A life reinvented: from addict to clinician
On any given day, alumnus Barry Ladis can be seen counseling a patient or talking to one of the residents at the sober living community that he owns and operates. His goal: to help addicts and their families understand that recovery is possible and offer them hope for a successful future in recovery.
“Addiction is a family disease. The entire family gets sick when one family member is addicted. When the addict gets better, the family can begin to heal,” said Ladis, who graduated from the Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work’s School of Social Work with a master of social work (MSW) in 2012 and his Ph.D. in social welfare in 2018. “About 50 percent of my patients are families experiencing an addiction crisis; either the father, mother or kid has a substance user problem and I am trying to help the family heal.”
Ladis knows first-hand what it means to be a parent afflicted with addiction. A husband and father of four, Ladis was a successful businessman and CPA when he realized that he was in crisis and needed to go into treatment. He has now been clean and sober for more than 13 years.
“My four kids saw first-hand how miserable life was with an impaired parent and now, thankfully, what life is like with a sober parent. As a sober parent, I want other parents to avoid making the same mistakes that negatively impacted my wife and four kids.”
After his treatment, he reinvented his life.
Ladis had led a successful career and could have retired; but instead, he began working in a drug treatment program as a case manager and soon realized he wanted to do more, help more, by becoming a therapist. To do that, he needed his MSW, which eventually led him to his Ph.D. a few years later.
“Barry’s personal experiences have given him insights to what other families are facing and is committed to making a difference,” said Mary Helen Hayden, director of the School of Social Work. “He was a motivated and strong student who did very well in both the MSW and P.hD. programs.”
His career is very much inspired by his past experiences in active addiction and his past 13 years in recovery. Ladis continues to do research and to assist families that are at risk or in the midst of substance abuse issues. Most recently, Ladis published a comprehensive assessment measure of parenting practices that can be used in clinical settings to assess youth behavior and functioning in the Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal. The aim of the paper is to give clinicians the tools and questions they need to be asking to better understand a youth’s risk of developing a substance abuse issue.
“I want clinicians to be able to ask the right questions about parenting. There are certain parenting practices, attitudes and norms that are very relevant to a youth’s decision to begin using substances and I want to make sure those questions are asked so that families can help prevent substance use initiation.”
Today, Ladis is a psychotherapist and one of the substance use practice leaders at South Miami Psychology Group, a private practice in Pinecrest. He also owns and operates a successful, 16 bed all-male sober living community that provides a structured and safe environment for recovering alcoholics and addicts to live while they continue their recovery. Recovery gave Ladis’ marriage a second chance as well as a second chance at being a good father; his wife and children have been very supportive throughout his continued recovery.
Ladis also remains connected to Stempel College, coming back to campus several times a semester as a guest lecturer in social work classes.
“Barry’s story not only serves to assist others in the similar situations but serves to teach our students about human strengths and resiliency as well as positive treatment outcomes,” Hayden said.
Ladis keeps his past at arm’s length, but never forgets the struggles he overcame so that he can help others before it is too late.
“I was able to go from a very dark bottom and reinvent myself,” he said. “So often, we hear about overdoses or deaths, but I want to let others know about the many success stories that are happening every day as people find recovery. Addicts can recover and do great things. Now, I get to take what I learned from my life and my Ph.D. program and put it to use in the therapy room one day at a time – it’s a beautiful thing.”