Drug counselor brings ‘energy’

Drug counselor brings ‘energy’

Felix Fernandez Pizzi, Northeastern’s new alcohol and other drug counselor, came to the university with the hope of developing and strengthening the services and counseling students can receive, in relation to alcohol and drug awareness.

One of Pizzi’s main concerns is that students realize counseling services are to help students rather than lecture them into giving up their alcohol consumption.

“University counseling is here to talk about substance abuse issues without the idea that they have to stop. My approach is one to engage the student to talk about what their goals are and talk about them,” Pizzi said. “[UHCS] is not a place where you’re forced to absolutely stop drinking. It’s important that students know that they are free to come in and talk regardless of what their concerns are.”

He recently worked on the committee to put together Alcohol Awareness Week, and is starting a seminar called “Alcohol and Other Drug Awareness Group.” The sessions will allow students to join together to learn about the effects of alcohol and other drugs, evaluate their substance use, consider reducing or stopping their alcohol and drug use, and learn what addiction and recovery are all about. The sessions will begin Oct. 19.

For Pizzi, he said his favorite aspect of this job is the “energy” his work has.

“It’s different from the other work I’ve done. It’s not slow. On the contrary; it’s very fast-paced. I enjoy talking with the students and really engaging with them,” Pizzi said.

Pizzi completed his undergraduate studies at Duquesne University and majored in psychology. He received his master’s degree from the same university in community counseling.

His first experience in substance abuse was working with opiate dependence at a methadone maintenance program at Tadiso Inc. in Pittsburgh, where he worked primarily with heroin users.

Additionally, he has worked as a psychotherapist at an outpatient chemical dependence program called YMCA Family Services and as director of Hispanic services at Alternatives Counseling Services, an outpatient chemical dependence program in Long Island, N.Y.

Pizzi’s primary reason for coming to Northeastern was that he wanted to be in Boston.

“I came to Northeastern because I was interested in moving to Boston for personal family reasons. I was very interested in the position of alcohol and other drug use and working in a college environment. I saw the opening, applied, and I was happy to be chosen,” Pizzi said.

Chet Bowen, the alcohol and drug education coordinator at Northeastern, was on the search committee to fill the alcohol and other drug counseling position.

“[The position] was filled fairly quickly,” Bowen said. “[Pizzi] is very skilled and his position is needed on campus.”

Pizzi will provide services to all Northeastern students. He will not only provide alcohol and drug abuse counseling, but also treatment.

“My primary responsibility is to provide substance abuse or alcohol and other drug counseling services. I provide counseling, consultation, referral [and] in the future group counseling,” Pizzi said.

Bowen said Pizzi will work with students through many sides of the dangers of drinking.

Students who seek help from Pizzi will always be granted confidentiality, he said. Anything a student says or any treatment they receive will be confidential, unless their safety or someone else’s is in danger, Pizzi said.

“The biggest goal is reaching out to students who are not involved in UHCS yet, but are interested in talking about alcohol,” he said.

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