Training a Well-Rounded Group of Counselors

By McAlarney, Brion P. | Addiction Professional, January-February 2007 | Go to article overview

Training a Well-Rounded Group of Counselors


McAlarney, Brion P., Addiction Professional


As a recently recovering person at age 35, Donna Mae DePola was enrolled at a local college in New York on her way to achieving credentialing as a certified addiction counselor. Yet while her recovery from cocaine and heroin addiction made her a logical candidate for the credentialing program, she felt out of place.

"I felt a little out of it because most people in there had degrees," says DePola. "I felt that I needed to open a school that was aimed a little bit toward the recovering person, as well as the professional person, meaning a lot of professionals are in recovery too."

With a background in the restaurant business, DePola says it was natural for her to look into opening her own school. She was working as a counselor in an agency and collaborated with a friend to look into the requirements and write a curriculum. The process lasted 18 months, culminating in a 1994 acceptance from the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services.

The Resource CASAC Group, Inc. (now called The Resource Training Center) opened in the New York community of Bay Ridge with six students. The counselor credentialing school has since graduated more than 2,000. DePola considers her organization unique because not only does it administer a CASAC (Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor) program, it also covers subjects that a recovering addict likely will have to address, such as conflict resolution, dressing for success, resume writing, and job interview preparation.

The center also helps students with general reading and writing skills when necessary. "We send them to places where they can improve their skills while they're coming to our school, so by the time they've graduated, not only do they have the CASAC, but they have a lot of other skills that they needed to sharpen," says DePola.

The center offers a day program on weekdays and an evening program that runs two nights a week and all day Saturday. The day program is intended for people who may still be living in a treatment center and working toward the next phase of recovery. The evening program is for people who may already be working in the field but need to attain their state credential.

Placement successes

DePola measures her program's success on how well it places graduates into jobs as substance abuse counselors. …

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