Features, Highlights, Outreach, Welfare

MWS and GC-WSCS holding a two-day conference on addiction in June

Equipping Christians to help those with addiction problems

A GROUP of professionals working with groups addressing addiction concerns and issues will share their experiences and offer their expert advice at “A Christian’s Response to Addiction” conference here next month.

They include Dr Munidasa Winslow, Head and Senior Consultant Psychiatrist, Community Addictions Management Programme (CAMP) at the Institute of Mental Health; Mr Tony Ting, President of the Association of Professional Substance Abuse Counsellors and a pastoral team member at Wesley Methodist Church; Mr Benny Bong, a family and marital therapist in private practice; Mr Sam Kuna, Executive Director of Teen Challenge (Singapore), a Certified Master Addiction Counsellor; the Rev Dr Edward Job, President of Christian Care Services (Singapore) and One Hope Centre, and a board member of the National Council of Problem Gamblers; and Ms Jade Teo, a Senior Psychologist at the Methodist Children and Youth Centre.

Jointly organised by the Methodist Welfare Services and the General Conference Women’s Society of Christian Service, the conference will be held at Mrs Lee Choon Guan Concert Hall, ACS (Barker Road) on June 23 and 24, 2006.

Aimed at helping Christians get a better grasp of the various types of addiction that afflict Christians and non- Christians, the conference will give guidelines for those who are helping people with various addiction problems as well as their families.

There will also be a workshop on positive parenting approaches to promote wholesome family relationships between parents and children. This could be helpful to lessen the pull of their children towards various types of addiction.

It is therefore useful for pastors, lay leaders, Christian social workers and counsellors to attend the conference. Dr Winslow, one of the two keynote speakers, finds that “addiction is the result of a complex interplay of biological,psychological, social and spiritual factors”.

In his synopsis on the topic, “Trends of addiction in Singapore: Afflictions that plague the young and the grown-ups”, he said: “People are increasingly becoming addicted to processes or behaviours like gaming, pornography and  gambling. “Among the young, the need for social acceptance, demands to perform academically, identity conflicts, emotional volatility, and dysfunctional families with abuse or neglect, are some of the factors leading to the development of addictions.’’

Common in adulthood are stress and disillusionment from work or unemployment, fragmented relationships, emotional and spiritual loneliness, and the pressures and weariness of growing old.

“With addiction fast becoming a major public health issue in Singapore,” Dr Winslow said, “we need to look as a community on how we can prevent the onset of addictions, and offer early detection and loving solutions when they do develop.”

The other keynote speaker, Bishop Dr Robert Solomon, an International Adviser to the American Journal of  Pastoral Counselling, will dwell on the topic of “Addiction: A holistic perspective”.

In his synopsis, he pointed out that a human being is a combination of body, mind and spirit and is designed to function in a holistic and wholesome way.

He said: “Finding meaning and love in relationship with God and others often forms the foundation for healing,  recovery and freedom.” He will help the conference participants explore how this works out in real life.

Mr Ting, one of the workshop speakers, will share from his first-hand experience his work among Christians who face addiction problems.

“Christians are not immune to compulsive or addictive behaviours. In fact, even committed Christians are finding it difficult to get rid of their harmful habits.”

At his workshop, “Addictive Behaviours: When addiction comes to church”, Mr Ting will address how addictive behaviours impact individuals, families and the church with a focus on addiction to alcohol, drugs, gambling and sex.

Another speaker, Mr Bong, will expound on the role played by the gambler’s family in his workshop, “The family’s web in problem gambling cases”.

He said: “For every gambler experiencing problems, up to 20 others are affected. These are largely the family members and loved ones of the gambler. Their responses can either compound the gambler’s problems or facilitate their recovery.”

Participants can look forward to receiving practical suggestions on how family members can best support the problem gambler.

Teen Challenge’s Mr Kuna, who has more than 27 years of experience working with youth and adults with addiction issues, firmly believes that individuals can be changed to become significant contributors to the community and nation.

In his workshop, “Substance Abuse and Youths in Singapore”, he will talk about the various substances of abuse and its resultant symptoms and impact on behaviour and personality.

He said: “We cannot undermine the highly addictive nature of synthetic drugs like ecstasy, ketamine, methamphetamines, prescription drugs, and lately, subutex; and other more common drugs like marijuana, cocaine, heroin, other opiates, as well as cigarettes and alcohol.”

It is in this light that he shares on the challenges posed in working with the youth of today. A case study presentation and the process and structure of addiction counselling will be used to lend the context for the assessment, intervention, treatment planning, and follow-up of an addict in recovery.

Individuals can enjoy early bird discounts (at $90 per person) when they register before May 21, 2006. Group discounts are also available to participants who sign up in a group of five (at $90 per person).

To register for the conference, please log on to www.mws.org.sg Alternatively, you may contact Ms Pamela Teo at 6478-4716 or pamelateo@mws.org.sg