News

Destination Change: Episode 2 — Pete Nielsen

Episode 2: Pete Nielsen
  • Episode: 2
  • Guest: Pete Nielsen
  • Date Recorded: February 22, 2023
  • Date Released: March 16, 2023
  • Length: 33 minutes, 55 seconds
  • Questions/Concerns: Contact Us


Pete Nielsen is the President and Chief Executive Officer for the California Consortium of Addiction Programs and Professionals (CCAPP), CCAPP Credentialing, CCAPP Education Institute and the National Behavioral Health Association of Providers (NBHAP), and the Publisher of Counselor Magazine.

He has worked in the substance use disorders field for 20 years. In addition to association management, he brings to the table experience as an interventionist, family recovery specialist, counselor, administrator, and educator, with positions including campus director, academic dean, and instructor.

Pete is the secretary of the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium. He is a nationally known speaker and writer published in numerous industry-specific magazines. He holds a Master of Arts in counseling psychology and a Bachelor of Science in business management.

Show Notes

Some of the things we discussed:

Listen Here:

View on Zencastr

Podcast Transcript (click to open for the transcript of the episode)
Episode 002- Pete Nielsen

Angie Fiedler Sutton
Welcome to the Destination Change: a podcast where we talk recovery, treatment and more. I'm your host, Angie Fiedler Sutton and I'm with the National Behavioral Health Association providers.

Angie Fiedler Sutton
Our guest for this episode is Pete Nielsen. Pete is the president and chief executive officer for the California Consortium of Addiction programs and professionals, otherwise known as CCAPP. CCAPP Credentialing, CCAP Education Institute and the National Behavioral Health Association of Providers (NBHAP) and is also the publisher of Counselor Magazine. We'll have to ask later if there's anything you don't do, Pete. He has worked in the substance use disorders field for 20 years. In addition to associate management, he brings to the table experience as an interventionist, family recovery specialist, counselor, administrator, and educator with positions including campus director, academic dean, and instructor, Pete is the Secretary of the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium, otherwise known as IC&RC. He is a nationally known speaker and writer published in numerous industry specific magazines. He holds a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology, and a Bachelor of Science in Business Management. Welcome to Destination change, Pete.

Pete Nielsen
Thank you, Angie. And I'm glad to be here.

Angie Fiedler Sutton
So, you know, as I joked, is there anything you don't do?

Pete Nielsen
I don't know yet. But we'll find out.

Angie Fiedler Sutton
So the point of this podcast, as mentioned, is we talk about the recovery and the recovery space and treatment. Tell me a little bit kind of your history with the recovery space and how you got involved into it and your background there.

Pete Nielsen
So I guess what we'll start from the beginning. And now we're not going to go when I was five years old. But I'll tell you, I initially went to school, and I was gonna go to school for business, and first day of school, you're always a little disorientated, in just you trying to figure your bearings. And so I had all business classes because I thought I was gonna go major in business, and probably eventually go on and get my MBA. So, a junior college, and I took a right when I should of took a left. I landed myself into a class and I sat in this class, they're talking about drugs, alcohol, and I was like, wow, this is kind of cool. And so I will set it a little longer, I mean, my first thought was really gonna give me some free samples here or, you know, kind of classes this? So I ended up finishing that class, and I made a decision that day that I would drop all of my business classes and I would pick up drug and alcohol counseling classes. And so you know, that was my initial push into become an a drug and alcohol professional.

Angie Fiedler Sutton
Now, if I recall correctly, you yourself are a person in recovery. Am I correct?

Pete Nielsen
I am. And as of February 15, I just celebrated 27 years of recovery.

Angie Fiedler Sutton
Congratulations. How did that affect your involvement with the field? How is that you know, there's obviously a difference between being a peer recovery and not being a peer recovery. So talk a little bit about about that.

Pete Nielsen
That's a good question, Angie.

And I think for me, when I started, either they didn't really have much in the pure realm. Other than, you know, 12 steps and being a part of that and sponsoring people or being a sponsee. So really, there was just being a drug and alcohol counselor, a professional, you know?

So for a long time, and I think it is still true, my lifestyle, and my mindset is, I'm a person in recovery. So that doesn't change. But when I used to work with individuals, I didn't necessarily self disclose that I was in recovery. To most people, when there's some attunement that happens when people realize they get you. And when they realize they get you that they feel connected to you. And that really is more important to the feeling rather than coming out the gate, in that rapport building, saying that I'm in recovery or not in recovery. Sometimes it's a barrier. As soon as people are put off by that in -- yes, it can give hope, but it also can push people away. So what I found in my professional life is I would rarely just self disclose about my own personal recovery. And, you know, all I'm doing is I don't counsel anymore. I do administrative work. And you know, I self-disclose all the time that I'm in recovery.

For the most part, it's a good, you know, a lot of people are very open about it. There are areas where there still is discrimination and stigma around substance use disorder. I'll tell you if you go to the grocery store, and I am in the 10 items or less, and I'm standing there, and somebody strikes up a conversation with me and say, "Hey, what do you do?" And I tell them what they do, I get typically three reactions. And they will say, "Oh, wow, you, you know, I have a brother / cousin / friend that has drug problem or had a drug problem." And they'll be excited. And then you'll get another different set of people that if I say, "You know what I do", they will, you know, hide their beer, that they have an item, or they'll put it down their back, or they'll move away, or they'll just stop talking to me and turn their back to me, I've had all of that happen. And then the other group, you know, would be very stigmatizing, and just very "Oh, well, I don't believe in all that, you know, addiction stuff. And it's a choice." And so I get, you know, all of that stigma and the negative talk from those individuals, you know, but you always realize that there's still more work that we have to do for people to accept addiction as a disease, and it's not about a personal choice. It is a disease.

And so, you know, I think that that's probably my frustration that I get when people do not understand the disease of addiction, and they're still derogatory. And so if I said that, "hey, I work with diabetes patients", I would get, usually positive response. If I say, "Oh, I worked with a different chronic disease", they would usually give you -- usually, there'd be a lot more interest, they would, you know, probably wouldn't talk to you like, oh, I you know, it's interesting, when you say about the disease addiction, there's a lot of times more negative reactions, based on that disease.

Angie Fiedler Sutton
You talk a little bit about stigma and the recovery industry and how people don't always just see it as a disease. Now, you've been in the industry for quite a while, that's obviously been changing. But what do you feel is the best way to kind of move forward on that change?

Pete Nielsen
I think, to move forward, besides, you know, anti-stigma campaigns, is really for people to look at individuals that suffer from the disease of addiction as people, not as their ailment, but as people. And I think until we get to that point, you know, we move away from the judgment.

And I think the tricky thing with addiction is, there's some guilt and shame around that for individuals or some fear that they may have that. And it's alive and well in advocacy. I'll tell you, it would be a different world if politicians really understood that people recovery vote and what we believe in, you know, and with somebody with a lifestyle of the mindset of recovery, that's definitely how I vote. And I look at things around that. How are you treating addiction? How, what are your views? And I put a lot of emphasis in that.

And I think that if politicians, I think if we really push our might as people in recovery, and not be anonymous, I think we would have a lot more results when it comes to what happens. And I'm not saying that we don't have a lot going on now. But I think that there's still a lot of stigma and pushback as far as the disease of addiction.

There people talking about fighting opioids, that's very different than then treating the disease of addiction. So just because you're talking about, you know, fentanyl, and, you know, deaths by overdose or poisoning, doesn't mean that we easily talked about addiction or recovery in the solution. So I think we do have a ways and I think that if we have people that are in recovery would come out and say that I'm in recovery and I vote that makes a big difference in you talking to your local politicians about being in recovery and the importance of, you know, breaking barriers around that. I know, there's a lot of barriers being being broke in employment settings right now, as far as people being out in recovery for the work workplaces or, you know, recovery open workplaces. I think that's important as well, that's normalized. If people are, they can, you know, change your lives. And so I think we still have a long way to go.

Angie Fiedler Sutton
What would you say is would be some of the first steps for someone who is not in the industry if they wanted to help change how people perceive addiction?

Pete Nielsen
I would really go do their motivation for that, as far as really understand, you know, the subject of addiction and do some research. and really talk with people that are in recovery that have long term sustained recovery., really get an understanding of their position. And I mean, there are a lot of people that mean well, but if they're not well informed, it could do more harm than good.

Angie Fiedler Sutton
For someone in the industry yourself, what are some of the resources that you go to on a regular basis in terms of helping people through recovery and treatment?

Pete Nielsen
I would say that, you know, NBHAP, and I think at SAMHSA is a great resource. So is Faces and Voices, as well as American Society of Addiction Medicine, those are all great resources that I would recommend. Also, the Partnership to End Addiction, they're another resource, and also End to Overdose.

Angie Fiedler Sutton
Now, let's talk a little bit about the Destination Change poster. You helped create that? Am I correct?

Pete Nielsen
That is correct.

Angie Fiedler Sutton
Tell me kind of the origin of that where that came from. Obviously, this podcast is somewhat based off of that, for those who are not familiar with the poster, I will make sure that it is listed in the show notes. But just kind of where it came from what made you decide to create, you know, have the people create that that kind of stuff.

Pete Nielsen
It initially came out an idea for a, there was a contest about a poster. And we were trying to come up with a concept, an idea, and the map idea came out about in this contest.

But really what came to my mind with this is there's so many silos, and it's so confusing. There isn't one place where I can tell somebody that has an addiction problem or a family member that it has a loved one has an addiction problem of where you could go to get all your choices of what you can do laid out for you.

So whether that be harm reduction, whether that be prevention, whether that be recovery or treatment, you know, and what are all the choices when medication assisted recovery, recovery, community organizations, treatment, inpatient, outpatient, all of those different options: it seems that when you go to a particular organization, many times the option is their organization versus outlining what all the options are.

So you know, if you go to harm reduction, your a customer for harm reduction, you go to residential treatment, your a customer for residential treatment, if you go to outpatient, your a customer for outpatient. So, I really thought that there needs to be something that would would look at all the options and that so somebody could have a pictorial representation of what their options are.

And so we have this, this treasure map themed, you know, option list that people can look at. And one of the things I realized is, is when we go from the different silos, whether it be harm reduction or prevention or treatment or recovery, it seems that when we go across all those, that the language barriers, meaning, you know, the different terminology between changes. So individuals that do harm reduction don't necessarily speak the same language as individuals that do treatment. So there needed to be something that would bind all those together. So I did some research and I looked to see what what would all of those agree upon a some type of basis of information.

So I was looking at the transtheoretical, which is also the Stages of Change (pre contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action maintenance) as generally accepted by all those different silos. And so I use that as a basis for the map to kind of guide somebody from the Addiction Island, onto the the Whatever Island they go to -- Recovery Island, Treatment Island -- and there's little white dots for them to go through that. And really, stage of change are not really what I based it off of, it's actually the little known processes of change, which is, you know, the other part of that, which really fits all of that in the map.

So, but people don't necessarily know about the processes of change; they know the stages of change. So I use the stage of change, to inform, you know, really the concept of the processes of change. And that really navigates, because when you look at the processes of change, it really talks about, you know, prevention and harm reduction. You know, you can see all of those areas within the processes. The processes are just simply how you move individuals from one stage to the next of the Stages of Change. The stages is not something that you do, but what you can do is the processes is help you.

So, for example, if somebody is in at the end pre-contemplation.,If you give them information, and that information could help them to make a decision, or to even, you know, to push them into contemplation because they've have information. So, you know, that's a way that you can do by informational campaigns, which should help an individual to start to contemplate to move from pre-contemplation to contemplation. And contemplation is just you make a decision of if you want to change something or not.

So, you know, I thought that that is the best idea to be able to kind of lay this out. And so we have very simple statements on there for people to relate to. You know, so if it's pre-contemplation, "I don't have a problem" is a simple statement that's on there. So somebody can say, "oh, yeah, I relate to that. So I'm in pre-contemplation." So, if contemplation, they have a simple statement on there that says, "I think I have a problem." Somebody says, "Yeah, I can relate to that." Because they may not relate to the definition or, or, or the word contemplation, but they can relate to the thought or emotion that that we have on there. So that's how we utilize it to kind of help individuals to kind of find out where they're at in the stages or where they think they're at in the stages. And in the map is a guide for somebody else to help walk them through the different options and choices.

Angie Fiedler Sutton
And like a journey, it really relies on the heavily the fact that there isn't a straight point that you can go back and forth between the different stages, and that it's not something that is -- like the stages of grief that you can't just go straight through them that you can, like, with the Stages of Grief go back and forth between the two. Is that something that you see a lot of in the industry? Or is that something relatively new? The idea that you can go back and forth?

Pete Nielsen
Well, yeah, and usually where they go back and forth is usually when they, you know, use alcohol or drugs or have, you know, a setback or a reset, or, you know. I know that, you know, some of the words we're looking at changing because it has some negative connotation, but I think that, you know, because we want to move it to where, right now, it seems like that people can't make mistakes when they're in recovery. And actually, I shouldn't even call them mistakes, but that have setbacks or resets. I think like, you know, terms like relapse, people are pushing, moving away from because they feel like, like, oh, well, you failed the program.

And I think that when they toggle between stages, I'll use that, you know, with something that they happen to, like, they use drugs or, or alcohol or it changes, and they can go, and go back to pre contemplation, contemplation, they can go back to preparation, they can, you know, toggle in between those, you know, based upon whether they're at.

So, I do believe that when somebody uses a substance they go back to zero. That is a belief of some people, but I don't believe that myself. I do, you know, everything that you gain, you don't lose. The problem with our thought, is, when somebody uses a substance, they say, you have to go back to zero. It's basically like that old Monopoly where you go directly to jail, you did not pass go, you basically lose everything. And I don't believe that that's true. I believe that, you know, the information you gain and the recovery and the strength that you've gained, you don't lose that.

I also believe that the strengths that you had, some of those strengths that you had in your addiction does translate over to your recovery. They change, they look differently, but they are still some of the same strengths. Some of the same strengths that I had when I was using, I still use in my recovery: my same relentless pursuit for change or to do something is still here. And it used to be for the bad and now it's for the good. My passion: that is still here. That was there in my addiction. But it didn't it didn't land me to good places, it landed me into things like shiny handcuffs.

So I think really, when we look at that, we need to take that, to err is human and, and to to learn from from our patterns of behavior or learn from mistakes or that that should be acceptable. I'll tell you, so let's say I'm on a diet -- and you pick one paleo, South Beach, you name it, whatever. And I say to you, hey, I tried this thing and you know, I just, I had one too many, I don't know, whatever, you know, that you're not supposed to have on that diet, people will typically respond empathetically, "oh, well, that's okay." You know, and they'll be encouraging. But you say that with addiction and you say that, Oh, I relapsed, or I use a substance, that there's almost this this parental type of thing like, "oh, well, you know, you should know better" or "you failed", or, you know, and, and it should be looked more positively. And not like, what, you know, what you lost, but what's you gained, and kind of what helps you move you forward.

I think when we are challenged and we struggle, I think it helps us to be better people. And I think that there's a part where you can move forward. And, and it's not a negative thing. And I think until we start looking at it as a gain, rather than a loss, than I think that that that really, I think it will change. I mean, that, you know, I see this in sports, sometimes not always, but in sports is, like, when the team has a, you know, bad season, they will, you know, start building and learn from their mistakes or learn from their challenges. And then, you know, build that in in usually call it like a rebuilding season. And sometimes that's what you need in your own life. And that's the same thing in recovery. So maybe it's just a rebuilding season, on that it's not looked at a negative thing it's looked actually as a positive thing. You know, and I look at some of the teams and even one of the teams that I support, you know, I've heard that before, and it was gathered and rebuilding, now they're going to be greater now, now they're going to be better. I think, if we look at, you know, relapse, or when people have challenges, we look at that as more of a positive spin and rebuilding, I think we will all be better, and individuals will be better, when they don't have to carry all this guilt and shame.

Angie Fiedler Sutton
One of the things that the Stages of Change talk about and we also I know that you have used as kind of a resource is the idea of recovery capital. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, kind of go into what how you define what recovery capital is, and how that and, you know, interacts with the idea of recovery and addiction.

Pete Nielsen
So, recovery, capital is really your strengths, it's really your strengths, that that help you in your recovery. And it's breaking into a mindset to size it into three different: it's social, personal, and community.

And so, you know, social is things that the people that are around you, what you have to be able to help propel you forward, you know, the strengths that you have. Personal is typically resources, things that you have, your infrastructure, your community that you have is your other capital. All of those are really the forces that help propel you forward, and really build up an immunity and resist resistance to negative things in your life. Or I should say barriers on unmet needs. And I think those that kind of counterbalance. And so you know, as you build on your strengths, to be able to cope with things and deal with things more. The more recovery capital you have, it increases your ability to deal with situations or or, or circumstances that are in your life.

When it comes down to it, that's that's really what recovery capitalism is. It's, it's a way for individuals to improve their recovery, and to help them to build a better them or build a better me, you know, and always in that progress and growth. And recovery capital helps to do that because it we it's not intuitive to know what you need to work on in your own life -- to grow, to become, to do better and be better in your life. Recovery capital is just a tool to help you kind of gauge. It's kind of like if I was to drive a car without any instruments in the car -- no gas gauge, no check engine light, none of that -- if I would just drive a car without that. I might run into some issues, I could still drive the car. But if I don't have indicator lights, and if I don't have a speedometer, might get a ticket, you know, especially if I have a lead foot or you know all of those things. And so recovery capital is really that instrument gague for individuals in their recovery. Yes, they can go through recovery without it and yes, there's great tools out it but this is a great instrument panel to be able to gauge where they're at and where, where they can improve in to enhance their own life and their own well being easily by working on their, their recovery capital.

Angie Fiedler Sutton
Do you have a go-to tool that you like to use personally? Or is that like choosing a favorite child?

Pete Nielsen
So tell you as far as assessing or screening for that, there's there's three tools that I like that that I think are important. It's the recovery screener, are also known as the RCA, there's the RCI. And then there's, there's also REDCap, those are all great tools to be able to utilize.

I tell personally for like things that helped me build my recovery capital, I would say, like any of the R1 learning cards. I'll tell you like the values, and I'll tell you personally, I've benefited from utilizing those tools to help me in my own recovery. Boundaries. I mean, all of those I think are incredible. Really, for me, that material is super beneficial. I mean, I've trained and helped people through it, you know, but I'll tell you that that has been a tool that's helped me and even help my family. I mean, there's a career interest one that, that I, you know, gave to my son, you know, and it really helped him kind of decide where he wants to be in his career. So, you know, that's my go to as far as a tool and material is, you know, the R1 learning platform.

Angie Fiedler Sutton
Now, let's talk a little bit about your work with CCAPP. You've been with them for quite a while. Give me your elevator pitch as to what CCAPP is and what they do.

Pete Nielsen
Well, this is probably the shortest that you heard me answer the question. And I'll tell you, if I summarize everything that CCAP does with this. The core purpose is to make the world a better place by eliminating devastation caused by addiction. That's a mic drop, right there.

Angie Fiedler Sutton
So I mean, you do a little bit of everything, how did you get involved with them? I mean, obviously, they hired you. But I mean, were you aware of them beforehand, talk a little bit about your history in terms of how you gotten ...

Pete Nielsen
Before CCAPP came to be, there's two other organizations that came together, and I was on the board of one of those organizations, and then I ended up working for that organization. And then now we know, those organizations came together, as CCAPP.

But I'll tell you, I wanted to be involved. I mean, I was, I think I was running programs at the time before I was on the board of that former organization. And I had, you know, I was trying to get involved and be a part of the larger solution. And I was passionate about the larger solution. And they gave me an opportunity, and I ended up coming on the board.

That kind of led to a lot of things. And I think that one thing that I want people to take away from this message is get involved, get involved and be a part of the solution. And there's lots of ways and lots of organizations to be involved with that, you know, for me, that has really been a great outlet is to get involved to, to let my passion have a release, that I'm part of the change. It's not just about all the problems in the world, but I'm actually part of the solution. You know, there's so much grief and so much trauma and so much challenges out there. And it's you know, sometimes it's just overwhelming, but I can rest assure that I am part of the solution and I'm moving towards something better. And I'm a part of that something better and I know that as CCAPP we may have made tremendous headway in change for not just California but for the nation. And I am so humbled and glad to be a part of an organization that helps move forward change.

Angie Fiedler Sutton
And if you were to wake up tomorrow with the ability to make that change what would be the one thing that the your first thing that you would want to change about the addiction treatment industry?

Pete Nielsen
The opportunity for anybody to get help without putting on a waitlist. I believe in a concept called human redemption value. And basically it's the opportunity for anybody to be able to get on demand treatment for addiction or recovery or services or help without barriers. It's time for the system to serve the individual rather than individual serving the system.

Angie Fiedler Sutton
What would you say is the biggest barrier? Would it be stigma or something else?

Pete Nielsen
Money is always a problem. But I tell you silos, and you know, the lack of a cohesive system and, you know, I think is one of the biggest barriers, and individuals not being provided with all their options, and professionals that don't understand what the all the options are, and giving them the options, you know. That I think is part of the problem is a is a lack of information, sometimes misinformation or lack of information for professionals to point individuals in the right direction.

Angie Fiedler Sutton
Well, with regards to that and information, we can kind of segue a little bit into your work with Counselor Magazine, that's obviously a good resource for information. Tell me a little bit more about Counselor Magazine and your involvement with that, and what exactly it does.

Pete Nielsen
So, I'm the publisher of Counselor Magazine. And you know, it's funny, because there those commercials where, you know, I'm not just a member, I'm also a user of X product, you know, we're I'm not just the CEO, I'm the user of X product. I fell in love with Counselor Magazine way before I was the publisher of Counselor Magazine. Counselor Magazine's been around for 50 plus years. And I used to read the magazine and I used to, it used to be the go to resource for me in my life as a counselor was that magazine.

Pete Nielsen
And then I ended up writing for that I'm so excited and happy to write for the magazine. And when we ended up taking over the magazine, it was a dream come true for me. You know, this thing that I absolutely love, it was it was a precious resource, I get to now be the gatekeeper and the steward for that resource so others can can benefit from that magazine. There can be no greater honor than that is being able to carry that on. And you know, it's an internationally recognized magazine that helps behavioral health and addiction professionals and give them you know, the latest, greatest information so that they can do better and be better in their profession.

Angie Fiedler Sutton
Well, thank you, Pete, for being our guest today. Where can people find more information about you and the organizations you are with?

Pete Nielsen
They can go to ccapp.us Or they can go to Calrecovery.org. Both of those are great resources. Great information. Also, Counselor magazine.com Is the other resource.

Angie Fiedler Sutton
Thank you very much for staying with us today. You've been listening to Destination Change. Our guest today was Pete Nielsen. Thanks for being here. Our theme song was "Kita" by Sun Nation and used via Creative Commons licensed by the Free Music Archive. Please consider rating and reviewing the podcast on Apple podcasts so we can get more listeners. In the meantime, you can always see more about the podcast, including show notes and where else to listen to it on our website www.nbhap.org. If you have questions for the podcast, please email us at info@NBHap.org. Thanks for listening.

NBHAP Logo

A national membership association that provides education and advocacy for those in the behavioral health and addiction treatment industries.

We are the leading and unifying voice of addiction-focused treatment programs.

Join Now


Contact Us


Hours
Monday - Friday
8:30 am - 4:30 pm Pacific
(closed major holidays)


Find your representative here!