Photo: Villa Schöpflin gGmbH


The work of the »Villa Schöpflin«

19.11.20

The Villa Schöpflin is our addiction prevention center. It was founded in 2002 by Hans Schöpflin and his siblings, Heidi Junghanss and Albert Schöpflin, to protect young people and their families from the suffering that can be wrought by a young person’s addiction. The project came about after Hans Schöpflin’s own son, Axel, died of an overdose. Today the Villa Schöpflin program operates throughout the country, working to prevent childhood and youth addiction at an early stage and before it takes hold. In the beginning, the Villa Schöpflin was a member of the Baden-Württemberg Addiction Prevention and Rehabilitation Association (bwlv); but in 2009 it became a non-profit corporation (corp.) in its own right. In 2010 the Villa became a member of the German welfare association (Baden-Württemberg branch), the Paritätischer Wohlfahrtsverband.

To gain an insight into the work that is carried out at the Villa Schöpflin with children and young people who display risky behavior when interacting with addictive substances or digital media and online gambling, we speak to Daniel Ott, the Deputy Director of the Villa Schöpflin. In our conversation, he outlines some of the Villa’s core offerings.

Daniel, which programs does the Villa Schöpflin run and how does it use them?

At the regional level the Villa Schöpflin – as the addiction help center responsible for prevention support work in the Lörrach district – covers issues relating to tobacco, alcohol, cannabis, gambling and digital media. We are a team of eleven. We run various projects and programs covering addiction prevention – some developed in-house and others devised and tested by independent, external bodies. At the national level we are focusing on a nationwide roll-out of these programs and the various associated prevention materials. This work has led to the formation of a great many networks of experts throughout Germany. These networks are now implementing the Villa Schöpflin programs in their own regions; and the whole project is overseen from here in Lörrach.

The nature of the Villa Schöpflin’s different projects and programs varies, depending on the target group. As part of our work with school classes and youth groups we use our program of universal prevention measures, deploying interactive tools to tackle and highlight the issues relating to alcohol, cannabis and the use of all forms of media. We use our specific, bespoke prevention programs to target young people who display an increased risk of developing a particular addiction. And finally, we use specific prevention techniques when working, one-on-one, with those young people who – because of their high-risk or unhealthy behavior – are a cause for concern but have not reached the actual addiction stage. Work with these young people is carried out in the form of counseling sessions.

How do young people get in touch with the Villa Schöpflin? And what sort of young people are we talking about here?

Most of the children and young people taking part in one of our counseling programs come to us via their legal guardians. Legal guardians usually contact us because they have observed – and are worried about – the negative effects that the digital media or gambling, for example, are having on their children, or because of their children’s use of tobacco, alcohol or cannabis. Other children and young people come to us as referrals from regional pediatricians, or through children and youth therapists, school social workers or entities such as children or youth psychiatric services. That is why the regional network is particularly important because it provides those seeking help with the best possible and fastest care and treatment.

The children and young people who come to the Villa Schöpflin are not usually addicts, but they are people who have displayed worrying addictive behaviors. They come from a diverse range of social and cultural backgrounds.

In addition to our work with children and young people, another key part of what we do is our work with parents and carers. We involve them in the counseling process or invite them to parent evenings at schools.  hey need tips and suggestions, for example; or we help them to think about or to set rules.

In concrete terms, what does the work with the children and young people actually look like?

All our staff at the Villa Schöpflin are experts in interviewing techniques – particularly in the technique known as motivational interviewing (MI). This technique is designed to break down any resistance shown by children and young people. Such resistance is a particular problem when a child or a young person is referred to us but not of their own free will.

It is often assumed that the Villa Schöpflin simply lectures children and young people - or that we try to indoctrinate them: that’s not the case. In fact, we engage with them as equals and listen to what they have to say. Our aim cannot and must not be to force them to abandon their addiction or to persuade them to change their behavior, because in the long-term this would not be effective. The consultation process – which is completely confidential and involves up to seven sessions – is much more about the child or young person setting his or her own realistic goals. We then work with them on these goals and motivate them using their initial successes as a basis from which to build. This leads to negative spirals being broken and to sustainable changes in behavior in terms of their attitudes and approach to substance abuse or media consumption or gambling.

We usually bring relevant family members into the process. This activates additional familiar resources and ensures a framework for change that is target-oriented.

What are the current dominant themes and issues; and what impact is the corona pandemic having on your work?

Most of our enquiries relate to cannabis and digital media. During the pandemic we have seen an increased need for counseling relating to digital media. This is because the often-tough impact of the pandemic has meant that children and young people in particular have lost their normal daily structures and routines and so often retreat into the digital world. As far as cannabis is concerned, it is not unusual for parents – who are now spending more time at home – either to become aware of their children’s addiction habit or to realize just how much their children are actually consuming.

We are also seeing a noticeable increase in demand from schools because prevention work is a highly important issue, particularly in the current circumstances. The challenge here is how best to provide schools with our digital innovative and interactive addiction prevention workshops (Max & Min@, Tom & Lisa and Cannabis – quo vadis?) via videoconferencing services in a way that is data secure. On the whole, when it comes to digitalization, we have gained a great many additional skills in recent months – all at break-neck speed, courtesy of the corona pandemic. And of course, we will benefit from these skills in the long-term because they will make our addiction prevention work more flexible and provide us with new approaches to how we work.

Many thanks for your time.

For more information on the Villa Schöpflin and the Addiction Prevention programs, go to villa-schoepflin.de

This article was first published in the 05/2020 edition of our Newsletter, Schöpflins Schaufenster (»Schöpflin Showcase«)

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