Dr. Dempsey and Dr. Harris left academia to ensure addiction recovery improvements could reach everyone.

“I’d love to turn the addiction industry on its head,” said Dr. Jared Dempsey. He and his research partner, Dr. Kitty Harris, laughed together over the phone. Dr. Harris apologized and said, “He’s the mad scientist.”

These two researchers are “two puzzle pieces fitting together,” Dr. Harris added. They study addiction recovery and design addiction recovery programs. And they want to spread their findings and programs to everyone who needs them.

Who Are Dr. Dempsey and Dr. Harris?

They’re both on staff at No Life Wasted (NLW) Partners, which consults with research institutes and addiction treatment centers to recommend the best recovery practices. How do they know which practices are the best? From their research – Dr. Dempsey is the Chief Science Officer, and Dr. Harris collaborates with him in NLW’s research even while she serves as its president.

Before joining NLW Partners, they both conducted research at Texas Tech University. Dr. Dempsey began his doctoral research in the psychology of addiction before moving to its neuroscience instead. Dr. Harris wields 38 years of experience in clinical addiction studies, where she conducted research and gained millions of dollars of funding for TTU’s Center for the Study of Addiction and Recovery.

But recovery research has always meant more than satisfying work for Dr. Harris. She has enjoyed 40 years of personal addiction recovery, and so the research isn’t abstract to her. “I love this field,” she said, “and I love what we do.”

What Have They Done?

Their first accomplishment, at least in their own opinion, was leaving universities to conduct applied addiction research. “Universities can be ivory towers separated from practice,” said Dr. Dempsey. “We recognized that 80%, 90% of people who need recovery aren’t getting treatment.”

They’d researched new addiction recovery strategies while they were academics, since addiction science studies haven’t always included recovery itself. Dr. Harris complained that scientists have yet to agree on a single definition for recovery. She and Dr. Dempsey worked to address gaps in the previous research – that included brain-scan tech as recovery tools

And when Scott Laboratories asked the doctors to design an online recovery program, they jumped at the chance. Their recovery research had gone nowhere fast in academic circles. It was time to roll up their sleeves for research with fewer restraints.

RecoverOnline: A Path to Sobriety

That online recovery program became RecoverOnline, and the research and design team pulled out all the stops. “We knew we had to engage patients,” Dr. Harris explained. That meant sixteen high-budget psycho-educational videos which combine evidence-supported treatments like cognitive therapy, Twelve-Step recovery and mindfulness training. Add in a weekly interview with an addiction counselor, and RecoverOnline adds up to a four-week addiction recovery that can rival the best available in residential programs.

The two doctors designed RecoverOnline to have the crucial structure of most recovery strategies. Patients engage every day for at least an hour with the videos and interactions, and another hour comes from the therapy session. That way, you can look forward to practicing its advice and directives between sessions. Dr. Dempsey and Dr. Harris believe that’s a critical part of the process.

And there’s more coming.

All these achievements include only the half of it. There’s a whole other article coming on Monday to explore the rest of what Dr. Dempsey and Dr. Harris do. Would you believe they’ve developed a system to predict who will stay in recovery treatment and who will leave? Or how about their future plans for a book on the subject?

Check in again at In The Rooms on Monday to read the rest of the doctors’ story. And if you’d like to visit again before then, create a free account to access online recovery meetings and read our recovery-focused content. Recovery can begin here as soon as you’d like it to.


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