Member spotlight.
Article Type: Column
Subject: Psychotherapists (Personal narratives)
Psychotherapists (Management)
Author: Adler, Cheryl
Pub Date: 06/22/2011
Publication: Name: Annals of the American Psychotherapy Association Publisher: American Psychotherapy Association Audience: Academic; Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Psychology and mental health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2011 American Psychotherapy Association ISSN: 1535-4075
Issue: Date: Summer, 2011 Source Volume: 14 Source Issue: 2
Topic: Event Code: 200 Management dynamics Computer Subject: Company business management
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number: 264672499

Tell us about your inspiration for writing Sober University: Your Next Step to Successful Recovery

As a psychotherapist in private practice, writing this book was a compelling "next step." Over the years, I had seen too many people with failed "recovery" experiences. In doing my research, I was aware of many self-help books on the subject but none that incorporated the wealth of modalities that are in Sober University, a "university" for learning. Recovery imitates the real difficulties of life. Yet, as the process of psychotherapy unfolds, people who are committed to the process develop self-regulation and learn sober coping skills. Relapses of all kinds diminished and success soared.

I am inspired by the hundreds of clients I have worked with who suffered from poly-substance abuse, behavioral addictions, and self-harming choices. They invited me into their world. They bared their pain and the obstacles standing between them and their dreams and ambitions. Sober University is a culmination of lessons learned through true-life client agonies and victories.

How did your practice come to focus on addiction?

The short answer is that in all venues in which I worked, a client either had addiction challenges or had a friend or relative in trouble because of their addictions. More specifically, I wore many hats over the years--special education teacher, clinical social worker, advocate for battered women, a home-finder for foster children, a life-skills counselor in a jail, and an alcohol and high school substance abuse counselor. As an OASAS-approved treatment provider in New York state (Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services), I have evaluated and worked with many individuals arrested for intoxicated driving, substance abuse issues, and domestic offenses. Self-medicating with the addiction of choice was in response to childhood wounds, anxiety, depression, mood swings, trauma, and other conditions that interfered with the quality of their lives. I developed a niche in addiction and recovery because so many clients struggled with one or more addictions.

Whom do you hope to help through the book?

I wrote Sober University for any addict at any stage of recovery. It is for anyone seeking a sober lifestyle who may feel lost or frustrated, or those seeking new ways to enrich their sobriety. Readers will recognize their own humanity and find hope and inspiration. The book emphasizes the value of taking sobriety and wellness beyond short-term surface interventions to greater depths of self-awareness, insight, and empowerment. It facilitates a transformation of self and lifestyle, not merely quitting a behavior.

In addition, Sober University was not only written for those seeking a quality sober lifestyle. I also wrote it for friends, family, and loved ones who may have someone in their life they want to help. The tone is in simple, non-clinical language. There are numerous chapters on family dynamics, improving relationships, and strengthening values.

Does the reader need to read Sober University cover to cover, or in sections?

I've divided the book into four progressive courses, each one designed to offer insight, self-examination, and self-reflection, as well as cutting-edge treatments and ancient wisdom. Sober University covers such topics as "Sober Finance," getting your financial house in order; "Do Tibetan Monks Have ADD," the role of meditation to diminish attention deficit disorder; "Food Recipes For Recovery," the role of nutrition in recovery, including healthful recipes; and "Call of the Wild," connecting with nature and outdoor activities, in one volume.

Any advice for those who have gone through treatment but without success?

Never give up on yourself! A true and lasting recovery from any addiction is possible. Treatment is as individual and unique as the person's road to that addiction. Recovery is not linear and, although discouraged, relapses will occur. They should not be punished. Rather, they are opportunities for learning. An addict's disease didn't develop over a week or a month, so expecting an instant and enduring cure is unrealistic. Depending on one's individual needs, adjunct supports can include a 12-step program, a sponsor, a psychiatrist, and a change of persons, places, and things that were part of their addictive lifestyle can make a positive change.

I would highly recommend devoting oneself to professional treatment and to finding a qualified and compassionate therapist. With a trusted therapist, you can speak the unspeakable, in a safe and sacred place. In my own life, my most inspiring teacher said that in order to grow, "you must fall in love with the truth." As difficult as that may be, it is the only way one can live an authentic life of integrity.

What is your view of rehab treatment facilities?

Some people need an inpatient rehab much the same way people need an emergency room intervention. It can save your life. The shortcoming of this kind of setting is the status-quo, cookie-cutter, assembly-line approach. One size does not fit most. These are usually the kinds of facilities covered by insurance. An addict gets the necessary "jump start" but needs far more than this to sustain a long-term recovery.

Ideally, I'd love to see more rehabs modeled after wilderness or equine settings that are dynamic and interactive, offering team building, fresh air, the care of animals, and various physical challenges. The focus is one of adventure and achievement and essential body-mind awareness. With a traditional rehab center, where sitting in groups for long hours at a time is the norm, that is less apt to happen.

Do you have a favorite Sober University chapter?

My favorite chapter is Chapter 20, "David's Story: How Do You Like My New Digs?" This takes the reader through the "dark night of the soul" of David, who loses his beloved wife to cancer. As a result, he turns to drugs, alcohol, and other self-destructive behaviors. He loses his business and is unable to care for his kids. As a result of psychotherapy and 12-step meetings, he confronts his deep grief and difficult emotions. He gradually rebuilds his life. This chapter details David's journey through severe addiction and loss to successful sobriety and reconnection to his life.

So, what's your next step?

I'd like to help a wider audience, with workshops and my own radio show, where people can call anonymously. Listeners will know they're truly not alone. I have a fierce desire to motivate others to find their best self. If they are going to crave anything, I want them to crave living life to the fullest!

Cheryl Adler, MS, LCW, Diplomate and Fellow, American Psychotherapy Association

Cheryl Adler is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and a Diplomate and Fellow with the American Psychotherapy Association. Cheryl has worked with developmentally challenged children, brain-injured adolescents and adults, and people with chronic and terminal illness. An OASAS Treatment Provider for the state of New York (Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services), Adler is also a member of NASW (National Association of Social Workers). Contact her at

For more information about the author or the book, visit
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