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Megan Howard, LCSW/ CSUD graduated from the University of Northern Colorado with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and later received her Master's Degree in Social Work in 2011. Megan currently owns and operates an Intensive Outpatient Treatment Facility in Idaho Falls, Idaho that has quickly become one of the largest treatment centres for substance abuse and trauma in their region. She has spent her career studying, researching and treating trauma-related disorders and has a special interest in treating gender issues, specifically men’s trauma and the impact and relation that this has to ongoing substance abuse.
As the Opioid Crisis continues to crash forward, there seems to be an open-ended struggle to recover clients adrift in the wave of its toxicity. Overdose deaths continue to rise in all age groups despite interventions being implemented to tourniquet a bleeding nation. As the application of a tourniquet to temper an internal bleed remains ineffective, so is treatment aimed at anywhere but the core of the opioid crisis. Our session will pivot around an essential element of this core. We will traverse how not meeting self-defined sociocultural expectations generates a further disconnect from society among an already isolated addict population. We will explore how perceptions of gender are socially constructed and shaped by sociocultural structures and processes over time and include family and peer influences, demographics, advertising, media, economics, cultural customs and practices. We will tour how individuals are influenced by extreme gender expectations are at greater risk to abuse substances, finding an escape through a synthetic connection and acceptance. We will not only consider how these norms drive use, but how they barricade change for individuals, specifically men, who suffer from addiction and/or trauma. We will further investigate how trauma is often a co-occurring theme intricately woven within sociocultural expectations. We will focus on how to deconstruct a client’s sociocultural expectations, reach beyond symptoms and reconstruct the entrenched core of the client’s culturally specific feelings, emotions, and beliefs. We will further detail interventions to increase resiliency and reduce toxic shame thus improving long-term outcomes related to addiction. We will also challenge providers to consider alternative solutions that create more connection, foster true belonging, and develop support to all affected by this disease.