Consultee Contact

Midwest Psychiatric Center, Inc. is a private psychiatric practice owned by my colleague, Dr. Rakesh Kaneria.  I provide therapy to adults and a small number of children/adolescents at this location.  We can accept most commercial insurances, as well as Caresource (of Ohio Medicaid) and Medicare.  Adult clients who work with me at MPC also have the option to see Dr. Kaneria for evaluation and medication management if desired or needed.  Child psychiatric evaluation and medication management are not available with MPC.    We are located in West Chester, OH near the UC West Chester Hospital, just off I-75, between Liberty Way. and Tylersville Rd.

Call us:

Send a message: Contact Us

Bringing Hope to Dayton…one cup at at time!

5 months ago · · 0 comments

Bringing Hope to Dayton…one cup at at time!

Summer 2019 was a very challenging time for the Greater Dayton, Ohio area, and a time that landed the community in the national news on multiple occasions.  A Ku Klux Klan rally on May 25th brought a tangible sense of hate to our streets, followed by 14 tornadoes causing devastation across the area on the 27th, leaving many families without homes and many businesses destroyed.  June brought more heartache as it became known that a former elementary school teacher in the area had sexually abused 28 first grade girls.  Perhaps the most nationally visible tragedy of all came in August when a heavily armed shooter opened fire at a club in the popular Oregon District, killing 9 people, injuring 27, and forever changing the neighborhood and its businesses.

Photo Credit: Tabitha Guidone, Creative Director & Owner Decoy Art Center

Don’t let this string of events lead you to believe that the Greater Dayton Area is weakened.  In fact, we are coming together in the most beautiful ways!  From food drives, to fund raisers, to community events, Dayton has come together in healing and in love.   One unique example is the Greater Dayton Mugs of Hope program, spearheaded by Paintbrush Pottery of Springboro (owner Kelsey Richard) and Decoy Art Center of Beavercreek (owner Tabitha Guidone).  Richard and Guidone envisioned  an opportunity for Daytonians to come together to create painted mugs to be distributed across the area (along with prizes and gift cards) to encourage those in need and spread a message of love, hope, and healing.  Guidone explains, “We wanted to provide that vessel to allow one person to reach another anonymously but sincerely.”

Photo Credit: Kelsey Richard, Owner Paintbrush Pottery

With the support of Mayco Colors (who provided supplies) and Cozy Melts Pottery (who donated kiln usage), as well as event host locations including Sugarcreek Parks, Star City Brewery, Broken & Beloved, Cornell Studio Supply, Grass Roots Enrichment, We Care Arts, and Front Street, Richard and Guidone were able to offer mug painting parties across the Miami Valley.  Over the fall months, a total of 500 mugs will be handprinted by Daytonians wishing to spread a message of comfort, hope, and healing.  Additionally, thanks to donors, a $5 registration fee/donation from participants will be funneled directly into the community, distributing over $2000 among local programs and charities.  Recipient charities include Community Action Partnership, which offers relief to those affected by tornadoes in Greene and Montgomery Counties, BOGG Ministries, which works to reduce hunger in the area, Dayton Children’s Hospital, and the Dayton Foundation. Guidone observed, “Everyone has such a big heart, and [is] willing to give and never asked for anything in return.  We have an amazing community filled with lovely people and business owners.”

Photo Credit: Tabitha Guidone, Creative Director & Owner Decoy Art Center

The mugs were distributed in waves across the Dayton area, each filled with goodies, gift cards, prizes, and bearing a message of community and hope.  Some of the messages, carefully chosen and painted on the mugs include: “Dayton Strong”, “We are united”, “You are loved”, “You are worthy”, and “Dayton Proud.”  Each painter was encouraged to express the message they most wanted to share with another Daytonian who might be hurting, so painters were able to experience some healing themselves as they freely expressed themselves artistically and contributed to Good in the community.

Kelsey Richard, owner of Paintbrush Pottery, observes that she and her co-planner were inspired by the response of businesses, painters, and mug recipients.  “I am truly humbled by the amount of people that got involved.  We have awesome communities that make up the Greater Dayton region.  2019 has proved we are Dayton Strong.  Dayton is a great city.  The people in Dayton are incredible for coming together and proving that we are a city of love, strength, and hope!”

Photo Credit: Liz Engel

I personally was very excited to participate in Mugs of Hope as a painter, thanks to the invitation and suggestion of my dear friend Liz, who knows I was deeply saddened by the series of community traumas Dayton endured in Summer 2019.  A fellow creative and a positive soul, Liz was the perfect painting buddy!  We painted our mugs in September, and it was a very therapeutic experience.  The opportunity to express our feelings artistically and participate in community healing in some small way had a powerful impact on us both.  We met some other great Daytonians and enjoyed seeing the artwork and messages others wanted to share.  I believe both Liz and I left the event feeling more hopeful and connected.

To the individual who received the mug I painted, I pray it brings you some sunshine (I painted a sun) and a smile.  When you sip from your mug, know that I was thinking of you when I painted it, whoever you are.  May it stir in you positive energy, resilience, and of course hope!



Feeling Safe

8 months ago · · 0 comments

Feeling Safe

When scary things happen, like the terrible shooting in Dayton last night, it’s good to make an effort to restore feelings of safety as much as possible. That’s one of the reasons the Dayton Convention Center has been converted to a Family Resource Center to help people reunite with loved ones and get and feel safe again.

I was not directly affected by the shooting, but someone very dear to us was there and played an important part in helping the victims of the shooting. The Oregon District has been a place I’ve enjoyed good food and friendship.  This horrific shooting rocked my sense of safety in very new and real ways, and I am brokenhearted for the city I call home.

Trying to find some reassurance and calm again, I went to two places today that reliably help me settle down: my church and the farmer’s market.  The opportunity to cry, pray, sing, and receive some comforting words from our associate pastor did wonders for me, but I still needed more.  So this afternoon I went to a farmer’s market near our home.  It smelled of sweet melons that were warm from the sun.  I took my time looking and smelling and picking.  I chatted with the kind woman working there. Soon I felt a little more relief.

If any of you are feeling unsettled, frightened, or unsafe after the news of the shootings that have occurred in El Paso and Dayton, or certainly if you were directly affected by these incidents, I encourage you to take some steps to help reassure you body and your mind of your current safety.  We cannot guarantee safety everywhere 100% of the time, but we can seek out moments of calm and safety when we need them.

One tool that I teach many of my clients to help find some calm when life feels chaotic or scary is a resource called “The Calm Space.”  It’s a very simple visualization technique that can help settle the body and the mind, releasing tension, quieting racing thoughts, and slowing down the activated central nervous system.  It’s a fairly simple process.


  1. To start with, find a physical space where you can sit or lie still with minimal distractions.  You might have to tell people around you to not bother you for a few minutes.
  2. Get in a comfortable posture in which your body is supported, like lying down on your back or sitting in a comfortable chair.
  3. Start to deepen your breathing, making sure you take full breaths that cause your belly to expand, as opposed to a shallow breath that makes your shoulders move a lot.
  4. Begin to picture in your mind a place where you feel calm and safe.  It can be made up or real. It could be the beach, a field of sunflowers, a cabin by the lake, or even a space in your own home.
  5. Once you have the place in your mind, bring up the sensations that you enjoy in that place: the things you see (colors, shapes, movement), sounds (distinct sounds or ambient noise), smells, tastes, and things you can feel through the sense of touch (temperature, texture, objects to hold). Take your time to enjoy these pleasant sensations and savor them.
  6. If you like, pick one specific detail to focus on for a new moments – for me right now it’s the smell of the sugar cube melons at the farmer’s market!
  7. When you’re done enjoying your calm space, slowly and gently start to shift your attention back to the present moment, maybe by noticing the breath or the sensations in the space where you are sitting/lying.
  8. Notice how your mind and body feel different now.

The Calm Space resource is a great way to help relax a tense body and quiet an overactive mind.  It’s best to use this when you intellectually know you are safe, but you body and emotions cause you to feel unsafe.  Do not use this resource if you are currently in a dangerous environment or one that requires alertness like while driving a car.

Resources and coping skills like this can help you manage between counseling sessions are while you are working on setting up counseling services, but they do not replace psychotherapy.  If you are in need of crisis services or ongoing counseling help is available.  If you have medical insurance, your insurance card will have a phone number on the back that you can call to find a counselor.  You could also try doing a provider search on your insurance company’s website.  Another resource for those with and without insurance in your county’s mental health board.  A simple google search will likely help you find a phone number for them.  You may also call my office at 513-217-5221.  If I cannot help you myself, I will help you find someone who can!


World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

10 months ago · · 0 comments

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

Friday, June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. On that day, communities in the USA and all over the world will sponsor events to highlight solutions to this systemic social challenge.

As Americans, we believe in justice for all. Yet we fail to live up to this promise when we allow older members of our society to be abused or neglected. Older people are vital, contributing members of American society, and their maltreatment diminishes all of us. Just as we have confronted and addressed the social issues of child abuse and domestic violence, so too can we find solutions to address issues like elder abuse, which also threatens the well-being of our community.

Our policies and practices make it hard for older people to stay involved with and connected to our communities as they age. As a result, older people are more likely to experience social isolation, which increases the likelihood of abuse and neglect. We can design stronger societal supports to keep our older people connected and protect them from abuse, whether financial, emotional, physical, or sexual. When we address a root cause, like social isolation, we also make it less likely that people will neglect themselves (self-neglect). Older adults who are socially connected and protected from harm are less likely to be hospitalized, less likely to go into nursing homes, and less likely to die.

We can and must create healthier and safer living environments for older adults, including their homes, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities.

Get more information about how to make a difference by visiting the National Center on Elder Abuse or by calling the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 to explore local community services and supports.


Healing Together through Song

11 months ago · · 0 comments

Healing Together through Song

Photo Credit: Dayton Performing Arts Alliance

On April 7th I had the honor of participating in a very special community concert in Dayton.  The choir I sing with at Incarnation Catholic Church in Centerville joined together with many other community choirs and music groups to put on a concert called “Unity through Harmony” with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, directed by Neal Gittleman.  The concert featured sacred music from around the world representing multiple religions, ethnicities, and languages.  Some of the participating choral groups included the Dayton Jewish Chorale, Omega Baptist Church Choir, Ministerio de Música Hispano Nuevo Amanecer, the University of Dayton Ebony Heritage Singers, and the University of Dayton World Music Chorale.  We performed at the Dayton Masonic Center to a large and enthusiastic audience.

At this special event we were able to celebrate diversity and a shared love of music.  We learned to move to the music in new ways, sing in new languages, and form relationships with our neighbors of different religious backgrounds.  At one of the rehearsals, I had a lovely conversation with some singers representing the Jewish community.  We were able to draw interesting parallels between our two religions and learn about one another.  It was a reminder to me that Truth can be found in connecting with strangers…who can become friends!

The concert itself was a moving experience, particularly in the pieces we performed after intermission when all the choral groups joined together in one massive choir.  The fullness of sound when all those voices of different ages, backgrounds, ethnicities, and faiths sang as one ensemble made my heart swell with joy!  I was encouraged to see such unity at a time when division in our country seems to be increasing.  While there were times when the combined choirs sang in harmony, one of the pieces (One Voice by Ruth Moody, arranged by Neal Gittleman), closed in unison with the following moving lyrics:

This is the sound of one voice. 

One people, one voice, 

A song for every one of us.

This is the sound of one voice.

After the concert ended, and we all said our goodbyes, I found myself reflecting on the powerful experience I had rehearsing for and performing in this concert.  The therapist that I am, I couldn’t help but think about the mental health benefits of what we had just experienced as a group of musicians, and more importantly, as human beings.  It’s also no wonder then, that 32.5 million Americans regularly sing in a choral group (Chorus America, 2009).

In one of my favorite books on trauma treatment and recovery, “The Body Keeps the Score,” Bessel Van Der Kolk (2014) writes about the benefits of communal rhythm, theatre, and group song.  He reminds us that humanity has used creative expression, especially music, “to cope with [our] most powerful and terrifying feelings” (p. 332) and that, “Collective movement and music create a larger context for our lives, a meaning beyond our individual fate” (p. 333).  Throughout history, communities have used music to express, cope, heal, teach, and grow.  We see this in examples such as Ancient Greek Theatre, the religious rituals practiced around the world, military drills, and cheers and songs at sporting events.  During the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, group song encouraged growth and healing for the nation, particularly the well-known anthem, “We Shall Overcome.”  Similarly, communal song and dance were integral parts of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s work in South Africa in 1996 as the country healed from the wounds of Apartheid.  As Van Der Kolk states, “Our sense of agency, how much we feel in control, is defined by our relationship with our bodies and its rhythms.  Our waking and sleeping and how we eat, sit, and walk definitely the contours of our day” (p. 331).  So it’s no wonder we find relief and healing in movement and song.

In 2011, the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation in Australia published a survey and literature review highlighting the benefits of group singing for individuals and communities.  The publication emphasized that findings in numerous studies show group song leads to increased self-confidence, empowerment, sense of wellbeing, and interpersonal skills.  It decreases feelings of isolation, increases social capital, and fosters denser social and friendship networks.  I’ve condensed some of the specifics of these findings below.


The truly beneficial impact of group singing continues to be reaffirmed, study after study.  The positive social, personal, and functional outcomes of making music with others cannot be denied, especially in offering healthy meaningful activity and social connectedness even for those in adversity (Dingle, et. Al., 2013).

I can attest to the many benefits of group singing from both my personal experiences and those shared with me by friends, family, and clients.  Even for those who claim they are “not musically inclined” group singing can bring such joy and togetherness.

I close with some poignant yet playful lyrics from an old school Sesame Street song (Rapso, 1971).  This song has become a classic, covered by many artists and singing groups.  I hope in encourages you to smile and lift your voice in song, friends!

Sing, sing a song
Let the world sing along
Sing of love there could be
Sing for you and for me.


Van Der Kolk, B. (2014). The Body keeps the score brain, mind and body in the healing of trauma. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

Gridley, H., Astbury, J., et. Al. (2011). Benefits of group singing for community mental health and wellbeing: Survey and literature review. Victorian Health promotion Foundation (VicHealth), Carlton, Australia.

Chorus America. (2009). How children, adults, and communities benefit from choruses: The Chorus Impact Study.Washington, DC: Chorus America.

Dingle, G. A., Brander, C., Ballantyne, J., & Baker, F. A. (2013). ‘To be heard’: The social and mental health benefits of choir singing for disadvantaged adults. Psychology of Music41(4), 405–421.


Neal Gittleman, Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra

Dayton Performing Arts Alliance

Kevin Samblanet, Incarnation Catholic Church


Mental Health Month: #4Mind4Body

11 months ago · · 0 comments

Mental Health Month: #4Mind4Body

Mental health is essential to everyone’s overall health and well-being, and mental illnesses are common and treatable.  So much of what we do physically impacts us mentally – it’s important to pay attention to both your physical health and your mental health, which can help you achieve overall wellness and set you on a path to recovery.

Did you know that Mental Health America (MHA) founded May is Mental Health Month back in 1949? That means this year marks MHA’s 70th year celebrating Mental Health Month!

MHA is expanding its focus from 2018 and raising awareness about the connection between physical health and mental health, through the theme #4Mind4Body. We are invited to join in exploring the topics of animal companionship, spirituality and religion, humor, work-life balance, and recreation and social connections as ways to boost mental health and general wellness.  A healthy lifestyle can help to prevent the onset or worsening of mental health conditions, as well as chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. It can also help people recover from these conditions. For those dealing with a chronic health condition and the people who care for them, it can be especially important to focus on mental health. When dealing with dueling diagnoses, focusing on both physical and mental health concerns can be daunting – but critically important in achieving overall wellness.

There are things you can do that may help. Finding a reason to laugh, going for a walk with a friend, meditating, playing with a pet, or working from home once a week can go a long way in making you both physically and mentally healthy. The company of animals – whether as pets or service animals— can have a profound impact on a person’s quality of life and ability to recover from illnesses. A pet can be a source of comfort and can help us to live mentally healthier lives. And whether you go to church, meditate daily, or simply find time to enjoy that cup of tea each morning while checking in with yourself – it can be important to connect with your spiritual side in order to find that mind-body connection.

Mental illnesses are real, and recovery is always the goal. Living a healthy lifestyle may not be easy but can be achieved by gradually making small changes and building on those successes. Finding the balance between work and play, the ups and downs of life, physical health and mental health, can help you on the path towards focusing both mind and body.

For more information, visit


“I Ask!” Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2019

11 months ago · · 0 comments

“I Ask!” Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2019

The April marks the 18th annual Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) campaign.  This year’s theme, “I Ask” builds on the idea that consent is a healthy, normal, and necessary part of everyday interactions.  “I Ask” champions the power of asking — whether it be asking to hold someone’s hand, for permission to share personal information with others, or if a partner is interested in sex.  It also highlights the importance of listening to and accepting the answer without pressuring someone to change their mind.

Working with survivors of sexual violence is a big part of my work as a Certified Trauma Practitioner, as sadly the problem is all too prevalent.  In the U.S., one in three women and one in six men experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime.  I am proud to offer EMDR Therapy as a highly effective, evidence-based form of psychotherapy that promotes healing and empowerment for survivors.  Part of the healing process can including activism and awareness building, so I encourage all my clients, but especially those who are survivors of sexual violence, to join me in spreading the word about this year’s “I Ask” SAAM campaign.

Launched in April 2001 by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), Sexual Assault Awareness Month is an annual awareness and prevention campaign observed in April and is coordinated each year with assistance from anti-sexual assault organizations throughout the United States.  For more information on this year’s national campaign, visit

Consent can be confused or complicated with one partner of a relationship holds more power than the other.  It is important to be aware of how balance or imbalance of power can impact healthy intimacy in relationships.  There are ways to make sure your partner feels comfortable communicating their needs.  As a part of the “I Ask!” campaigne, here are some suggestions from NSVRC about power and consent that can be helpful in navigating relationships with love and respect.


Smith, S. G., Chen, J., Basile, K. C., Gilbert, L. K., Merrick, M. T., Patel, N., … Jain, A. (2017). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010-2012 state report. Retrieved from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control:


National Child Abuse Prevention Month

12 months ago · · 0 comments

National Child Abuse Prevention Month

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. The theme this year is “Strong and Thriving Families.”  This month and throughout the year,  we have the opportunity as  individuals and organizations to play a role in making our community a better place for children and families. By ensuring that parents have the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to care for their children, we can help prevent child abuse and neglect by creating strong and thriving children, youth, and families in our communities.

Research shows that protective factors are present in healthy families. Promoting these factors is among the most effective ways to reduce the risk of child abuse and neglect. The factors are:

  • Nurturing and attachment
  • Knowledge of parenting and of child and youth development
  • Parental resilience
  • Social connections
  • Concrete supports for parents
  • Social and emotional competence of children

April is a time to celebrate the important role that communities play in protecting children and strengthening families. Everyone’s participation is critical. Focusing on ways to connect with families is the best thing our community can do to strengthen families and prevent child abuse and neglect.

In support of these efforts, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Children’s Bureau, Office on Child Abuse and Neglect, its Child Welfare Information Gateway, the FRIENDS National Center for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention and over 30 national prevention partners have created 2019 Prevention Resource Guide: Strong and Thriving Families. The resource guide, designed for service providers who work throughout the community to support families, is available online at

Another really helpful resource offered for families to build healthy connections and enhance parent-child relationships is the National Child Abuse Prevention Activities Calendar.  It can be found in both English and Spanish at


Happy World Social Work Day!

1 year ago · · 0 comments

Happy World Social Work Day!

March 19, 2019 is World Social Work Day, a time to celebrate the achievements of social workers world wide and take a message to communities to raise awareness about the contributions of the profession as well as needs for further action.

This year’s theme is “Promoting the Importance of Human Relationships” emphasizing a particular core value of the profession that is of great importance. There are seven core values of the social work profession:

• Service
• Social Justice
• Dignity and Worth of the Individual
• Importance of Human Relationships
• Integrity
• Competence

These values guide our efforts as social workers and must be central to all that we do.

As I reflect on this year’s theme for World Social Work Day, I find it particularly relevant at a time when fear and division dominate our communities. Relationships are essential to what makes us human beings. Relationships create opportunities for growth, support, discovery, and healing. They also can lead to hurt, hate, division, and oppression. Particularly here in the United States, many relationships are becoming strained and even severed, families are being divided over disagreement and polarization. Politics, religion, and race have become hotter topics than they’ve been in years, and as a society we seem to be losing the ability to build healthy and fruitful relationships if there is any disagreement whatsoever.

It’s time we extend the value of the importance of human relationships beyond the social work profession and related professions. Let’s work toward respectful connection and partnership, even when we don’t see eye-to-eye. It is in relationship that we grow and flourish as people.

One of my favorite authors, Brené Brown offers some very useful suggestions on navigating relationships, forging connections, and finding true belonging in her book “Braving the Wilderness.” She tells us, “People are hard to hate close up. Move in.” If we take the chance to get closer to those with whom we have differences, it is easier to find mutual respect. You can read my review of the book HERE. I highly recommend it for those looking to more deeply connect despite today’s challenges.

So much of what we do in our lives cannot exist without relationship. Business, art, sports, therapy, family…virtually every human activity involves some type of relationship. We are at our best when our relationships are healthy and strong. So today I am especially grateful for the healthy relationships in my life:

• I am grateful for the relationship I have with our Creator, who sustains me every day.
• I am grateful for my spouse who fills my life with love, laughter, and adventure.
• I am grateful for my family who encourage and teach me, each in a unique and special way.
• I am grateful for my colleagues and coworkers who help me hone and practice my craft.
• I am grateful for my client’s who honor me with the chance to witness to their amazing journeys of healing and resilience.
• I am grateful for my friends and neighbors who make me smile and bring joy to everyday life.

What relationships enrich your life? I invite you to join me and the rest of the social work profession in celebrating human relationships, enhancing positive relationships, and improving those that are strained.

AA 101

1 year ago · · 1 comment

AA 101

Alcoholics Anonymous or “AA” is a common part of addiction recovery for many individuals who have struggled with Substance Use Disorders.  It is “an international fellowship of women and men who have a drinking problem.”  It was founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Bob Smith in Akron, Ohio and has spread globally since.  AA maintains a group identity that is “nonprofessional, self-supporting, multiracial, [and] apolitical”, and the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.

The book “Alcoholics Anonymous” (commonly referred to as the “Big Book”) was published in 1939, and the original text has been preserved in subsequent editions.   It outlines 12 steps for achieving and maintaining sobriety.  The 12 steps are

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power created than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

In meetings, participants study the Big Book and the 12 Steps, share their stories (often called “giving a lead”), offer support and encouragement to one another, and build a community of individuals committed to sobriety.  Most active participants work with a sponsor to serves as a point person when support is needed, as well as a mentor in the recovery process.

There are many similar programs modeled after AA including Al-Anon (for family members of alcoholics), Overeaters Anonymous, Debtors Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and others.  Additionally, there are other 12-step fellowships that are partially modeled off of AA including Celebrate Recovery.

Due to emphasis on confidentiality and anonymity as well as inaccurate depictions of 12-step groups in film and television, there are many misconceptions about AA.  At best these misconceptions simply misrepresent the fellowship.  At worst, they hinder those in recovery from accessing potentially beneficial support and healing.

Myth #1: I can’t go to AA because I don’t go to church.

Many people in recovery believe AA is not for them because they do not participate in organized religion, have left or been separated from their faith community, or feel uncomfortable in church.  The reality is that ANYONE who is interested in recovering from a substance use disorder can participate in AA, regardless of their spirituality.  It is actually Step 2 which emphasizes the belief in a Higher Power and Step 3 which encourages surrender to it.  While the Big Book uses the word “God”, this is not necessarily restricted to the Judeo-Christian God.  The text actually emphasizes the ides of God “as we understood Him”, which allows room for an individual and evolving relationship with a Higher Power.  Many AA meetings take place in church buildings, but membership to a particular religion is not required.

Myth #2: After I complete the 12 Steps, I’m done.

An expression commonly used by AA participants is, “I’m working the steps.”  Most people work on the 12 Steps with the help of a sponsor.  A common misconception is that once a person gets to Step 12, they graduate or finish AA.  In reality AA is intended to be an ongoing process.  Steps 10, 11, and 12 are actually more like maintenance steps.  Step 10 is intended as a method of ongoing self-checking, emphasizing self-accountablity and honesty.  Step 11 is the practice of continued seeking, growth, and relationship with the Higher Power.  Step 12 calls for service, sharing, and ongoing sober living.  Much like a car requires routine maintenance and care, a person in recovery (and I would argue, everyone) needs habits that encourage healthy self-awareness, an ongoing journey or personal growth, and a commitment to relationships and community.

Myth #3: All AA meetings are the same.

There are a variety of types of meetings, each with a different goal, feel, and dynamic.  Closed Meetings generally consist of a specific and limited group of people.  Open Meetings are just that – they are open for anyone to participate, including observers who are no struggling with a substance use disorder.  Speaker Meetings (sometimes called Gratitude Meetings) tend to feature a visiting member who shares the story of their experience with addiction and recovery.  Big Book Meetings center around a certain section of passage of the Big Book and group discussion.  12-Step Meetings typically focus on a specific step, and in larger meetings participants may even divide into smaller groups based on the specific step they are working.   There are even online meetings.  While AA meetings are generally inclusive, there are some meetings aimed at a certain demographic or population (gender, sexual orientation, profession, language).

As with any community of human beings, there is variance in dynamics and group culture among AA meetings.  Sometimes it takes a few tries before an individual finds a meeting where they feel “at home.”  Unfortunately, not all AA meetings are created equal.  There are some that remain very faithful to the original intents of the AA founders and others that stray from the tenants of the model.  Similarly, some groups naturally foster an atmosphere of mutual support, respect, and healing, while others can become distorted by unhealthy interpersonal dynamics or even toxically distorted interpretation of AA tenants.

Myth #4: AA is only for alcoholics.

Again AA is generally very inclusive.  Many indivuals in recovery have struggled with multiple substance, no just alcohol.  It is not uncommon for a participant in a meeting to identify as “an alcoholic and an addict.”  AA and its related groups can be very helpful to individuals who struggle with a variety of addictive behaviors (e.g. overeating, gambling, sex, illicit drugs).  Open meetings, again, welcome nonalcoholic observers, and meetings like Al Anon, Alateen, and Adult Children of Alcoholics cater to friends and family members of people with substance use disorders.

Myth #5:  AA is treatment.

AA and treatment are two different things.  AA is more accurately understood as a “spiritual program of action.”  It is the adoption of and practice of keep beliefs, behaviors, values, and traditions in the context of a community.  AA is peer-led and self-supporting.  Treatment on the other hand is facilitated by trained professionals in clinical settings with a prescribed set of interventions (e.g. medical detoxification, partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs, and psychotherapy).  Treatment can be finite, whereas AA in its truest form is an ongoing process.  AA and formal treatment can work beautifully together, along with other community and interpersonal supports, to help a personal on the path of healthy and whole hearted living.

If you’re interested in learning more about AA, consider starting with the main website at  There you can locate meetings near you, access the Big Book and other AA related literature, read daily reflections, make contributions, find other ways to get involved.

Alcoholics Anonymous: The story of how more than one hundred men have recovered from alcoholism (4th ed.). (2001). New York City, NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services.

Marich, J. (2012). Trauma and the twelve steps: A complete guide to enhancing recovery. Warren, OH: Cornersburg Media.


Narcan Basics

1 year ago · · 0 comments

Narcan Basics

Substance Use Disorders and overdose deaths have reached frighteningly high rates in recent years and are sky rocketing in the Dayton and Cincinnati regions.  Opioids are one of the more frequently used and abused drugs in the country, to such a degree that in October 2017 the President declared the opioid overdose problem a Public Health Emergency.

What is an opioid?

There are three types of opioids: natural opioids (also called opiates), semi-synthetic opioids, and synthetic opioids.  Natural opioids are derived from the opium poppy plant and are commonly prescribed by physicians for pain relief.  These include medications like morphine and codeine. Semi-synthetic opioids are natural opioids that have chemically been altered or modified, and they are sometimes combined with other medications.  For example, the pain killer Percocet is a combination of the semi-synthetic opioid Oxycodone combined with Acetaminophen (the same thing as Tylenol).  Other examples of semi-synthetic opioids include Roxicet, hydrocodone, oxycodone, and hydromorphone.  Heroin is also a semi-synthetic opioid.  Synthetic opioids are known to have opiate-like effects (meaning they mimic the effects of drugs like morphine or codeine).  They provide pain relief and sedation but with significant risks as they are more potent.  Examples of synthetic opioids include fentanyl, carfentanil, and acetyl-fentanyl.

As all types of opioids can be abused, but the drug traffickers are increasingly cutting heroin with cheaper and stronger synthetics like fentanyl – a highly dangerous combination contributing to recent spikes in overdoses.

An important thing to consider: Not all overdoses result from intentional drug abuse.  Many people are prescribed pain killers after an injury or surgery, and many work with a physician who specializes in management of chronic pain.  It is not impossible for an individual to accidentally overdose by confusing when or which medications they have or have not taken.  This risk is especially a concern for older adults who tend to take more medications.  Monitor your loved ones closely, especially those who can sometimes struggle with confusion or forgetfulness.  The danger is present, regardless of the reason the individual ingested the drug.

What is Narcan?

Narcan is a brand name for the drug naloxone hydrochloride.  Another common brand of the same medication is Evizio.  This drug is used to temporarily the dangerous effects of overdose.  It helps the individual begin breathing again and restore consciousness.  Many refer to Narcan as “the antidote for overdose.”

Narcan is typically administered by injection or by nasal spray.

The side effects of Narcan are very rare, and the potential benefit of the drug typically trumps the risk of side effects, as individuals who have overdosed on opioids typically die without intervention.  Some of the potential (though again rare) side effects include unconsciousness and withdrawal symptoms (e.g. body aches, irritability, diarrhea/vomiting).  Life with a small likelihood of temporary discomfort far outweighs a high likelihood of death.

Obtaining Narcan

Narcan can be purchased in most pharmacies, and in most states you can purchase Narcan without a prescription.  A 2015 Ohio law allows pharmacies to fill Narcan on a standing order from a physician, allowing the individuals to obtain it without a written prescription from their doctor.

Many non-profit and public agencies also make Narcan readily available.  For example, I obtained a Narcan kit for free from the Hamilton Co. Board of Health.  It is common for people to prefer the nasal pray delivery to the injected form of naloxone, as the nasal spray is easy to administer and doesn’t pose the challenge of working with a syringe.

Most trainings recommend having at least two doses available, as some individuals require more than one dose to halt deadly overdose reactions.  Generally speaking, Narcan can be stored at room temperature, however following the manufacturer’s instructions on your specific kit is advised.  Narcan does expire, in that it loses its potency, so keep track of the expiration date and replace as needed.

If administering Narcan, always always ALWAYS call 911 first!

Related Resources

  • The CDC offers a plethora of helpful resources and information of the addiction crisis in America.  They have an especially good fact sheet available on prevention of death by overdose.
  • The Ohio Department of Health has a wonderful program called Project DAWN (Deaths Avoided With Naloxone), which is a community-based effort focusing on overdose education, distribution of and training on naloxone.
  • Here is a helpful training video that gives a brief overview on administering the Narcan nasal spray: