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Spotlight On Our Founders

As NACoA celebrates 30 years of service to children of alcoholic parents, we look back gratefully to those individuals who gathered together in November 1982 and February 1983 to form what would become the National Association FOR (not of) Children of Alcoholics.

This was a group of people who individually had histories of getting things done and were interested in improving the lot of people affected by parental alcoholism. As NACoA evolved it became clear that the education of absolutely everybody in America as to the nature of alcoholism and its effects on the family was key to making a difference. This is now our mandate. We salute these pioneers and honor and thank them all.

He is professor of sociology and Director of the Mid-Atlantic Addiction Training Institute at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, a Fulbright Scholar, and consultant to the Suzanne Somers Institute. He has published numerous articles and research findings, including the first book on children of alcoholics in the U.S. thirty years ago. Dr. Ackerman is program chair for the ACOA/COA conference where NACoA will host a 25th birthday party in Orlando, March 6-8. www.robertjackerman.com

Dr. Black partners with her husband Jack Fahey in a publishing company in Washington state, which produces and markets all her books, videos, and CDs. In addition to her speaking, training and consulting work, during the past few years she has focused on creating tools for professionals who work with COAs. Her first best seller, It Will Never Happen To Me, has sold two million copies to date. A recent achievement is helping with the development of Camp Mariposa, a camp for children of addiction established by The Moyer Foundation in the Seattle area. Her website is www.claudiablack.com

Founder and Executive Director of the Next Step Institute of Integrative Medicine in Vail, Colorado, she also serves as one of its team of clinical directors, which includes her husband, Gary M. Weiss, M.D. Cathleen has pioneered work in the field of childhood trauma and the association between unresolved emotional pain and physical illness. Her own battles with cancer and chronic pain inspired her to join with Next Step’s other clinical directors 15 years ago to design a unique model program for treating chronic pain and illness. This program, located in Palm Bay, Florida, became the foundation for Next Step’s more extensive Wellness Programs in Colorado. Cathleen’s book for teenage COAs, The Secret Everyone Knows, written over 25 years ago, became an instant classic. www.nextstepinstitute.org

When she retired from private practice in Santa Barbara, CA, she began traveling, including a stint as ship’s psychologist for Semester At Sea, which sailed around the world. Today she continues to travel, as well as to facilitate group psychotherapy for childhood trauma and substance abuse at Esalen Institute, Mt. Madonna Center, and La Casa de Maria, all in California. She has developed two new courses: “Mothers and Daughters,” and “Forgiveness: Healing Relationships.”

Dr. Brown’s many contributions to the field include research, teaching, and publishing, including her noted work at The Family Recovery Research Institute in California. She is at work on her latest book Speed: When You Can’t Go Any Faster and You Can’t Stop. One of her many research articles was for Family Therapy magazine this past year, “Children of Alcoholics,” co-authored with Stephanie Abbott, editor of NETWORK. Her new Web site is www.stephaniebrownphd.com

Dr. Cermak is currently focused on effective treatment for adolescents who are harmfully involved in alcohol and other drugs. He notes that since a high percentage of these teens are children of addicts, this is the same population he was concerned about when he became involved in founding NACoA. He wrote White Papers on marijuana for the California Society of Addictive Medicine when California passed its medical marijuana law, and a book for parents: Marijuana: What’s a Parent to Do? He continues in private practice, and was named Best Psychiatrist by San Francisco Magazine.

Today she spends most of her time in the political arena, working on various local, state and national campaigns. She still maintains a small private practice, primarily with parents of addicted teens. She served as NACoA’s first Executive Director, and has served on the Board of Directors as well as the Advisory Board.


Writing under the name Sharon Wegscheider, she authored the book Another Chance: Hope and Health for the Alcoholic Family, followed by other books for recovering families and couples. Today she considers herself retired, while facilitating groups for mothers who have lost adult children, and mentoring women for whom she offers workshops, in Nevada where she resides, on issues of balance of mind, body, and spirit.

Vice President for Development for Aspire Behavioral Health, a national company that creates and operates Geriatric Acute Care Psychiatric Hospitals, he recently rejoined the NACoA Board of Directors. Previously he worked for the White House as the Assistant Deputy Director for Drug Prevention, later becoming the lead consultant on substance abuse for the Child Welfare League of America. He built a residential community for 100 recovering addicts, Gateway Community Services, in Jacksonville, Florida.

A licensed psychologist, his full time practice is in Santa Barbara, California. He specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of the effects of illness, addiction, and other trauma on the individual, the family, and society. He works specifically with the impact of alcoholism, post traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, major depression and schizophrenia on every member of the family.

“Actor” is her newest job, as she consulted and appears in a movie about family treatment called “Intervention.” She created and helped to facilitate a program called InnerPath at Cottonwood de Tucson, which offers intensive five day workshops for men and women dealing with relationship and family issues. For the last 15 years she has worked on London for Spring Workshops Ltd. for adults in recovery from trauma, addiction, and relationship problems.

Award-winning outpatient psychotherapist, cognitive behavioral therapist, private practice social worker and university faculty member Tarpley Long specializes in treating adult children of alcoholics and addicted men and women. Many of her clients have been sober for several years and wish to work on establishing healthy relationships or come to grips with a painful past such as childhood physical or sexual abuse or other ACOA issues. Her research includes over 50 articles and conference papers on Children of Alcoholics and Adult Children of Alcoholics and led to her election to the Cosmos Club of Washington in the category of Meritorious Original Work in Addiction Medicine. She was named in Washingtonian Magazine's Top 100 Psychotherapists and is a member of the American Psychoanalytic Association, the Washington Center for Psychoanalysis and the National Association of Social Workers. Her clients benefit from her more than thirty five years of experience in the field of addictions and mental health. Learn more on her website www.tarpleylong.com.

She continues as Executive Director of Student Assistance Services Corp. in Tarrytown, NY, which provides a full range of substance abuse prevention services including education, referral, consultation, counseling, and training. She has published several articles in professional journals, appeared on a number of television shows, and has been interviewed in popular magazines. She was the recipient of the NYS Association of Prevention Professionals Prevention Professional of the year for 1999. Ellen served on the expert panel that created NACoA’s Core Competencies for Social Workers last year. Her Web site is: http://www.sascorp.org

With Philip Diaz, she runs a Web site designed for “strength-based approaches for families in recovery, women and youth”, a resource for family recovery issues and effective parenting for families affected by addiction. Their newest book is The Lowdown on Families Who Get High, and their latest magazine articles have been in Addiction Today, Counselor Magazine, and Recover Magazine. The Web site is: http://ogormandiaz.com

He continues his full-time clinical practice, with over thirty years of experience in the mental health and addiction field. He maintains an active schedule of teaching and consulting on both the national and international level, with a focus on the family system, its rules, and the dynamics of human development. He is the author of Healing the Family Within and Lost in the Shuffle.


Since 1974 Dr. Whitfield’s training and practice has evolved into specializing in individual and group psychotherapy, with a special interest in addicted patients and their families, including adult children. He received the National Child Advocate Award (Believe the Children, Chicago) in 1997. He is Consultant and Research Collaborator at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and has served on the Faculty of the Rutgers Summer Institute of Alcohol & Drug Studies.


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