Trine’s new addictions counselor concentration seeks to meet growing need

The opioid addiction crisis is not just making national headlines, it’s hitting close to home for many.

“We have seen the shift in focus of our local and national governments as well as our communities to help address this concern,” said Wayne Stephan, assistant director of addictions recovery services for the Bowen Center.

As municipalities and agencies grapple with how to best deal with addiction issues, the need for licensed addictions counselors is expected to grow, and Trine University is providing its students the opportunity to help meet that need.

The university’s College of Graduate and Professional Studies (CGPS) began offering a new licensed addictions counselor concentration this fall. The concentration allows students who earn a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or psychology to take specialized coursework in order to sit for the addictions counselor licensure examination upon graduation.

“The licensed addictions counselor concentration prepares students to become powerful agents of change in their communities, as well as increasing their ability to gain employment,” said Ryan Dombkowski, Ph.D., dean of the CGPS. “Addiction treatment is needed on local and national scales. Trine University prides itself on not only preparing students to succeed in their field of study, but also equipping students with the social responsibility to serve their communities in times of need.”

Opioid addiction had an impact on two Trine students who plan to become licensed addictions counselors after completing their degrees. Moriah Boese, a psychology major from New Haven, and Heather Schillinger, a psychology major from Fort Wayne, each said they were inspired to enter the field because of loved ones with addiction issues.

“I have family who struggle with addiction and decided I wanted to help that population of people,” said Boese.

Tess Ottenwller, director of addiction recovery and family services at the Bowen Center, said she is excited about the opportunity Trine students will have to be trained for a career in addictions counseling.

“As the need for addiction recovery services continues to grow, quality treatment is imperative,” she said. “I look forward to partnering with Trine to further our addiction recovery efforts in our communities!”

The need for addictions counselors at Bowen Center in particular will be “impressive,” according to Lindsay Erba, talent acquisition coordinator for Bowen, with the recent addition of the Bowen Recovery Center to help battle opioid addiction.

“Our goal is to help facilitate the growth of these future counselors to better serve the communities we live in,” she said.

The strong relationship between Trine and multiple community health partners like Bowen Center has provided students direct access to applied field experiences, internships and potential employment opportunities, said Dombkowski. In turn, Trine students have helped the Bowen Center expand its services.

“Bowen’s recruitment of Trine students has made a large impact on the growth of the Bowen Center offices in the area,” said Erba. “Trine students always come prepared to help the communities they serve. Many Trine students also take advantage of our internship program, where they complete one to two semesters getting hands-on, real-world experience in the mental health field.”

“As the number of individuals seeking treatment for substance use-related disorders rises, so too does the need for well trained and qualified professionals like licensed addictions counselors,” said Stephan. “Bowen Center is working actively to help those with addiction in all the communities we serve, but in order to do that well, we need help. That is where a partnership with educational institutions like Trine University come into play. By working collaboratively to provide internship and employment opportunities we can look forward to having students who are prepared both educationally and experientially to help us bring healing and recovery to those in need.”