Open Sky Clinical and Family Services staff recently attended the training: “How to Talk about Cannabis Use in the Age of Legalization.”
Attendees walked away from the training up to date on the latest research on cannabis use. They were educated on the risks associated with use amongst a clinical population or for those with comorbid diagnoses. In addition, the training addressed client arguments for cannabis use, preparing the therapists for the myriad of perspectives their clients come with to Open Sky.
The training, led by Clinical Therapist, Aaron Wallis, PhD, LP, also educated participants on the chemical properties and neurological effects of THC and various cannabinoids such as CBD.
Dr. Aaron’s presentation provided a detailed framework on how to approach the topic of cannabis with clients when assessing their use. Due to notoriously poor self-reporting from clients, attendees were trained on a specific line of questioning to not only gain insight into one’s frequency of use but also the dosage, methods of consumption, acquisition process, social factors, and other associated risk behaviors.
Dr. Wallis also argued that generalized approaches are rarely effective. People can often find studies with results that support the argument they believe in. However, the participants in these studies may not be in the same age group, stage of development, and/or clinical population. The training promoted an individualized approach which starts with empathy—empathy for the reason the client started using in the first place. The next step involves asking: Why are you here? How might cannabis use have made these issues worse? How has it gotten in the way of achieving your goals or pursuing your passions? In this step, it is important to understand and validate that perhaps cannabis did provide a short-term solution for their issues, whether for calming anxiety in the moment, helping them sleep initially, connecting on a social level with peers, etc.
“It’s so important to understand the unique social, mental, and emotional factors that lead our clients to begin and continue using cannabis,” said Adolescent Girls Therapist, Kirsten Bolt. “The training was highly beneficial in forming assessment and treatment strategies built on this foundation of empathy and validation.”
The training also educated attendees on the reasons for use and effects of cannabis in relation to specific disorders, such as ADHD, anxiety, trauma, depression, bipolar disorder, non-verbal learning disorder, sleep issues, and other substance use disorders. Dr. Wallis covered specific cognitive consequences, myths about cannabis, how to talk about sobriety, and what the withdrawal process and symptoms are like.
“It was really valuable to discuss the myths and the contradicting viewpoints surrounding cannabis use,” said Transition Age Young Adults Therapist, Chris Blankenship. “If we understand the perspectives that our cannabis-using clients have, we will better be able to individualize our therapeutic approach.”