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Training of recovering addicts and their family members as peer support educators: An Indian experience

Published in Contemporary Social Work
Vol. XVII. April, 2000
Navjyoti or “New light” emerged in 1987 as a step towards crime prevention. The idea originated from its dynamic founder, the Magasaysay Award recipient Dr. (Mrs.) Kiran Bedi I.P.S. Navjoyti Delhi Police Foundation for correction,De-addiction and Rehabilitation , a non-governmental, non-profit and voluntary organisation is primarily engaged in the efforts to treat and rehabilitate addicts and offer comprehensive programmes for co-dependents (family members of the drug addicts). From make-shift drug treatment centres in six police stations in North Delhi till 1990, Navjyoti today has become a full fledged drug treatment and rehabilitation centre.
For Navjyoti it has been a decade of trials, challenges tears, smiles and above all learning.
The dedicated band of trained workers, counsellors, yoga experts, peer support counsellors and homoeopaths have learned from every situation, every patient, every treatment need, individual characteristics or addictive personality to evolve a “Psycho-Socio-Medico-Spiritual Model” which could be called a Navjyoti model of drug treatment and rehabilitation. We have incorporated in our programme the ancient Indian practices of yoga and naturopathy, meditation, homeopathy and the Therapeutic Community. We also draw much strength from the time tested institution of joint family, still every strong in India.
The UNDCP-DAP supported one year training of recovering addicts and co-dependents as peer support counsellors has been a fitting tribute to Navjyoti’s efforts to put broken lives back on rails or as the ‘The Times of India’ columnist wrote, to help them to come out “From Despair to Hope”. This programme incidentally has also coincided with the tenth anniversary of Navjyoti. A detailed account of this training programme is considered necessary and apt as it has been path breaking experience and could be of interest to all those who are involved in TC programmes in the Asian region.
The present project has its own linkage with the co-author’s (Suneel Vatsyayan) professional and academic background. He was a student of criminology and correctional administration. On completion of his Master’s, the first thing he did by way of de-schooling was to keep aside his books and try to be in the field as a layman and above all as a human being. He had the urge to know how the problems at the ground level could be handled with common sense solutions. He also wanted to try and understand the human dynamics of drug and alcohol addition. He also tried to explore the attributes/potentials they have rather than those they did not have. This gave him a vision to see an addict beyond the drug problem, as a human being. He found in them, after a period of recovery, a rare kind of commitment, dedication and transparency. These he thought are the right attributes for a good counselor/social worker. He could sense the potentialities of a peer support counselor in a recovering addict. All what they needed was a knowledge base and the necessary skills to enable them to function efficiently and objectivity. It is more than a mere coincidence that he attended the 3rd AFTC International Conference on the Development of Therapeutic Community (TC) Model in Asia in Bankok in 1997. This was during the planning of this one-year training. So here was an opportunity to put into action at least two of the programme, therefore was meant to train recovering drug dependents to acquire professional skills. Similarly it was decided that regular staff meetings would be made an inegral part of training in the spirit of TC. What we found common to the addicts and co-dependents was that all of them have passed through “the University of pain and sorrow.” So they were like fertile fields ready for sowing. They just needed a direction with concepts, exact scientific information and skills to become peer support counsellors. That this training programme has been a resounding success can be judged from the ultimate beneficiaries who have already been employed by agencies working in drug prevention and related fields.

The Training

The homogeneity of the trainee population was basically confined to their problem of addiction and commitment to Navjyoti. 15 out of the group of 20 who finally completed this one-year programme had been drug addicts and were men. The five ladies who completed the programme were co-dependents or family members of addicts. They included the wife and a sister of two trainees.
All the male members except one had completed their treatment and long term TC programme. The ladies who comprised the group had been members of the Capable Group, a self-help group of co-dependents.
Years of addiction and recovery period of the trainee population were also varied. Some had an addiction history of two, three or four years to a decade. There were a few who were drug free for over three years and others for an year or more. Son of one of the co-dependents is still an addict having gone through relapse a number of times.
Economic background of the trainees too was diverse. Some have embraced penury on account of addication while some others have enough for sustenance.
Such heterogeneity among the population was the biggest challenge in the planning and execution of this novel training programme, especially in the area of curriculum development.

Reasons for joining the UNDCP Training:
(a) For recovery, (b) To become self-dependent, (c) To learn how to cope with the problem of drugs, (d) To receive training in counselling, (e) For personal growth, (f) To help other addicts, (g) Get employed as social worker in any Non-Govt. or Govt. Organisation, (h) Stipend to support family as well as getting experience, (i) Become a counsellor, (j) To add to qualification, (k) Personal growth and (l) Enhance professional skills.
Expectations at the time of joining:
(a) Gain knowledge in the area of drug de-addiction, (b) To become self-dependent, (c) Become a good counsellor, (d) Personality development, (e) Earn money, (f) For change in behaviour, (g) For handling responsibility effectively and sincerely and (h) To become an effective social worker.
Brief Introduction to the Training Programme
Twenty recovering addicts and five co-dependents were given training in three phases viz. Pre-training for 3 months, training and developing Module for 6 months and post-training for 3 months.
After recruiting the staff needed for the project, screening and enrolment of the trainees were undertaken at the beginning of the first phase. This phase included sharing objectives of the training, exploration of the trainees’ personal traits, needs etc., needs/problems assessment, group building and assessment of training needs. During this phase of the programme, besides emphasis on imparting social development skills, the trainees had close interaction and were building relationship. Love, Care and Concern were the watchwords. Most of the male trainees being members of the Navjyoti TC programme were trained to live in a family like situation where everyone shared responsibilities. Finally there was a screening and after the screening fifteen recovering addicts were chosen out of the twenty who were initially in the programme. The five codependents were members of the Navjyoti Capable Group. The agency supervisors meeting was held to finalise the placement of the trainees for orientation and for assessment of potentiality at the work situation during pre-training. In fact such agency supervisors meetings were a regular feature. The trainees were then placed under the personal supervision of the respective supervisors.
In the second phase of intensive training the beneficiaries were identified and groups were formed. During this phase group discussions, educative and informative classes, workshops, awareness programmes, family meetings, home visits etc. were conducted.
In the final phase, the trainees with the skills gained during the training organised awareness programmes, home visits, counselling sessions and were placed in various other organizations for ‘on the job training.’

The Training Methodology
Various adult training techniques were adopted keeping in view the special needs and limitations of the recovering addicts and co-dependents. The traditional lecture method was used depending on the type and nature of the subject. Efforts were however made to make these “Talk” sessions as effective as possible. Concerning certain specific learning situations and the objectives they were aiming for role plays and simulation techniques were adopted. For example, in counselling training, role play was adopted and during the workshop on first aid simulation techniques were used.
For reinforcement of class learning, individual work (writing reflections), small group and project work (visit to perfect Health Mela), class projects (writing Letter to Oneself on Wastage of time) exhibitions (Navjyoti’s 10th anniversary function), surveys and visits (home visits to identify drug addicts and to motivate them to remain drug free) were organised. The teaching aids used during the sessions included black board, pictorial aids, tape recorders, slide projectors, VCR, films, etc.
Excerpts from Trainees, Evaluation of the Programme
In order to gauge the effectiveness of the training programme, the method adopted was to interview each trainee and get feed back from him. This evaluation was done with three objectives in mind:
i. To improve the performance of the facilitators or trainers to be better in future.
ii. To plan new strategies, better curriculum, and to fine tune the methodology applied with future programmes in view.
iii. To learn from strengths and weaknesses in the area of practice.
All the trainees were personally interviewed for a first hand evaluation on the effectiveness of the training. This was done in two stages viz. At the mid course mark and on completion of the programmes. To be more precise these are totally untutored and but for the language and grammer these evaluations by individual trainees are authentic and are their own reactions. The contents and the lengths of each piece depend on what actually individual trainee had said or could recall. The following are excerpts from what the tainees expressed as feed back.
After his recovery he has been counselling drug addicts but feels he is not fully equipped to do it. Now it is “Jyada clear” (more clear) to him. The practical and lecture sessions on counselling have helped him in knowing about counselling in a more systematic manner with the right terminology and skills.
On the cognitive side he feels that there is much better inputs to be used as a counsellor. He feels that sessions on “Classification of Drug” or “Children of addicts,” increased his knowledge of these basic issues. Besides it has also made a personal impact of him. “Main Phale apni biwi ko marta tha……Mera bachha darke rahta tha…..Kabhi mere gode mein nahi aata tha….” (I used to beat my wife….. My child was scared of me and never sat in my lap”). Now, after this training programme things are different. His child is no longer scared of him. He speaks to his child affectionately.
Roshan Lal
Sessions on counselling have given Roshan Lal the much needed skills and information. As one who undertakes home visits of drug addicts and recovering addicts, he is now confident of handling his clients and knows how to counsel family members. He picked up the necessary and information during the session on the concept of addiction as a family disease.
Being a recovering addict, Dayanand knew from personal experience that addiction is a family disease. But after attending the training he received new information and could view the issue from a new perspective. He knows that co-dependents also have same feelings of anger, irritation, frustration and neglect and unless this is understood a counsellor cannot help the family of an addict.
The workshop was found to be very useful by Karamveer as it helped him in sharpening or improving his communication skills especially his listening skills. Time management session was an eye opener as he wrote a letter himself on how he wastes his own time and time of others. The session on leadership qualities and the job of the facilitator gave him openness and ability to have politeness in his dealings.
The session on accounts was of practical relevance as he works in an organizational structure. Rules and regulations as far as expenses incurred are concerned, how to accept donations, prepare vouchers, etc. were explained during this session, says Ishwar.
Brij Mohan
During his treatment and T.C. programme days in Navjyoti, Brijmohan was exposed to Yoga and had regularly taken part in yogic exercise. But the theory and practical sessions on Yoga gave him an opportunity to know more about exercises and asanas as therapeutic components in drug treatment and rehabilitation.
Arunesh Kaushik
By attending the workshop he feels that his skills have been sharpened in the areas of communication, organisational skills and leadership qualities. Time management was another aspect which needed special attention as far as recovering addicts are converned. The workshop helped him in knowing the value of time and importance of being punctual.
Yameen at the end of the training has realised that a counsellor is an all rounder who should be in a position to handle any situation. The training programme according to him has given him better awareness, improved skills self-confidence and enhanced self-esteem. He is thankful to the Japanese kids who missed a meal to fund this project through the UNDCP and feels has made good use of it. Yameen has also realised after the training that counselling skill can be used in situations other than the problem of addiction.
The connection between drug addiction and AIDS was made clear to Anju during the session on the topic by resource from the Parivar Seva Sansthan. He does come across an occasional intravenous drug user and he now has the knowledge to tell such people about the dangers of sharing contaminated needles. He has also realised that there is need to talk about AIDS.
Narendra Dava
Dave can recall the sessions on counselling. He detailed some of the qualities of a good counsellor. According to him a counsellor should be dressed neatly but modestly, always polite and humble. This would make his clients accept him. He has also realised that he should treat his patients with respect and dignity. The counsellor should be trustworthy and encourage the patients, Dave says.
Harinder Puri
As a member of the Navjyoti Therapeutic Community he has been head of the kitchen department and has maintained kitchen accounts. But after attending the sessions on Accounts by Narendra Pal Singh Kalra he has learnt how to maintain accounts in a more systematic way.
Lessons learned from the Training Experience
1. That recovering addicts are often under-estimated and everyone views them with prejudices and preconceived notions. In fact some of the experts who came in as resource persons initially had apprehensions about the efficacy of any training in cognitive skills. After dealing with the trainees such people however relized that given the right opportunities, they are second to none and at times even more motivated learners than the so called normal people.
2. The rich experience gained in developing the curriculum and resultant training module that has been prepared can be an effective model for implementation by the government and non-government organizations working not just in the field of drug prevention but also in other fields.

** Former Honorary Consultant, Navjyoti, Delhi Police Foundation for Correction, De-addiction & Rehabilitation .


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