The founder of the first and, arguably the best, model of treatment of adolescents and young adults with substance use disorders is David Gust. A combination of life experiences, as well as training at the Hazelden Foundation In Minnesota, provided David with the necessary insights required for his approach to addiction treatment.
David used the Minnesota-Model principles of treatment and recovery and, from the ground up, diagrammed and implemented the New Directions Model. What David developed took advantage of the techniques of intervention applied over time (necessary for adolescents) and ingeniously outlined an application of “assessments” addressing the behavioral, physical, familial, emotional, spiritual and social dimensions of substance use disorder, particularly substance dependence.
Each assessment included a series of family conferences in which the adolescent shared his or her assessment with their parent or parental figures with the parents giving their input. Parental input put the assessment in a final form, a form which the adolescent could use for personal growth moving forward. No one was doing this! The model and approach was completely original, and effective. Out of the fog of best guesses and make-it-up-as-you-go-along, here was a way, an outline, for outpatient treatment of adolescents and young adults with substance use disorders that could be implemented in a variety of clinical settings.
My training with David as my Clinical Supervisor began in 1984. I never would have had the confidence or modeled knowledge to work with chemically dependent adolescents without David’s encouragement and, frankly, courage. Furthermore, no one else was doing this work. David has been and is very generous in allowing and encouraging the implementation of his model by other practitioners in their clinical settings. David’s generosity planted innumerable seeds among colleagues which led to many instances of recovery for substance challenged adolescents.
On my part, and with David’s authorization, I proceeded to implement the New Direction’s model at Sierra Family Services, beginning in 1989, where I was Program Director. I have used it in my private practice for many years as well. David (with Ted Smith) first published in 1994, what he had provided to therapists and clinicians previously in trainings, since the beginning of New Directions, in Effective Outpatient Treatment for Adolescents. Then in 2006, David, Sheila Walker, and Jon Daily, published How to Help Your Child Become Drug-Free: A Guide for Parents of Adolescents and Young Adults with Substance Abuse or Addiction. This book was based on The New Directions family program treatment model, which had been successfully used in his program since the early 1980s.
On a personal note regarding David, we have known each other since 1979 and we both had first-hand experiences as substance-addicted adolescents. Both of us understood, with gratitude and passion, the vital importance of 12-step generated recovery from addiction.
David had the charisma, courage and insight required to make the inroads with parents, schools and community organizations necessary for adolescents to begin to recover from substance use problems. David was always generous with his time, encouragement, and practical experience with me and countless others. Without doubt, he was the founder of a system-of-care for the treatment of substance disordered adolescents and their families which has led to thousands of improved lives.