#rpTHE Speaker Ilias Paraskevopoulos talks online counselling tools for active drug users

Up next in our presentation of speakers is the German born family therapist Ilias Paraskevopoulos. He’s been living in Greece for 17 years now, working as a counsellor and therapist for teenage drug addicts. In 2004, he took up an additional job as an online counsellor and coordinated the KETHEA working group in 2014. A member of the South-eastern European expert group for the Pompidou Group (Council of Europe) on online interventions for demand reduction (www.drughelp.eu), he started to work for the KETHEA ITHAKI therapeutic community in 2017.

Ilias, what challenges is Europe currently facing and how can the digital society help manage them?
In my opinion, Europe is going through an identity crisis. This is because the European Union, as our continent’s most important concept, seems to currently be connecting the European countries mostly in an economic way and measuring their relationship in figures and money. This makes us, European citizens, think in a comparative manner ...which is good for business, but not the best when it comes to building up common social ties... Because Europe is more than just business! Europe is, first and foremost, a blend of peoples, cultures and societies with common ideas, problems and ... solutions. Emphasising mutual social ideas, problems and solutions will help us build up a strong European community. Digital society has no borders and therefore offers the European society the opportunity (and maybe also the responsibility) to network and be present transnationally.

What is your main line of work?
Throughout my professional life, I have become more and more focused on the topic of addictive behaviour. For over a decade now, I worked as a therapist and counsellor with teenagers and their families (mostly cannabis use and/or internet "addiction"). In the last years, I’ve mostly been working as an addiction therapist for adults involved in heavy drug use. This year I started working in the "ITHAKI" therapeutic community, which is the largest and oldest addiction treatment program in Greece. My main responsibility there is to lead individual and group therapy sessions. Over the course of the last years, I have also been focused on creating and bringing together an online counselling system for KETHEA, while also developing a supportive framework for the use of various online tools designed to help active drug users (supported by the council of Europe/Pompidou Group).

What can visitors expect from your talk on experiences, opportunities and concerns in the use of online counselling tools for active drug users?
Young drug users are increasingly experimenting with new psychoactive substances (nps) and designer drugs, which they find anonymously over the internet (deep/darknet), and without getting in touch with any "classic" drug scene. Most of them are not addicted, and do not have the typical drug user profile, so they do not come in contact with the existing help system in case they are in need of some kind of support or counselling.

The presentation will show the most common tools for online counselling, it will explain why some famous tools are not suitable for active drug users and why some text based tools seem to be more useful than others. We will also focus on why anonymity is important, although it makes the counselling process more complex and difficult for the online counsellor.

The presentation will also include a European online tool which we are currently working on, and which allows active drug users to assess their addiction level anonymously (self-help tool).

Thank you for your time, Ilias, we look forward to meeting you in Thessaloniki and listening to your talk there!


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