Clinical psychology graduate students receive real-life training at an alcohol abuse treatment clinic provided by the Center on Alcoholism, Substance Abuse and Addictions (CASAA).

Psychology graduate student Kevin Hallgren, a student clinician at the clinic, Alcohol Treatment @ UNM, said he has worked at the center since it opened in March 2011. He said the program, which has provided services to about 40 clients, is useful for the community and the University because it serves as both a training facility for students and a treatment center for those in need.

“It was a service that we can provide that would be helpful to the community because a lot of people want help with alcohol-related problems, but it’s oftentimes difficult to find services for that,” he said. Hallgren said the outcome of alcohol treatment depends on whether the patient has a desire to stop drinking. He said he uses strategies such as motivational interviewing and cognitive behavioral therapy to help patients make the decision and better understand how to overcome addiction.

“Motivational interviewing (is) usually to help clients figure out where they want to go in terms of their drinking; so, if they want to stop drinking or not,” he said. “Cognitive behavior therapy is for when the client already knows what they want to do, but we’re going to work on skills together to make sure they can do that effectively.”

Hallgren said although he first majored in engineering, he switched to psychology because he enjoyed problem-solving more when the solutions directly benefited other people.

“It’s given me a bigger picture of what it is that we as psychologists can do to help people with drinking problems in talking to people with such diverse experiences,” he said.

Director of CASAA Barbara McCrady said the clinic offers several different types of therapy, including community reinforcement and family training (CRAFT), in which patients learn to identify positive things in their lives instead of drinking.

McCrady said the clinic was recently approved by Access to Recovery, a federal program that provides support to people with alcohol and substance abuse issues, to continue serving low-income clients in Albuquerque. She said Access to Recovery pays about $1,000 per client for three months of treatment.

Hallgren said treatment costs are determined on a sliding scale that is based on the client’s ability to pay. He said the clinic never turns away patients who can’t pay for treatment.

“We’re willing to keep going lower and lower until it’s something the client can afford,” Hallgren said. “Whether it’s $5, $10 or the change in their pockets … we just try to establish it so that the cost isn’t a barrier to treatment.”

Hallgren said he is excited about the possibility of hosting group therapy sessions to give clinicians experience with it as well as serve more patients. He said the clinic could provide group therapy as early as this fall.

“That can be a really helpful way to see more clients at once,” he said. “We have some really effective group therapies that exist in the world, but we just haven’t been able to implement them yet, but we want to start a group therapy program in the near future.”

For more information about Alcohol Treatment @ UNM, call (505) 277-5165.