The MUCH MORE project in Turku organized the second training for professionals just before Christmas. The topic of this training was co-operation with the trained experts by experience.
The training was held by Reijo Lappeteläinen, who works as a substance abuse treatment therapist and coordinates the trainings for people who want to become experts by experience. Reijo Lappeteläinen coordinates a program that trains yearly about 10 to 20 professionals. The program includes 100 hours of lessons for students and the practical training part.
Experts by experience are people with lived experience of substance misuse or mental health, for instance. In Finland recovered alcoholics must pass a demanding training before they can become trained experts by experience. By sharing their expert voice and very special kind of knowledge trained experts of experience can help professionals who work with substance abusing clients.
It’s a big problem that the target group of the MUCH MORE project, middle-aged men with past addiction problems – and people with addiction problems in general – don’t trust authorities or treatment providers. Cooperation with trained experts by experience can help build trust between clients and professionals. For clients, presence of the experts by experience can also mean peer support. As already recovered addict experts by experience can be approachable role models for clients.
Why professionals should listen to trained experts by experience? Because these people have personal lived experience of alcoholism, they really know how it feels. Professionals without addiction background don’t know. Reijo Lappeteläinen points out that knowledge based on lived experiences can complete the knowledge of the professionals. That is something we should consider more often.
One of the students from the program Lappeteläinen coordinates participated our training session. He told his story and we, professionals, were able to ask him questions of each stage of addiction he has been going through. The discussion was productive and we got good insights into what kind of issues substance addict thinks in each stage of his journey. Of course every addict has his or her own journey, but it’s very crucial that we as professionals understand the thinking behind of addiction. Knowing and understanding the story behind of addict helps us to serve our clients better.
By Totti Räsänen, Blue Ribbon Association of Southwest Finland