Thomas Dwyer, founder of the Gateway Center for Counseling and Recovery in New Providence, NJ, is hosting an Addiction Bereavement Weekend, Nov. 17-19.  Joining Tom is fellow counselor, Elaine “Lani” Bonifacic, of Wyckoff, NJ.  Both Dwyer and Bonifacic run separate pro bono biweekly addiction bereavement groups in addition to their own private practices.  Dwyer is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed Clinical Drug and Alcohol Counselor, and a Certified Thanatologist (grief and bereavement counselor). Bonifacic is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. 

Dwyer decided to create this retreat after attending a week-long conference on grief counseling this past April.  He soon recruited Bonifacic who shared his passion for the subject.  Bonifacic explained that the current opiate epidemic claims an average 150 people a day in this country.   By comparison, 117 people die daily from auto accidents.  The difference is even more shocking when you think about the number of people driving cars compared to the number of people using opiates.  

Dwyer knew something more had to be done to help the survivors of the lost loved ones when he started to see a sharp increase in requests for his addiction grief counseling services.  His regular practice primarily focuses on mental health and addiction recovery but as the opiate death rates in the community started rising, so did his sessions for addiction grief counseling.   

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Dwyer and Bonifacic have recruited other counseling professionals to assist in this weekend of healing.   Every professional involved in the weekend is volunteering his or her time.  Dwyer said “It is very gratifying to see so many professionals willing to give of their time for such a meaningful event”.  The retreat will be held at the non-profit conference center, Villa Pauline, in Mendham, NJ.  There will be several therapeutic workshops and opportunities for participants to share their unique form of grief with others who understand the pain.  Dwyer also said “Sadly, many of the survivors feel judged and stigmatized by the loss of their loved one and it had been difficult for them to find others who understand their challenging loss.”  Because of the volunteerism and some outside sponsorships, the cost of the retreat for two nights, five meals, and all the workshops is only $195. This is a not-for-profit event.  Any money left over after paying all overhead expenses will be donated to a drug education program and/or to Villa Pauline.

Anyone interested in the weekend should call Dwyer's office at (908) 665-1000 or go to his web site at www.gatewaycenterforcounseling.com.