New Substance Abuse Counselor Works To Connect Families, Students

Newtown Bee By Larissa Lytwyn


Substance Abuse counselor Karen J. Amoroso, MSW, will provide both group and one-on-one counseling to students at Newtown High School and Newtown Middle School. – Bee Photo, Lytwyn


Karen J Amoroso, MSW, is all too familiar with the struggles of substance abusing adolescents.Such students have been the focal point of her ten-year counseling career.”Substance abuse among adolescents involves more than the student themselves,” Ms Amoroso said. “It is really a family issue.”A major part of her work, she continued, is connecting families together.”Often, when students are abusing [drugs or alcohol], they have begun to withdraw from their families and peers,” Ms Amoroso noted. Thus, she said, they lose their social support network.In other cases, they may have never had one.A support network is a crucial part of staying dedicated to refraining from substance use and abuse. It is also essential for students in recovery to form such a network to help them stay strong and healthy.Ms Amoroso was recently hired by the Family Counseling Center of Newtown, a United Way-affiliated nonprofit agency serving the greater Newtown area.Earlier this year, the Board of Education approved replacing district substance abuse counselor Pam Crowcroft with a substance abuse specialist hired by the Family Counseling Center.Board members believed that such a Family Counseling Center employee could become a bridge to families in need seeking further resources. Hired in late August, Ms Amoroso began working in on-site locations at Newtown Middle School and Newtown High School on September 7. Most of her time will be spent at the high school. “We are fortunate to have found someone whose professional life has touched such a wide range of experiences,” said Family Counselor Center Executive Director Terry Blackmer. After receiving her bachelor of science degree in psychology from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh in 1993, Ms Amoroso’s range of counseling experiences began at the Four Winds Hospital in Katonah, N.Y. “I served as a mental health worker in the hospital’s Dual Diagnostic Unit,” said Ms Amoroso, who stayed in the position from 1993 to 1995. She assisted in the implementation of a behavior management program for adolescents. In addition, she helped lead group counseling sessions, including “trust”-based rope courses and other activities. During this period, Ms Amoroso also became trained in therapeutic crisis intervention (TCI). From 1997 to 1998, Ms Amoroso interned as a clinician in a Poughkeepsie, N.Y., crisis intervention program. Her work entailed assessing and monitoring adolescents at risk of state placement. “The [Poughkeepsie] program provided home-based services for children and families in crisis,” she explained. In the setting of the clients’ home, Ms Amoroso counseled families, developed treatment plans, and, when necessary, provided case management services for the state of New York.Ms Amoroso continued using her TCI skills while serving as a clinician at the Pius XXI Gateway Center, a substance abuse clinic based in Newburgh, N.Y.Utilizing both individual and family therapy techniques, Ms Amoroso co-led parent and adolescent support and treatment groups. She was also responsible for allocating substance abuse and psychosocial evaluations when necessary.In 1999, Ms Amoroso served as a social worker for the Jewish Child Care Association in Pleasantville, N.Y.While she provided counseling and case management in a residential treatment setting, Ms Amoroso became certified in educating and training residents in independent livings skills (ILS). Most recently, between 2000 and 2003, Ms Amoroso moved to Atlanta, Ga., to serve as program manger of the Compass program’s GRN Community Service Board in nearby Norcross. Here she managed an intensive day treatment program for substance abusing adolescents. She also facilitated individual, family and group therapy sessions, provided substance abuse education, prevention techniques and treatment and implement TCI and TCI management when needed.”It was a real change of pace [in Georgia],” said Ms Amoroso. “We served a number of diverse populations.” The patients she has helped, she continued, have come “from all walks of life.” Despite divides in social and economic standing, she noted, “the problems of substance abuse cause the same pain and damage everywhere, across the board.”Ms Blackmer praised Ms Amoroso for her range of experiences and skills.”It’s particularly notable that Ms Amoroso has served in so many different treatment settings,” said Ms Blackmer, “from home-based service to both residential and day program facilities.”Ms Amoroso moved to Newtown approximately a year ago, where she lives today with her husband. “Getting this position [as substance abuse counselor] has been an ideal opportunity for me,” said Ms Amoroso. During her first few weeks on board, Ms Amoroso said she has been busy getting acquainted with school administrators and staff.”My goal is to reach out to students in need and build relationships with them, as well as their families,” said Ms Amoroso.In situations where nuclear families are unavailable or, for a number of reasons, somehow unreachable, Ms Amoroso encourages students to connect with healthy-model peers or relatives.”It’s always important, though, to include the family whenever possible [when treating substance abusing adolescents],” said Ms Amoroso. “It really becomes a team effort, then, between the student, the family, and the counselor. And that’s the way it should be.”Ms Amoroso can be reached at KJA61999@charter.net.

Used with permission Copyright © 1999-2004 Bee Publishing Company

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The mission of the Newtown Parent Connection is to educate and empower the community in the prevention of substance abuse and to embrace families in crisis.

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Dorrie Carolan and her husband raised their four children in Newtown, CT. Starting the Parent Connection was never part of her plan.

The issue of substance abuse became personal when her eldest son, Brian, became addicted and subsequently died at age 28 of a prescription drug overdose. Through the struggles caused by Brian's addiction, Dorrie became aware that this was an issue that affected many others in the community. She founded the Parent Connection in 1993 in an attempt to network with other concerned Newtown parents. It was the impetus behind many policy changes in town and within the schools.

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Dorrie Carolan  - Executive Director

Joseph Hemingway - President 

Gene Vetrano- Vice President

Frank Crudo- Treasurer

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Anne Dalton

Kathleen Moonan

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