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Waterloo therapist helps addicts online

Paul Radkowski is a man on a mission. He wants people who struggle with addictions to know that there is help for them as close as their computer. He says addicts who have made the commitment to take back their lives are frustrated by the lack of services to help them and the incredibly long wait times to access what is available. He also points to the feeling of hopelessness that overcomes addicts when they feel no one is listening.

Radkowski says, "People have to wait anywhere from two to eight months to get into expensive treatment programs, and after spending a great deal of money they don’t get the tools they need to carry on after leaving. The online program I have created is designed to help these people and their loved ones in a completely confidential, anonymous surrounding."

Radkowski, holds a degree in psychology and a masters degree in marriage & family therapy from Wilfrid Laurier University. His inspiration to create an accessible and affordable Internet alternative to mainstream therapies came after working in the Northwest Territories. He was given responsibility by the Canadian government to set up and supervise mental health and addiction programs. Amidst the haunting beauty and landscape of the far north, he found a gracious and caring people who suffered with addiction issues and a lack of resources.

He moved back to Waterloo Region to open a private practice and work for the Family Counselling Centre of Cambridge and North Dumphries. Living and working in our urban environment, he realized isolation and lack of resources for addicts was not just a problem of the north - it’s a global dilemma. He says that’s when he understood that his life mission was "to provide support, information, tools and techniques to help people all over the world overcome their trauma and addiction issues and know that resources are out there."

Radkowski and fellow therapist, Monique Peats, came up with a program that would utilize human power as well as science to treat addictions to alcohol/drugs, eating disorders, anger, shopping, smoking, porn, gambling, self-cutting, toxic relationships, impulse control issues like acting out, and even the Internet itself.

Explains Radkowski, "The All-Addictions Life Recovery Program [at www.liferecoveryprogram.com] is designed to help all people with any addiction and impulse/control issues such as drugs and alcohol or behavioural." The program ranges from three to six months long, accessible at any time and based on cutting edge Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) techniques, neuroscience research and applied kinesiology. The cost is $89 per month. Radkowski believes that through new methods such as CBT therapy patients "learn new grounding techniques to sustain success with less chance of relapse, which typically occurs in the first three months after discharge."

Radkowski’s online rehabilitation plan begins with an in-depth assessment to determine whether a candidate is at risk and medically stable enough to participate in the program. Set up as a series of modules, the first part of the program sets a solid foundation for the addict and the second teaches advanced concepts to help change addictive patterns of behaviour, increase self control and awareness.

"Participants learn how to decrease painful emotions and understand what is happening to them on a physical, mental and emotional level," Radkowski says. "All-Addictions Life Recovery Program offers holistic treatment options and strategies so people can identify what triggers negative behaviours and help develop healthier ways to cope."

Bi-weekly psycho-educational video/audio workshops, downloadable homework suggestions and exercises, and supportive emails are all part of the program. To ensure success, workshops are available for viewing 24 hours a day, seven days a week for up to six months after completion of the program. Radkowski says, "the beauty of the program is it is the first of its kind to be accessible anywhere, anytime."

There is also a program for loved ones of those who struggle with addictions. It too is confidential and teaches how to stop enabling an addict and support their recovery.

Radkowski is quick to point out that his program is not meant to replace traditional treatment methods but rather, "bridge the gap and cover people who cannot get into mainstream rehabilitation centres right away. Some clients may choose to join the program until they gain entry into full time rehab. Others may join for post rehab care and to continue learning coping strategies."

Radkowski’s launch of the program in the fall of 2007 is being recognized as a new approach to addiction treatment. He was named 2008 Outstanding Addictions Professional Award by the International Association of Addictions & Offender Counsellors for developing the program.

In the year since launching the Life Recovery program on the Internet Radkowski has been contacted by the armed forces, physicians, university educators and fellow counsellors. There’s increasing interest in the program for those who don’t have access to traditional treatment programs or wish to remain anonymous.

While the program is still in its infancy, Radkowski hopes that one day it will expand to offer virtual interventions to help bridge gaps in the current system. He also sees it as being useful for training therapists through video training programs.