In the ever-evolving landscape of Substance Use Disorder (SUD) treatment, technology has emerged as a pivotal ally, reshaping our approach and extending our reach. For SUD counselors in California, staying abreast of these changes isn’t just about keeping up with the times; it’s about harnessing new tools to enhance client care and outcomes. This November, as we reflect on the advancements and possibilities, let’s delve into how telehealth and other technological innovations are shaping the future of SUD counseling.

The Rise of Telehealth: Breaking Barriers to Access

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of telehealth, transforming it from a convenience to a necessity. In the realm of SUD treatment, this shift has been nothing short of revolutionary. Telehealth has broken down geographical barriers, allowing clients in remote or underserved areas of California to access quality counseling without the constraints of physical distance.

Moreover, it has offered a layer of anonymity and comfort for those who might feel stigmatized or hesitant about seeking help. The convenience of receiving counseling from one’s own home can’t be overstated, particularly for clients juggling work or family responsibilities.

Digital Tools and Apps: Continuous Support and Monitoring

Digital applications have become integral in supporting clients outside of traditional therapy sessions. Apps that track sobriety milestones, offer meditation and mindfulness exercises, or provide platforms for journaling and self-reflection are becoming increasingly popular.

Some of these apps also allow for real-time monitoring and feedback, alerting counselors if a client might be at risk of relapse. This constant connectivity not only empowers clients in their recovery journey but also enables counselors to provide timely interventions.

Virtual Reality (VR) and Gamification: The Next Frontier

Emerging technologies like Virtual Reality (VR) are beginning to find their place in SUD treatment. VR can simulate real-life scenarios, helping clients practice coping strategies in a controlled, safe environment. This experiential form of therapy can be particularly effective in addressing triggers and cravings.

Additionally, gamification elements in treatment programs can enhance engagement and motivation. By incorporating game design elements in therapeutic contexts, counselors can make the recovery process more interactive and rewarding.

Data Analytics and Personalized Treatment

The integration of data analytics in SUD treatment is paving the way for more personalized care. By analyzing patterns in behavior, treatment responses, and recovery progress, counselors can tailor their approaches to the unique needs of each client. This data-driven methodology not only improves the effectiveness of treatment plans but also helps in predicting and preventing relapses.

Ethical Considerations and Training

As we embrace these technological advancements, ethical considerations and counselor training must keep pace. Ensuring client confidentiality and data security in digital platforms is paramount. Moreover, counselors need to be adequately trained to utilize these technologies effectively, blending traditional therapeutic skills with digital literacy.

Embracing Change for a Better Tomorrow

The integration of technology in SUD treatment heralds a new era in counseling. For practitioners in California, it offers exciting opportunities to enhance care, extend reach, and improve outcomes. As we navigate this digital terrain, let’s embrace these tools with an open mind and a commitment to continuous learning and adaptation.

By harnessing the power of technology, we can open new pathways to recovery and hope, making a profound difference in the lives of those we serve.


Technology-based Interventions for Substance Use and Comorbid Disorders: An Examination of the Emerging Literature

Use of Telehealth in Substance Use Disorder Services During and After COVID-19: Online Survey Study

Dr. Jessica Rodriguez

Dr. Rodriguez was named the Executive Director of Gateway Corp in 2012.  Gateway Corp was developed as a non-profit, public charity and founded October 27, 2011. November 2014, she developed a clinical hub for Gateway Corp called OnSite Strategies. OnSite is also a United States Trademark.

She has held the position of CEO, Clinical Director, Lead Educator and Clinical Trainer as well as the Clinical Business Developer. She has fulfilled the roles of a clinical consultant, professional development consultant and has clinically supervised many SUD/addiction counselors, mental health professionals and addiction and family interventionists for over 12 years.

She has been active in the mental health field since 1995. She has also clinically trained throughout the US and provides clinical oversight for several organizations in California.

Dr. Rodriguez released her first book, “When the Rainbow Ends a Shadow from Heaven Appears” in 2017.” Her newest book, “The Cart, From Adversity to Collateral Beauty” is scheduled to be released in the Fall of 2022.

Dr. Rodriguez is currently a writer for Rapporteur Magazine. Her focus is about Mental Wellness also covered topics to include ACE’s, trauma, anxiety, and Systemic Racism.

Adriana Popescu, Ph.D.

Dr. Adriana Popescu is a licensed clinical psychologist and empowerment coach with over 25 years of experience in the mental health field. She specializes in treating addictions and trauma, and has directed a number of treatment programs in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the Founder and CEO of Firebird Healing, a trauma healing program, and the Clinical Director at Avery Lane, an innovative and holistic treatment program for women with co-occurring addiction and mental health disorders and trauma.

Adriana has contributed to a number of books, including TJ Woodward’s Conscious Being Workbook, the Conscious Recovery for Addiction and Conscious Recovery for Mental Health Workbooks, and the Conscious Creation Workbook, all of which she co-authored with him.

She has a private practice in San Francisco and travels around the world speaking, coaching, and facilitating transformational and empowering workshops. She also hosts a fascinating podcast called Kaleidoscope of Possibilities – Alternative Perspectives on Mental Health.

Adriana loves to bring the most innovative and effective tools to her work, empowering people to overcome their imagined limitations, release their self-judgments, and discover the brilliance within – creating a life of infinite possibilities.

Her first book, “What If You’re Not as F*cked Up As You Think”, was released in October.

Aven Armstrong-Sutton, Ph.D(c), RSW

Clinical Services Manager at Kinark Child and Family Services

Aven L. Armstrong-Sutton has been a practicing licensed social worker for over a decade. With diverse experience in settings such as health promotion, foster care, youth homelessness, outpatient mental health & addictions, and student support services, Aven currently serves as a Clinical Services Manager at Kinark Child and Family Services, managing a Live-In-Treatment Program and three outpatient treatment programs. Maintaining a part-time private practice, Aven’s multidisciplinary and integrative approach focuses on trauma and resilience among under-served communities.

June Price Tangney, Ph.D

Dr. Tangney received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from UCLA. She is currently University Professor and Professor of Psychology at George Mason. She is a Recipient of International Society for Self and Identity’s Distinguished Lifetime Career Award and Fellow of the Association of Psychological Science and of APA’s Division of Personality and Social Psychology.

Dr. Tangney is coauthor (with Ronda Dearing) of Shame and Guilt, coeditor (with Ronda Dearing) of Shame in the Therapy Hour, coeditor (with Jess Tracy and Richard Robins) of The self-conscious emotions: Theory and research, and coeditor (with Mark Leary) of the Handbook of Self and Identity. She has served as Associate Editor for Self and Identity, Consulting Editor for Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Psychological Assessment, Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, and Journal of Personality, and is currently Associate Editor of American Psychologist.

Her research on the development and implications of moral emotions has been funded by NIDA, NICHD, NSF, and the John Templeton Foundation. Currently, her work focuses on moral emotions among incarcerated offenders. She draws on theory and research in psychology and criminology to develop novel interventions that leverage inmates’ moral emotions and prosocial values. A recipient of GMU’s Teaching Excellence Award, Dr. Tangney strives to integrate service, teaching and clinically-relevant research in both the classroom and her lab.

Christina Veselak, MS, LMFT, CN

Founder and Director of the Academy for Addiction and Mental Health Nutrition

Christina T. Veselak, MS, LMFT, CN, is the founder and director of the Academy for Addiction and Mental Health Nutrition, which teaches practitioners around the world how to use diet, along with amino acid and nutrient therapy, to help prevent cravings and recurrent drug use. She has been a licensed psychotherapist working in the SUD treatment field since 1985 and a certified nutritionist specializing in mental health and addiction recovery since 1993.

Sean Bezdek, LMFT, MBA

Sean is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with over 25 years of experience working in mental health and substance abuse settings, in inpatient, PHP, and private practice. He holds b a master’s degree in Marital and Family Therapy from Philips Institute and an MBA from Baker College.

Sean’s clinical practice has specialized in working with Personality Disorders, Couples, Adolescents, and individual suffering from chronic mental illness. As a clinician Sean enjoys working with clients who can be resistant to traditional treatment and believes in the philosophy of “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink. BUT you can feed them saltines to make them thirsty!”

Sean is the Program Director for Akua Mind Body’s Sacramento inpatient mental health program. His prior leadership experience includes oversight of acute inpatient, utilization management, hospice/palliative care, home health and skilled nursing. Sean’s approach to management is to ensure the work that needs to get done gets done. “Our job is patient care. This include everything from making coffee to running groups. There is not one person who is more important that the other when it comes to providing exceptional care to the clients we serve.”