If you want to be an interesting person, be interested in everything. If this is true, then Dr. Joe Terhaar may just be one of the most interesting men around (with apologies to the Dos Equis frontman...how ironic).
His list of interests/credentials includes administrator of a Washington-state-certified outpatient clinic; licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice; professor of Alcohol and Drug Studies and Chemical Dependency at Eastern Washington University and Spokane Falls Community College; expert witness in addiction diagnoses and family treatment practices; Board-registered interventionist; and author. And the list goes on.
With 35 years experience working with addictions and mental health issues of every kind, Dr. Terhaar could tell you a thing or two. Yet he remains humble, insisting “I love learning from other people. I’m just not content with doing things the way they’re supposed to be done and also realize we’re not 100-percent effective, so I’m OK with challenging myself and allowing others to challenge me in how to be better.”
Which is why when he was approached to host an Internet radio show, Overcoming Addiction
s, on Voice America radio, he was thrilled. “I’m deeply committed to being a part of efforts that really assist recovery because we are always mindful that recovery is a life-and-death issue,” Terhaar says. He also remembers the days circa 1980 when he had to drive 280 miles to a university library to find more literature on addictions studies. Today, all that has changed thanks to the Internet, of course, but also because of shows like his. “With an interactive radio show,” he says, “we have the advantage of interacting in real time.”
His primary goals are to help propagate other people’s information and technologies around being more effective in preventing, intervening in, and treating addictions. Never content to rest on the laurels of “the way things have always been done”, he says “I’m always reading and learning, while also realizing I’m discontent at times with efforts that are traditional but are not effective. I’m not afraid of novelty especially when it increases effectiveness.”
The show kicked off October 2, 2013, mere months after the publication of the newly revised and updated Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5). “[It] eliminated categories between abuse and addiction, placing them on more of a continuum, so a new conversation emerged: how do we truly identify and delineate the abusers from, and help those who have a real addiction?” A great topic for national discussion.
He has interviewed Dr. Mel Pohl, Medical Director at Las Vegas Recovery Center, and a specialist in chemical dependency with chronic pain issues. “Not enough people know about this,” Terhaar states. “And I’ve worked in the field a long time, so an internet radio show provides a medium where conversation can be critical in increasing understanding.”
Another relevant topic is opioid dependence: Terhaar talked to an orthopaedic surgeon from L.A. who was sensitive to the dilemma of those in recovery from substance abuse who needed alternatives to typical analgesics post-surgery. That show also included calls from two women with two very different paths to opioid addiction who nonetheless found similarities in their struggles – primarily, learning how to deal with emotional pain as a key to finding and maintaining recovery.
As a full-time clinician, Terhaar is also aware of the increase in clients admitting to treatment centers for detoxification from Suboxone, a drug that is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone – the first of which is an opioid, the second an opioid antagonist. Its primary purpose, ironically, is to treat opioid addiction. “Too many people are addicted to opioids, so this is incredibly important information for people to have,” he states.
Terhaar’s vision for 2014 is to reach more people by increasing the breadth and depth of the conversation around addictions and recovery. He plans to do live broadcasts from several regional and national conferences, interviewing keynote speakers to keep his finger on the pulse of what’s important in the field right now.
His joy in learning from the experience and expertise of others, while also supporting and empowering them is evident. (The word thrilled may have been used several times during our interview.) It is this dedication and passion to his work that continues to drive Terhaar to look for ways to learn, grow, and improve how we look at and treat addictions.
To listen to Dr. Terhaar’s show, Overcoming Addiction, go to Voice America’s Health and Wellness Channel at www.voiceamerica.com, or to the RecoveryView.com, www.recoveryview.com/Archives/.