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Tue, June 18

From despair to hope: Therapies help substance abusers overcome addictions

Drug offenders can change faulty beliefs and live a more satisfying life through coping skills and self-empowerment, otherwise known as moral reconation therapy.

During Thursday's MATForce/Substance Abuse Coalition meeting, Diane Bruck, founder of Choices for Youth, Families and Adults, spoke about embracing multiple treatment programs though MRT and social responsibility training.

"MRT is about community - bringing youth, adults and families together," Bruck said. "It raises the participant's level of moral reasoning from the bottom. About 98 percent of our adult participants are meth users. In children, it is underage drinking, heroin and OxyContin."

Bruck said more than 1 million people in 45 states, Australia, Japan and Canada have gone through the MRT program.

"This is not therapy, but MRT does open people up to changing behaviors," said Ben Ainsa, adult probation officer and MRT/SRT facilitator. MRT, he said, enhances on-going treatment programs by changing inappropriate belief systems, attitudes and behaviors and assessing current relationships.

The MRT profile for Yavapai County reveals that drug and alcohol abusers are typically treatment-resistant repeat offenders who are recent jail inmates held under a medium- to high-risk classification.

Bruck said currently the Adult Probation Department has 13 classes in Yavapai County, including two in the adult jail, one in juvenile detention, one for Spanish-speaking offenders, and one for former inmates in halfway houses.

MRT participants complete cognitive-behavioral exercises from a workbook suited to their level, Bruck explained.

"The classes are open-ended and delivered in a class setting to create a positive peer culture that supports accountability and positive change," she said.

Peer vote determines the satisfactory completion of steps, and all graduates have the opportunity to become peer mentors. To date, the program has 146 graduates.

"I can see a change in attitude from when participants first start the class - which is resistance - and watch it evolve. You can see when the light comes on in their eyes," said Jack Berry, adult probation officer in Black Canyon City. "I travel around to classes and each class has different dynamics. It is definitely amazing."

Adult Probation Officer Maria Mata started the Spanish-speaking class in February.

"I see a big change in my people as they become more accountable for their actions," she said.

Two guest speakers at the meeting were both recovering addicts and graduated from the program.

"I was a meth user and if it wasn't for this program I don't know where I'd be," one woman said. (Program organizers requested that speakers not be named.) "It helped me check my reality and re-evaluate my decisions on anything in life. The support of the group during my 12-step program was amazing and I am proud to be a part of it."

SRT is a softer approach for people with low to medium risks. Ainsa said MRT is SRT on steroids. The school-based curriculum helps students stay in school and achieve academic success.

"We have had great success with the SRT program in schools," he said. "It is considered a safe haven for students, and peers hold each other responsible."

Prescott Unified School District and Humboldt Unified School District have served 278 students, of which 202 graduated from the SRT program.

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