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Course Description

The content of this graduate level course brings together substance abuse studies and family systems approaches. It provides a brief overview of models to identify addictive behavior and its etiology. Students are presented with a knowledge base that includes content-information of addiction, methods for assessing and the basic skills for treating addictive systems, and approaches for collaborating with other mental health professionals who treat addictions. The course identifies the addictive and intergenerational patterns within families. Students are encouraged to reflect upon the theoretical frameworks to understand and to create interventions for alcoholic and substance abusing family systems. Relational clinical models including developmental, systemic, solution-focused, and narrative approaches are reviewed and evaluated. The course examines the history and methods of these treatment models and embraces critically the self-help movement and the systemic approaches that emphasize the resources and strengths of patients and their families rather than the psychopathological aspects. Issues of social justice are emphasized in a review of the effects of socio-cultural and social policy that influence family behaviors and treatment approaches. Most treatments for substance abuse have focused on abstinence as their final goal and emphasize brief interventions with the addicted individual. Family relationships though change dramatically when the person presenting an addictive behavior stops using drugs and/or alcohol— in fact, stress, turmoil, and uncertainty are the norm. This course reviews how to help families regroup after abstinence, ride out periods of emotional upheaval, and find their way to establishing a more stable, yet flexible, family system. Expanding the therapist's role to include psychoeducational and supportive counseling, the course provides pointers for assessment at key stages of recovery and guides to bring lasting change by collaborating with other professionals and communities. Students are encouraged to integrate their own experiences of addiction with family systems in a number of different ways: maintaining a daily log, tracking patterns of addiction in their own family of origin, observing a self-help group, reading from the required and recommended texts, by participating in threaded discussions, analyzing how the media portrays addiction in families, clinical simulations (interviews), and evaluating the resources available in the internet for researchers, therapists, and families.

Course Objectives

  • To acquaint yourself with the effects of addictive behavior on family systems and able to assess clinical and research information about substance abuse and the family.
  • As a caring, principled, and respectful perspective professional, to assess the impairment levels of families and family members when an addiction become the central organizing principle for the family.
  • As a knowledgeable and skilled practitioner, to gain knowledge about models and strategies for treating families organized by addictive patterns.
  • As a committed agent of change for social justice, to become aware of the social construction of addiction and the contextual determinants of addictive behavior.
  • As a curious and respectful practitioner, students will identify protective factors and exceptional and unique outcomes, and will develop skills at exploring strengths in families, institutions, and communities that foster recovery and healing
  • As a reflective and critical thinker, to be mindful and thoughtful about issues of addiction and responsive to families faced with the consequences of addictive behavior.




Required Textbooks


Berg, I. K., Reuss, N. (1998). Solutions step by step: A substance abuse manual. New York: Norton.


Brown, S., & Lewis, V. (1998). The alcoholic family in recovery: A developmental model. New York: Guilford Press.

Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2004). Substance Abuse Treatment and Family Therapy.

Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 39. DHHS Publication No. (SMA)

04-3957. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Diamond, J. (2000). Narrative means to sober ends. New York: Guilford Press.

Krestan, Jo-Ann (Ed.) (2000). Bridges to recovery: Addiction, family therapy, and multicultural treatment. New York: Free Press.

Roberts, L., & McCrady, B.S. (2003). Alcohol problems in intimate relationships: Identification and intervention. A guide for marriage and family therapists. NIH Publication # 03-5284

Other Readings

  • Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (1994). Practical approaches in the treatment of women
    who abuse alcohol and other drugs. Rockville, MD: Department of Health and Human
    Services, Public Health Services. [Free publication from DHHS Publication # (SMA) 94-
  • Fazzone, P.A., Holton, J.K., & Reed, B.G. (1997). Substance Abuse Treatment and Domestic
    Violence Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series 25. DHHS Publication No.
    (SMA) 97-3163. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Substance Abuse
    and Mental Health Services Administration Center forSubstance Abuse Treatment
  • Lawton Barry, Kristen (1999). Brief interventions and brief therapies for substance abuse.
    Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series 34. DHHS Publication No. (SMA) 99-
    3353. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of health and Human Services, Public Health
    Service, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Center for
    Substance Abuse Treatment.
  • Winters, K. C. (1999). Treatment of adolescents with substance use disorders. Treatment
    Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, 32. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and
    Human Services.4

WWW Resources

• Addiction Technology Transfer Centers:
• Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA/ACoA):
• Children of Alcoholics Foundation:
• National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism:
• National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI):
• National Council on Alcoholism and Drug
• National Association for Children of Alcoholics:
• National Association for Native American Children of Alcoholics:
• National Academy Press
• MEDSCAPE's Psychiatry MedPulse:

Required Assignments & Methods of Evaluation


Asynchronous (Threaded Discussions), Synchronous (Discussions and Simulations) Participation:


These forms of participation replace the actual presence of students in the classroom and it is a basic component of this course. We may have guests attending some of these discussions and some flexibility will be required to accommodate the schedule of those guests. Your presence in the threaded discussions should occur on a weekly basis. If you do not attend a Synchronous Event or miss a substantial portion of it, you are required to send a summary of that session before the end of the week to me via email.

You are required to generate a minimum of two entries per each threaded discussion

. Students are expected to make meaningful and thoughtful contributions to all discussions rather than “I agree” or “I dislike” kind of comments. If you send an email to the class or individuals, identify yourself clearly each time. The course requires going online at least a 3 to 4 times a week besides reading, writing, fieldwork experiences, and opportunities to watch videos in campus or at your location. Expect spending the same or more time than you would spend when taking a traditional course. It is your responsibility to back up and keep track of your participation.

Lead Threaded Discussion (groups of two or three):


1. Choose one article or chapter from each of the references lists (or one from the suggested readings plus one from the reference list #2).

2. Decide on the theme or question you will facilitate a threaded discussion

3. Give it a creative subject name

4. Let professor know when you would like to schedule the discussion. Keep in mind the syllabus structure so that your theme coincides with some of the subjects cover that week.

5. Write a two to three pages summary (single space) for class distribution. Use subtitles, bolded fonts, etc. Make it into a truly informational piece that the whole class can use to learn about the articles and about your conclusions Format the paper according to the following outline:

a. Subject of Discussion

b. Students' Names

c. References (APA 5th Guidelines)

d. Summary should include

i. What are the questions addressed by the authors?

ii. What is the research about? What setting? What sample? What methods?

iii. What are the conclusions?

iv. What is your evaluation of the articles?

v. What recommendations do you extract from the readings?

e. Questions for Discussion

6. Create a couple of engaging and thoughtful questions to lead class into the discussion

7. Send summary and questions for professor to review with a minimum of two weeks in advance of your scheduled threaded discussion (exceptions will be made for those choosing to lead the first two discussions).

8. You will lead the threaded discussion for whole week (Wednesday to Tuesday) and are responsible for responding, adding new information, and keeping it alive through a compelling interaction. Organize the groups and schedule it within the first two weeks. Presentations will start by the third session.


A Personal History of Substance Abuse and/or Addiction in my Family: Include a genogram and excerpts from interview with family members or family “stories.” Provide a title that is suggestive and creative. Your narrative should track central themes and stories rather than an exhaustive history of your family of origin or a chronological account of events. The narrative of this assignment is to be 4-6 pages and should not include information that can be easily included in the genogram (ages, ethnicity, race, dates, death, gender, relationships, etc.) This report is confidential and will not be shared with the class. Midterm Quiz: It includes class notes and readings up to Session 6. It will include brief responses and some multiple answers. It is open book but it will require throughout understanding of the readings. Fieldwork Report: This is a 5 pages report based on attendance to an AA open meeting. You should attend the meeting on your own and not be in the company of a relative or friend. Attend a meeting where there is a very low probability that you may encounter a friend or relative. This task starts immediately after you know about this assignment and the steps you need to take to accomplish it. Keep a journal about the experience from the moment you start thinking how you will approach the assignment, the journal will help you in writing the paper later on. The report is a thoughtful integration of the course material in light of your field experience. Highligh

Student Knowledge and Performance Objectives:


• Through readings and discussions, students will critically assess clinical and research literature about interventions with families affected by substance abuse.

• Through personal and theoretical inquiry, students will be acquainted with the effects of alcoholism and substance abuse on families and identify interactional and intergenerational patterns, and addiction narratives.

• Through readings, discussions, simulations, and observation of videotapes, students will be able to assess the level of alcoholism related impairment on the drinker and other family members.

• Students will become familiar with the language employed by diverse professionals and the self-help movement; an in-depth interview with a professional will provide a substantial immersion in such a language.

• Students will identify protective factors and exceptional and unique outcomes, and will develop skills at exploring strengths in families, institutions, and communities that foster recovery and healing.

• Students will be knowledgeable of ethical and collaborative interventions with families affected by substance abuse.

This graduate level course requires students to engage in activities that involve advanced skills in writing, reading, and verbal articulation of thoughts. It also requires basic computer knowledge (word processing and internet communication). For a successful experience in this course, students can think of themselves as "learners and teachers" who have a personal commitment to the discipline of learning for themselves and with their student colleagues. The use of evolving technology will also require a high degree of flexibility, collaboration, and time commitment.

The course requires going online at least a 3 to 4 times a week besides reading, writing, fieldwork experiences, and video screenings. Expect spending the same or more time than you would spend when taking a traditional course. It is your responsibility to back up and keep track of your participation. If you are unable to attend a Synchronous Event, listen/watch the event the same week and write a two pages report.

View Complete Syllabus
Copyright ©2008 Gonzalo Bacigalupe, Ed.D