American Society of Addiciton Medicine
May 1, 2024 Reporting from Rockville, MD
Teaching the New Standard of Care
May 1, 2024
With that in mind, ASAM created The ASAM Criteria Fourth Edition Online Foundations Course.

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American Society of Addictin Medicine


Teaching the New Standard of Care

Jennifer Harrison, PhD, LMSW, CAADC

For many treating addiction, The ASAM Criteria: Treatment Criteria for Addictive, Substance-Related, and Co-Occurring Conditions, Fourth Edition can be a lot to take in.  

With that in mind, ASAM created . The four-hour course, which launched in January, is designed to help participants digest the wealth of information at their own pace. The course is available both live-virtual and on-demand.  

“The ASAM Criteria is an excellent reference guide, but it can be challenging to find the time to read through a 600-page book,” said Jennifer Harrison, PhD, LMSW, CAADC, a social worker, chemical addictions counselor, and professor in the School of Social Work at Western Michigan University. “The course breaks down the most important components of the Fourth Edition in a way that's consumable.” 

Through didactic material and interactive learning activities, this asynchronous course covers the basics of The ASAM Criteria, such as the guiding principles, continuum of care, and how to conduct the Level of Care and Treatment Planning Assessments to provide appropriate level of care recommendations and individualized treatment plans. The course also uses case-based activities to help prepare participants to effectively implementthe Criteria in their practice. 

The target audience for this course includes beginner, intermediate, and advanced counselors, social workers, administrators, clinical staff, medical students, and any other health care professional who works with individuals with addictive, substance-related, and co-occurring conditions. 

“We are talking about life and death chronic illness issues, so we all have an obligation to get it right, or to get it as right as we can,” Dr. Harrison said. “The on-demand course and the live virtual course provide alternate ways to learn the material. Personally, I learn more when I experience content in different ways, so I find this very helpful and I think others will, too.” 

Making Ƶ Accessible 

A social worker and chemical addictions counselor by training, Dr. Harrison has treated patients with co-occurring substance use disorders and mental health conditions, as well as chronic physical health conditions, for nearly 30 years.  

Dr. Harrison received her MSW in 1995 and, by the late 1990s, she realized she needed to take addiction medicine seriously. After all these years of treating addiction, Dr. Harrison admits she enjoys treating patients who remind her of herself. 

“I love working with people who are feisty and non-compliant because that's kind of the way I am,” she said. “I don't like it when people are trying to ‘bossy cat’ me and tell me, ‘This is what you need to do.’ I like to prove that I can make my own decisions and I'm an autonomous human being. I enjoy working with clients, patients, and consumers who have that same sense of independence.” 

Dr. Harrison joined ASAM in 2018 and has been a member of its Ƶ Committee for about five years. She has worked with ASAM staff to develop the on-demand Fourth Edition course and the live virtual course. After the publication of the Fourth Edition of The ASAM Criteria, she and other ASAM staff members converted the text to a training module.  

“I'm a big believer in accessibility of education, so I love that we offer an on-demand version,” she said. “If you’re a practitioner, or if you're a policy director, or if you're a student, you can sign up for this course. You can take it on your own time. You can learn at your own pace. You can rewatch videos or redo cases that you maybe didn’t get the first time. I think the course represents an important commitment ASAM has made to make content more accessible.” 

In addition to Dr. Harrison, course instructors include Dr. Navdeep Kang, PsyD, HSP; Dr. Joanna Linn, PhD, LCMHCS, LCAS, CCS; Ms. Christine R. Mulford, RN, MSN, FNP-BC; and Dr. Jasleen Salwan, MD, MPH. 

“It's such a privilege to work with people who are experts in their field,” Dr. Harrison said. “Without exception, that's been my experience with the ASAM staff.” 

Dr. Harrison added that she considers it to be an honor to have worked on the course and to be associated with ASAM. 

“I'm so pleased that the Ƶ has said, ‘We're done arguing with people about whether folks with substance use disorders deserve to have access to medication to treat their addictions. We're not arguing about it anymore,’” she said. “We would never deny people their inhaler if they have severe asthma or their insulin if they have severe diabetes, so we're done arguing about whether people with addiction deserve access to the medicines that they need to be healthy.”  

Dr. Harrison said the main way ASAM has helped her in her career is by simply providing a network of support and comradery.  

“It’s being able to meet with other people, like fellow faculty members and staff members, who are also in the midst of the struggle at different levels, whether prevention, treatment, or policy-making,” she said. “I think there can be times when, if you're on the cutting edge of evidence-based practice, it can feel lonely and the connection with ASAM alleviates that loneliness. I hope that’s one of the takeaways for participants in this course - that they know they’re with their people.” 

You can learn more about The ASAM Criteria course .