Family crucial in addiction treatment, says Turkish Green Crescent head
Didem Atakan – ISTANBUL
The Turkish Green Crescent (“Yeşilay”) addiction counseling centers, called YEDAM, have adopted a family-based approach for the treatment of substance abuse, said the non-governmental organization’s director, Sultan Işık.
“Ninety percent of the addicts abroad live by themselves. So, they adopt a treatment approach that is intended for the individual. But 90 percent of the addicts in Turkey live with their families. What does this mean? This [therapy process] affects the family but also is affected by the family,” said Işık.
Işık made the comments during an interview with Hürriyet Daily News on June 13 on the sidelines of an event called Istanbul Initiative – a two-day event that brought together representatives of 21 NGOs from 15 countries in an aim to draft a global strategy for addiction.
“Our psychosocial support system includes the family, i.e. we also provide psychosocial support and group therapies for the families,” said Işık.
Işık said as a result of these therapies, families modify their attitude and behavior towards their addictive loved ones in such a positive way that even addicts who initially did not want to visit a counseling center later change their mind after seeing the significant change in their family members.
“For example, the counselee does not want to come [to YEDAM]. But the family comes. The family comes once, twice and a third time. This happened exactly like this. After four months, the counselee comes and says, ‘I got curious, what are you doing here [at YEDAM] that the attitude of my family towards me changed? I am coming because I am curious about this,’” said Işık.
“So, in our culture, the family needs be a part of this [rehabilitation] system,” she said.
In every YEDAM, at least two psychologists, one social worker, one public relations specialist, one security guard and one janitor are employed, Işık noted.
The first YEDAM opened in 2015 in the Asian-side Istanbul district of Üsküdar. Since then, 21 more centers have opened in Turkey, bringing the total to 25.
Five more are planned to be opened in the near future.
A total of 4,901 people, as of March of this year, have applied to these YEDAMs across the country since their launch. Out of this number, 1,986 people have received rehabilitation services, according to data from the Turkish Green Crescent.
Counselees who stay “clean” for a period of time are referred to the YEDAM “atelier,” a small educational workshop, where they can take classes and trainings on their desired profession. “We aim to have [counselees] stand on their own feet,” said Işık.
“This is a part of the [recovery] process, but it is one stage further [than addiction treatment]. We are not sending anyone who does not know how to deal with the addiction to the atelier. They need to be clean for at least three months, [and] they need to continue attending therapy and be eager about this. And once they fulfill these [conditions], they are referred to the atelier for their desired area, such as gastronomy, graphic design, wood painting and sports,” said Işık.
Once they complete professional training, then YEDAM officials help the counselees find a job. “We talk with İŞKUR [Turkish employment agency], we hold weekly meetings, we talk with private companies, [and] if necessary, we integrate them into their [private companies] training programs,” she said.
Although the treatments from YEDAM are free of cost, substance addicts do not receive financial support during this recovery period from the state. Işık believes that provided that addicts fulfill certain such conditions such as attending their weekly psychotherapy sessions, they should receive financial support from the state.
“Sometimes we [as YEDAM] even had to cover the transportation expenses [of the addicts], so that they could come [to YEDAM],” she said.
None of the YEDAMs have overnight accommodation for the counselees, but the Turkish Crescent’s upcoming project is to establish a boarding center under the name of “Yeşilay Rehabilitation Center.”
“The person [addict] will stay there for three to six months. This will solve the problem of accommodation. They will be exposed to every stage of the rehabilitation process, from acquiring a profession to establishing a relationship, there. And after six months, they will be able to graduate,” Işık said.
But she warned that this does not mean the relevant counselee is fully “healed.” Relapses can occur and are very normal during the recovery process, and “whenever they want,” the counselee will be able to consult YEDAMs again, she said.