed the SASSI-4 screening results of a 24-year-old male. The case presents an excellent example of the value of early identification of substance use disorder and potential problems in criminal justice settings.

We hope you enjoy the article, and as always, we look forward to your submissions and comments.

Addiction Professional Spotlight: Charlie Stookey, MA, LADC, LADC-S

I have had the pleasure of being on staff at The SASSI Institute for 22 years. Throughout that time, I have had the opportunity to work closely with many addiction professionals. Their dedication and passion for helping individuals in recovery or in need of recovery have always astonished me.

One of these professionals whom I have known throughout my time at the Institute is Charlie Stookey, MA, LADC, LADC-S. Charlie was a trainer for the SASSI when I started my career at the Institute. He presented training on the earliest versions of the SASSI, having been taught by none other than our late Founder and SASSI creator, Dr. Glenn Miller. Charlie retired from training many years ago, and while we have never met in person, we have stayed in touch over the years, and I am glad to call him a friend. He attended Whitman College and the University of Nevada, Reno, and is currently a substance abuse counselor in Reno, Nevada. Charlie also has a passion for poetry and has been published in the West Coast Poetry Review, Blue Moon, and The Meadow. He believes in the gift of the Wounded Healer and Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey. I want to share one of his poems with all of you today and encourage you to take the time to read it peacefully.

Charlie asked me to share that he hopes the heroine in Phases of the Moon, finds the beginning of her sober journey in the reflection in the detox mirror. And that she finds the “life that awaits us.” In our groups, we are in a gathering of miracles and he is grateful for the opportunity to sit with them.

Phases of the Moon The new moon is a cat’s claw in the night sky. Clint C. Ricketts

Beneath Thunder Moons and Corn Moons, she names her four rescued cats, Moon Beam, Moon Light, Moon Shadow, and, of course, Moon Shine. The phases of the moon
are tattooed on the nape of her neck “to honor the mystery and permanence of the moon over time. It’s reliable.” It’s so easy to turn the course of her disease into the curse of the disease 
with its hungry ghosts. No glass Japanese floats lie atop the scarred nightstand; but earrings, ER receipts, doubts, matches, butt ends of relationships.
She regrets the drunken, meth-fueled fights with her husband, who later committed suicide. “Killed himself over…whatever. Me,
all that lottery money, heartache, whatever.” Moonlight creek sings to Cottonwoods in the darkness. Grief waxes and wanes.
When loneliness strikes, she writes lamentations: Full October moon Drowns pinpoint constellations. I miss your bright eyes.
The riptide from the fifth of a gallon a day floods the road of good intentions. Its ebb leaves tide pools of anxiety and depression ripening in a sour stomach. 
Each morning’s hangover brings the pounding of relentless reality, the ever-present eternal goddam now. Last night’s shame haloes her head in hangover vises. She pukes. Starts the hands-and-knees
search party for dimes or quarters or pennies for a half-pint of mercy. She ignores the snores of an anonymous cowboy under a throw and the spray of clothes.
She wipes withdrawal’s sweat from her face, swipes at the brain fog. The riptide created by her moons leaves an empty curse. She flings the empty purse
of promises into the furthest corners of cobweb resolve, another tourist attraction. When the new moon slides between sun and earth, the eclipse covers her soul like a shawl.
She peers into the silvered glass of the detox bathroom mirror, where a stranger greets her. A shadow of comfort arises when she strokes her new moon, colored and frozen on her neck

New Publication!

The SASSI Institute is pleased to announce the publication of its newest manuscript “Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Co-Morbidities Among Teens in Treatment: SASSI-A3 Correlations in Screening Scores.” Within this article, we review data from teenagers in treatment focusing on mental health diagnoses alongside a DSM-5 diagnosis of substance use disorder. Our hope is that by identifying possible correlations between SASSI-A3 scale scores and diagnosed mental health disorders, (depression and anxiety in particular), will provide clinicians with additional tools to direct the course of subsequent clinical interviews, in particular for teens suffering from co-occurring disorders. This Open-Access article is available here: Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Co-Morbidities Among Teens in Treatment: SASSI-A3 Correlations in Screening Scores

Adolescent Vaping: Examining the Dangers

It is with great pride that we announce the release of our latest adolescent research manuscript. This article is based on one key aspect of the Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory (SASSI) Institute’s forthcoming third iteration of the Adolescent Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory (SASSI-A3). While our primary goal was to develop a screening tool for adolescents that is concordant with the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) guidelines, we found other aspects of the instrument that we felt were beneficial to investigate further. This article, Vaping and Edibles: Self-Reported Usage Patterns Among Teens In and Out of Treatment, focuses on questions regarding cannabidiol (CBD) edible consumption and the extent of vaping to review and subsequently address these dangers in teens.

Teens that begin using alcohol, drugs, and tobacco early in adolescence are more likely to engage in vaping and edible usage. They are also more likely to use at a more frequent rate. Early intervention is a critical component towards preventing possible negative outcomes for substance misusing teens. Identifying these patterns will inevitably direct the course of subsequent clinical interviews and treatment planning.

Adolescent SASSI-A3 Research Update

The SASSI Institute conducted a validation project on the accuracy of the adolescent SASSI substance use screening measure with respect to the most current nationally accepted diagnostic standards for substance use disorders, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders diagnostic criteria (DSM-5). We are delighted to report that our data analyses is complete and presently we are preparing our findings for peer review submission and subsequent publication and dissemination.

Decision rules were formulated that would provide a good degree of accuracy using our development sample. Yet, the crucial issue is whether the SASSI-A3 scoring rules would be accurate when applied to a sample not used in formulating the decision rules. That is, how well does the SASSI-A3 cross-validate? When tested, we are pleased to report that the SASSI-A3 decision rules on the cross-validation sample results indicated an overall accuracy of 93.41%, 15.01% gain in sensitivity, 0.83% loss in specificity, and 9.75% gain in overall accuracy!

When released, SASSI-A3 will now include updated language reflecting current teen drug trends, a prescription drug abuse scale, as well as additional items. Once the publication review process is finalized, we are looking forward to making this updated tool available to professionals in the field.

We want to once again acknowledge and thank all the individuals and organizations who provided us with their valuable contributions.

Scarlett Baker, A.A. – SASSI A-3 Project Director, and SASSI Institute Director of Training

Recognizing National Correctional Officers and Employees Week

The SASSI Institute wishes to express our appreciation for those working in correctional settings, criminal justice and juvenile services. This is an unprecedented time for all, and especially hard for those working in correctional settings and their family members. Thank you for staying strong!

We also send our condolences to the family and friends of those who have lost their life during this pandemic.

Stay safe everyone.