Dennis McLaughlin, SMART Recovery Australia

Dennis McLaughlin spent much of his working life in corporate IT. Several years ago, he decided to follow his passion, which is to help people afflicted with addiction issues to find recovery. For the last five years, Dennis has worked at the Phoenix Treatment Facility, a CBT-based residential drug and alcohol program based in Manly, Sydney, and operated by Kedesh Rehabilitations Services. He is now the manager there.

When Dennis looked for a program that Kedesh could offer former clients as well as people from the local community, SMART Recovery was a natural fit. The SMART Recovery meeting, which Dennis and his colleagues facilitate, has been running for almost two and a half years. Dennis was the very first inductee to the newly established SMART Recovery Facilitator Advisory Committee, which was formed to advise and assist SMART Recovery Australia staff with the support of facilitators and quality control of the 150+ SMART Recovery meetings across the country.


What led you to make the sea change from your prior career to addiction treatment?

More than twenty years ago, while living and working abroad, a friend persuaded me to sign up for a short drug and alcohol counselling course to “make up the numbers”. Much to my surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed it and received great feedback from classmates whenever I role-played with them. I decided to take it further with a one year counselling course followed by a Psychology degree. About seven years ago I made the “leap” from the corporate world to that of addiction and treatment.


Can you tell us about your organisation?

Kedesh Rehabilitation Services provides treatment programs addressing the psychological and lifestyle aspects of addiction. We operate from a facility on the grounds of Manly Hospital and also run weekly SMART Recovery meetings in Manly Community Centre. Kedesh uses a client-centred, multidisciplinary approach and is staffed by psychologists, counsellors, case managers and support workers. Kedesh’s program is centred around Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), but therapists may employ a range of other approaches including Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Psychodynamic Therapies, Attachment Theory, Family Systems Theory, Gestalt Therapy, Solution Focused Therapy and Positive Psychology, depending on individual client needs. Kedesh does not facilitate medically supervised withdrawal or detoxification, but can help clients find an appropriate program and coordinate their transition to Kedesh for continued treatment. Self-referrals are welcome, or clients can be referred by their health worker.



How did you come across SMART and why do you select it to be part of your program?

I first came across SMART Recovery several years ago in discussions with a community health worker who had been involved with SMART from its earliest days in Australia. When it came time to identify and appropriate program to be one of the cornerstones of or community outreach and aftercare program, SMART was a logical choice because it is centres on CBT principles.


How did you find facilitator training and would you recommend it?

I did the facilitator training about two and a half years ago. I enjoyed it immensely and I strongly recommend it to anyone considering facilitating SMART meetings.


What do like about being a SMART Recovery Facilitator?

There are a lot of things that I enjoy about facilitating SMART Recovery meetings. I particularly like being part of a larger community of people who are dedicated to seeing people change their lives for the better.


Can you tell us about the rewards and challenges from the group you facilitate?

Perhaps the most fulfilling aspect is seeing participants progressively gain insight into their addictive life patterns and gain awareness of what they can do to change their thinking and their behaviour and move towards recovery. The biggest challenge is working with participants who, for various reasons are “stuck” and show little or no real insight and, consequently, make no progress.


The Kedesh SMART Recovery meeting is open to the community and is run at the Manly Community Centre on Wednesday evenings. Click here for more information. 


Addiction treatment - SMART Recovery Australia

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