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Interview with Dr. Bob Lynn

by Sam Leibowitz-Lord

As students, faculty, and staff prepare for their return to campus, the Rutgers Center of Alcohol & Substance Use Studies was delighted to catch up with one of its most esteemed alumni on the state of substance use recovery in post-COVID America.

Dr. Bob Lynn is an internationally recognized lecturer, researcher, and clinician in the field of Counseling Psychology and Substance Use Disorders. During the past 50 years, he has held leading positions in many clinical settings, levels of addiction treatment, Employee Assistance Programs, State Government, and as a professor in several universities.  He is a Board Certified Licensed Professional Counselor and Senior Fellow in Neurofeedback Practice. He is also a recognized expert in Family Therapy and Behavioral Therapy. Dr. Lynn completed his doctoral studies at Rutgers University School of Graduate Education. His major research focuses on issues related to treatment outcomes.

Dr. Lynn has been recognized by NJ Assembly Resolution for his efforts in the fight against Drug Dependence. He is CEO/Founder of The Addiction and Behavioral Health Alliance LLC, Clinical Advisor for several organizations to include The Center for Great Expectations, C4 Recovery Solutions and the Levenson Foundation, Faculty for Rutgers Institute of Addiction Studies, International Consultant in treatment delivery systems, as well as Clinical Director for the National Center For Advocacy and Recovery, Inc for Behavioral Health.

After more than 50 years as an internationally recognized lecturer, researcher, and clinician in the field of Counseling Psychology and Substance Use Disorders, Lynn’s attention has turned toward two major areas within mentorship. The first is what he calls “paying it forward.”

“By mentoring folks who are trying to develop a career in the field I am able to provide some light for their pathway,” Lynn said. “In addition, I am always open to helping folks who are struggling to find direction for themselves or family members who are facing behavioral health challenges – not necessarily providing direct treatment, just expert advice from my long-term experience. I believe it is a gift to become someone’s friend in the field, a refuge when distressed and a guide to help them negotiate daunting systems.”

As both a scientist and clinician, Dr. Lynn spends a great deal of time advocating for positive change in the treatment community. Much of what has been termed treatment during the past 50 years, he believes, is based on pseudoscience presented under the mantle of science. Lynn continues to write articles and post blogs that encourage discussion and challenge the status quo.

“Even large well-meaning organizations become invested in protecting the status quo rather than working toward positive solutions to these multifaceted challenges,” Lynn said. “Sure, this is a David and Goliath effort while recently I have had the privilege of meeting with influential groups and providing input on the policy level.”

At the Addiction and Behavioral Alliance LLC, Lynn and his team have been steadily building a coalition of like-minded folks to help break down silos and work together toward positive change in the field. Lynn said the pandemic provided a chance for him to open doors and hearts for those struggling with behavioral health challenges. Lynn and the Addiction and Behavioral Health Alliance offer   compassionate advice at no cost to anyone who would benefit from a conversation. Lynn has also become involved with the First Responder Network that is providing support and advice to police, firefighters and medical folks who are experiencing challenges related to the pandemic.

“With all of the chaos both within the treatment field and within society, helping these folks find direction for themselves and their families is a rewarding way to spend my time and perhaps add value on the ground,” Lynn says.

One of the biggest problems Dr. Lynn says he continues to encounter is the lack of a shared lexicon in the addiction treatment field. An example, Lynn sees “Recovery” as ladened with cultural bias and steeped in antiquated treatment systems that offer protocols for an outcome some cannot measure or define as other than abstinence. The term “recovery,” Lynn says, has been a convenient way for some to say, “do it my way” and has discriminated against Harm Reduction, Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), and innovation in general.

“What is needed is a severity continuum and not unlike so many illnesses, there are degrees of recovery and not just a mythical line that one must cross.” Lynn continues to share that “the challenge of finding quality care in a system that lacks universal standards and outcomes continues to plague the field”.

In efforts towards positive change in the addiction field, Lynn teaches a course entitled “Beyond Abstinence the Future of Addiction Treatment -New and Innovative Approaches”” that includes a focus on race and socioeconomic status as factors in determining treatment plans. Historically, access to treatment for people of color has been limited as compared to services offered to white people. Lynn highlights the fact that an opioid epidemic has been ongoing for more than 50 years, and the solution has been a punitive one which resulted in filling prisons with many people of color. The course also explores the roles of deflection and diversion rather than arrest for behavioral health challenges.

 Dr. Lynn believes his greatest professional gift   has been his association with Rutgers Center of Alcohol & Substance Use Studies since his first Alcohol and Addiction summer school in 1979 to his current status as an Associate and instructor. He completed his Doctoral work at Rutgers and much of his work he believes has been informed by colleagues and students.    

Disclaimer: The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the Center of Alcohol & Substance Use Studies