Counselors build knowledge with ‘Prime for Life’ program

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Counselors build knowledge with ‘Prime for Life’ program

by: Lance Cpl. Pete Sanders | .
Okinawa Marine Staff | .
published: August 23, 2013

CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan -- Substance Abuse Counseling Center staff attended a Prime for Life refresher course Aug. 12-14 at Camp Foster to further their education as counselors in an effort to serve as reliable and knowledgeable resources on a wide range of substance-abuse issues.

The Substance Abuse Counseling Center is operated jointly by Marine Corps Community Services and U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa, and the use of the Prime for Life substance-abuse prevention program was announced in Marine Administrative Message 527/12 on Sept. 21, 2012.

“This (program) is designed to teach patients how to identify and prevent problems,” said Raymond P. Daugherty, a co-author of the Prime for Life program. “It’s an evidence-based, early prevention program conceived to meet the needs of the populace.”

Creating a program based on clinical research and studies in substance abuse helps achieve relevance and results, according to Daugherty.

“We designed the curriculum according to clinical research from other programs,” said Daugherty. “We took what works from different programs and combined it to make this program accurate and effective.”

Developing the course around early prevention helps students address substance use and abuse before it hinders long-term potential, according to Chief Petty Officer Clay B. Hardman, an addictions counselor with USNHO.

“Substance abuse disorders are commonly referred to as being progressive,” said Hardman. “The earlier the intervention, the better chance that someone will adjust their behavior and make low-risk (substance use) decisions.”

Because many cases of substance abuse are progressive, starting with seemingly small issues, and are rooted in habits begun before an incident, mandatory counseling is usually required, according to Hardman.

“More often than not, service members who come to a (rehabilitation) facility like ours laid the foundation of substance abuse long before the military,” said Hardman.

The key to returning to a healthy lifestyle is identifying the activity or activities creating an issue, according to Raul E. Barsallo, a drug and alcohol specialist with the Substance Abuse Counseling Center.

“The earlier we can identify the problem, the better it’s going to be for the service member and their family,” said Barsallo.

Ideally, an individual’s problems will be identified using the program before they manifest themselves into long-term consequences.

“A lot of patients think because there haven’t been any negative repercussions from their actions there isn’t a problem,” said Barsallo. “This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Just because you haven’t been caught doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem.”

The program is not exclusively for those suffering from substance-abuse disorders, according to Daugherty.

“We don’t make the assumption that everyone going through Prime for Life has a drug or alcohol problem,” said Daugherty. “We only assume they want to prevent a problem from occurring.”

The course work taught in the classes is designed to help both the individual and those around them make safe and healthy choices, according to Barsallo.

Substance-abuse counseling and research is available at the center and encouraged for everyone, according to Hardman.

“There are many resources available to educate yourself about responsible (substance) use and how to assess the level of risk for developing a substance-abuse issue without having a sit-down counseling session,” said Hardman. “When people come into this program they usually leave happy they went through it, and I hope further implementation of the Prime for Life curriculum continues yielding positive results.”

The staff at the Substance Abuse Counseling Center is available to answer questions about the Prime for Life program or other substance-abuse issues and can be reached by dialing 645-3009 from an on-base phone.