Texas Tech University

Department of Community Family and Addiction Sciences Enriches Global and Local Communities

Ashley Brister

January 27, 2022

Community Family and Addiction Sciences Students in Lab

Three centers facilitate faculty-student collaboration to improve the lives of individuals, families, and communities.

The Department of Community, Family and Addiction Sciences (CFAS) covers areas of study such as addictive behavior, family therapy, program development and evaluation, substance use disorder and treatment, eating disorders, as well as grant writing. The department encompasses a minor, bachelor, master's, and two Ph.D. programs that prepare students for the human services job market. Students also can collaborate with faculty members in two distinct areas of research. 

The Center for Addiction Recovery Research (CARR) is comprised of several different research labs ran by CFAS faculty members whose collective goal is to understand addiction and recovery. Each lab may examine addiction and recovery from different levels like the individual, the family, and public policy using various methodologies. 

“The big picture for the center is to be one of the premiere centers for addiction and recovery,” CARR director Antover Tuliao, Ph.D., said. “We want to be at the forefront of addiction and recovery research; we want to be producing and disseminating high quality research. But at the end of the day, we never forget the human component and the reason why we are doing this: we want to alleviate the human cost of addiction, improve the delivery of prevention and treatment among those who need it, and uplift the lives of those afflicted with the disease.”

Addiction is a prevailing public health issue domestically and abroad, and CARR is a place where scientists are dedicated to deepening society's understanding of addiction and finding solutions to facilitate successful recovery. Students and faculty members who are affiliated with CARR can contribute to this growing field and make an impact on positive addiction recovery outcomes through research done at the center. 

“The center trains students to gain competencies in research in the field of addiction and recovery sciences,” Tuliao said. “Through the efforts of affiliated faculty, it helps students ask good and relevant questions and view addiction and recovery phenomena critically.”

This fall, CARR held weekly brown bag sessions to discuss research skills and tackle scientific and scholarly issues for new graduate students just beginning their academic research journey. 

“The center desires to continue its brown bag series and soon, to make this learning opportunity available to other students and faculty within and outside the college,” Nephtaly Joel B. Botor, a Ph.D. student and graduate research assistant for CARR, said. “It is also currently preparing to accommodate students and faculty who are interested to run their experiments and studies using the laboratory.” 

The center also curated a digital repository of resources including information on ethical and responsible research, grants and funding, and discipline-specific references graduate students can use to further their academic career. Students are given updates for research opportunities and relevant learning resources periodically via email to provide ample opportunity for CARR involvement. The ultimate goal is to provide students with as much research experience as possible so that they can be acquainted with the most recent studies in their field, and perhaps one day lead their own studies. 

“The center also provides mentorship to highly motivated undergraduate students who want to build their career path,” Botor said. “To date, the center caters to undergraduate students who aspire to pursue graduate studies or medicine and assists them fortify their competencies through mentorship.” 

Also under the Department of Community, Family, and Addiction Sciences, is the Center for Family Systems Research and Intervention (CFSRI), which provides another opportunity for students to collaborate with faculty members on research studies. CFSRI houses research initiatives aimed at advancing clinical intervention for individual, couple, and family therapy. The center's mission is to eradicate the impact of trauma, illness, and loss to enhance the human condition on a global scale. 

“The CFSRI supports the education and training of CMFT masters and doctoral level graduate students pursuing degrees in Couple, Marriage and Family therapy (CMFT),” Co-director of CFSRI, Nicole Piland, Ph.D., said. “The clinics provide sliding fee services to individuals, couples and families living in Lubbock and surrounding counties.” 

Piland conducts research on identifying the factors of resilience within families raising a child with a disability—intellectual and/or developmental. Her research is affiliated with the Family Therapy Clinic and the Children's Behavioral Health Clinic. Piland also supports the research of students and faculty interested in advancing service delivery for individuals, couples, and families. Students can gain administrative, clinical, and research experience at the center participating in the general operations of clinical service delivery or working with data collection to support CMFT faculty. 

“The center supports master's and doctoral student research in a number of ways,” CFSRI co-director, Stephen Fife Ph.D., said. “First, students work with faculty as part of their research teams. Many of these projects are supported financially by the center. Second, doctoral students can submit proposal for research funds to support their dissertation research. The center has supported many dissertation projects since its development.”

Fife provides training for Marriage and Family Therapy graduate students and research methods for improving treatment for couples and families receiving clinical therapy. The graduate students Fife trains provide services for individuals, children, and families with diverse backgrounds with various needs for mental health services. In the last three years, 56 master's students and 14 doctoral students have provided 11,000 hours of clinical services for 593 new clients. 

The Center for Family Systems Research and Intervention partners with Lubbock County Juvenile Justice Center, Children's Advocacy Center of the South Plains, Hospice of Lubbock, Lubbock Children's Health Clinic, Children's Behavioral Health Clinic, UMC Children's Hospital, Covenant Health System – Levelland, and the TTU Student Counseling Center to provide mental health services to underserved populations. 

“As one of the largest COAMFTE accredited master's and doctoral Couples, Marriage and Family Therapy programs in the nation—and housing two family therapy clinics—we have a unique teaching, research, and training environment for all affiliates,” Botor said. “We have also been generously supported by TTU, the College of Human Sciences, foundations, and private donors, which has been essential in supporting and sustaining our mission.”

There are ample opportunities for students to advance their academic careers within the Department of Community, Family and Addiction Sciences, but there are also resources like the Center for Collegiate Recovery Communities (CCRC) in place to support students who are themselves in recovery.

“The Center for Collegiate Recovery Communities is changing lives,” Alex Shrodes, program director for eating disorders at the CCRC said. “The services provided through the center increase the continuum of care for students in recovery, enhancing the quality of life for students in recovery at Texas Tech University.”

The CCRC is a safe place for students who are recovering from alcohol, drug, and behavioral addictions. The center provides support through relationships with staff, academic advising, recovery housing, study abroad opportunities and more.

“The center provides two service organizations, Association of Students About Service (ASAS) and Providing the Outside World with Empowerment and Resources (POWER),” CCRC associate director of external relations, George Comiskey, Ph.D., said. “Students are engaged in service to the homeless, education and awareness events in the community (churches, schools, and public awareness events).” 

The CCRC currently has numerous local partners that students volunteer in collaboration with its student organizations. The center hosts a National Eating Disorders Awareness Walk, the Source to Solution Addiction & Recovery Symposium at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center, created the Helping Every Adolescent Reach their Dreams (HEARD) Coalition, and is working to create an Alternative Peer Group at the YWCA. The center is looking to expand to allow more recovering students to benefit from their program and increase its community outreach footprint. 

“Anyone who walks into the center and listens to the conversation and camaraderie understands the appeal,” Botor said. “It's a place to feel known, heard and loved for our students and it offers them a safe space to talk about how addiction has impacted their lives. As a staff member here, it's a true joy to walk in and experience genuine relationships with those truly focused on improving their lives and The Center offers the support to do that.”

The Department of Community, Family and Addiction Sciences' research is far reaching and has a clear impact on the global community, but some of the most inspiring stories of the department's impact can be found right on Texas Tech University campus. CFAS will enrich the lives of individuals, families, and communities for years to come.