... is one of addiction medicine’s most highly-respected authorities. He has just retired from being head of the Betty Ford Institute which created the consensus definition of addiction recovery, now adopted in the US drug policy.
He was also medical director of Betty Ford Center’s Professional Recovery Programme.
He is associate clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA (University of California at Los Angeles), was associate professor of psychiatry at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine, and a board member of the American Society of Addiction Medicine.
Presentation: Shame, resilience, addiction, survival - and recovery.
Neuro-biologically, substance and “process” addictions are considered to be disorders of the brain. Clinically, however, it is the broken hearts and shame-drowned souls of ourselves, our families and our children that suffer most from the consequences of our addictive behavior.
More about Dr Garrett O'Connor...
He was born in Dublin, Ireland. He graduated as a physician from the Royal College of Surgeons and later trained in Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. As a tenured Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Hopkins, he founded one of the first Psychiatric Emergency Services in the US, created a Model Acute Treatment Clinic for short-term intervention on families in distress, directed the ground-breaking Maryland Training Program in Community Psychiatry and, for four years, was director of the Johns Hopkins Community-based Treatment Program for heroin addicts.
In the fall of 1967, Dr O’Connor was commended by the Mayor of Baltimore for his role in opening and maintaining vital communications channels between East Baltimore Community Leaders, the National Guard Command, the Baltimore City Police and the besieged Johns Hopkins Hospital during the four days of riots that followed the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King in April of that year. He has documented his experience and interpretation of these events in a paper entitled Reflections in the Rubble, published in the Journal of the American Psychiatric Association in 1969.
After moving to Los Angeles in 1972 as Associate Professor of Psychiatry-in-Residence at UCLA, Dr O’Connor introduced innovative experiential teaching methods for first- and second-year medical students, directed the West Los Angeles Veterans Administration Comprehensive Alcohol and Drug Treatment Program, founded and operated the first mobile Audio-Visual Education System in the VA, and pioneered successful community models of outpatient treatment for addiction in Los Angeles.
In 2003, he was appointed Chief Psychiatrist at the Betty ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California and, in January 2008, was named as the first President of the Betty Ford Institute for Prevention, Research and Education in Addictive Disease. In 2012, Dr O’Connor resigned to spend full-time consulting, lecturing and writing.
In addition to his teaching activities and clinical practice, Dr O’Connor has, for the past 20 years, worked to clarify the role of malignant shame as a major emotional consequence of the extreme cultural and familial trauma that often results from addiction to alcohol and other drugs. To this end, he has relied on evidence from research on genocide survivors, and the intergenerational cycles of dysfunctional behavior in addicted families manifested by child abuse, alcohol and other drug addiction, domestic violence, marital conflict and family breakup.
More recently, he has been attempting to apply these intergenerational models of dysfunctional behavior to further understand how the destructive relationship between poverty, heavy drinking, alcoholism and malignant shame can retard or block social, economic, political and spiritual progress in communities and even whole nations of culturally oppressed peoples. His initial studies have focused on Irish Catholics in the US and Ireland, and Native North Americans in the US and Canada. In 2012, Dr O’Connor was appointed Medical Director of the RISE Foundation in Ireland.
Since 1986, he has been a Senior Fitness-for-Duty Evaluator of impaired airline pilots for the FAA and virtually all major US airlines. During this time, he introduced a variety of clinical approaches that have been adopted as Standard Operating Procedures by the FAA, the Airlines and the Aviation Unions.
As the principal expert witness for the plaintiffs in the highly publicised Exxon Valdez trial, Dr O’Connor’s perspective on the evidence was acknowledged as a major factor in achieving the unprecedented jury award for damages of $5billion against Exxon Corporation. This verdict led to substantial changes in the design and implementation of Employee Assistance Programs world-wide in corporations with high risk operations conducted by safety-sensitive personnel.
Between 1986 and 2003, Dr O’Connor also performed Fitness-for-Duty Evaluations of impaired attorneys for the California State Bar Association and of impaired physicians for a number of State Medical Boards across the country. In addition, he was a publically appointed consultant to the California State Physician’s Diversion Program from 1986 through 1994. He founded the successful Clinical Diagnostic Evaluation Program (CDE) at the Betty Ford Center in 2004 and was its Medical Director until 2008.
Dr O’Connor served as an Aviation Critical Incident Trauma Response Consultant for the Lockerbie hijacking of PanAm#103, the in-flight explosion of TWA’s Flight 800, the destruction of two American Airlines aircraft with their passengers and crews in the 9/11 terrorist attack, the November 2001 crash of an American Airlines Boeing 767 in Bensonhhurst, New York, and many other aviation disasters.
For more than 40 years Dr O’Connor has lectured, consulted and led workshops on addiction and related topics in the US and abroad, and has published scientific articles in a variety of peer-reviewed medical journals. He was elected as a Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association in 2010, and was the recipient in 2006 of the Vernelle Fox Award of the California Society of Addiction Medicine for Distinguished Service to the field of Addiction Medicine. In 2004, he received the first Conway Hunter MD Society Distinguished Service Award.
He is certified in Addiction Psychiatry by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, and in Addiction Medicine by the American Board of Addiction Medicine. From 1986 to 2002, Dr O’Connor served on the Executive Council of the California Society of Addiction Medicine (CSAM), and in 1989 was elected President of that organization for a two-year term. He was also a National Board member of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) from 1988-1992. Dr O’Connor was a founding Board member of the AK Rice Institute of Group and Organizational Relations. In this capacity, he introduced, with others, the organisational consultation approach of London’s Tavistock Institute to the US, and over a period of 30 years directed more than 100 group relations conferences sponsored by the Institute in the US, Ireland, and Iceland. In December 2010, the National University of Ireland awarded Dr. O’Connor an Honorary Doctorate in Medicine. In November 2011 he was honored with a Life Achievement Award in Addiction Medicine and Psychiatry by the California Society of Addiction Medicine.
Dr O’Connor has been in personal recovery from alcoholism since March 6, 1977, and is widely known for using his own life story as a tool for teaching about recovery to patients, medical students, and other audiences, including his fellow physicians. He has been married to the Actress/Writer/Director/Producer Dr Fionnula Flanagan for 40 years. They have two sons and a granddaughter who are also in long-term recovery from addiction.