Pilot Program to Explore Recovery-Based Disciplinary Alternatives

Pathways to Recovery will be open to students who would otherwise receive mostly disciplinary sanctions.

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July 07, 2017

By Ruth Steinhardt

The George Washington University will debut a pilot program this fall to help promote recovery for students who demonstrate problematic decision-making related to alcohol and other substances.

Currently called Pathways to Recovery, the program will be open by application to some students who would otherwise face high-level disciplinary sanctions  and will  introduce students to the idea of recovery while in college.

The project is the brainchild of Associate Dean of Students for Student Administrative Services Danielle Lico, who will administer it through the Division of Student Affairs.

Often, Ms. Lico said, students’ alcohol or substance-related behavior brings them to the attention of the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities. Some such students, she believes, could benefit more from appropriate treatment plans than from suspension or other sanctions.

“The program is designed to provide a structure that holds students to a higher level of accountability, while also requiring them to do some work around recovery programs,” Ms. Lico said. “We may have some students who do a traditional 12-step program, some who do something more like SMART recovery, some who do individual or group therapy—whatever modality of recovery works for them.”

Participants will design a program with requirements tailored to their specific needs, including but not limited to case management, life skills development, community service and academic progress requirements. A minimum of four months’ participation will be required.

Applications will not be open to students whose alcohol or substance-related misbehavior affects the wider community, or includes arrest, violence or destruction of property, sexual misconduct or supplying alcohol to an underage person. It will also not be open to students whose substance abuse problems are serious enough to merit care in an inpatient recovery facility.

“The ideal person for this program is someone who knows they’ve got a problem with alcohol or other substances,  is committed to recovery and doesn’t necessarily want to take time off from school,” Ms. Lico said. “We hope we can provide students who have faced these types of challenges with a framework and structure where they can explore what recovery may look like for them while still being in school, as opposed to being suspended.“

The idea of recovery-based disciplinary programs is increasingly popular among educational institutions, Ms. Lico said. But Pathways to Recovery will introduce a component she has not seen at other universities: Students will be matched with an adult mentor who is also a person in long-term recovery.

“The idea behind that is to provide students with a person who has in some ways walked the same path these students are starting down, who understands what it is like to start the recovery process and can be contemplative about recovery generally,” Ms. Lico said.

That person could be a faculty or staff member, a GW alumnus or a parent local to Washington, D.C.

“They would be a sounding board, not a sponsor,” Ms. Lico said. “This is not the person to call in the middle of the night, just a resource to listen to and ask questions of. And since giving back and being of service are integral to many recovery programs, we’re hoping people will want to participate.”

If you are in long-term recovery and interested in volunteering as a mentor for students in Pathways to Recovery, please email Danielle Lico: kermit@gwu.edu.