First Step Consultation shows way to recovery

Featured in: The Saratogian

Story by: Jenny Grey

Link to full article can be found here:


Brian Farr first noticed the negative effects of families’ alcoholism and drug overuse while he was working a second job as a school bus driver in Corinth, where he’d grown up. He had the longest, poorest route in town, and he saw what some of the troubled homes of his young riders were like.


“I was a confirmed bachelor when I began that job,” Farr said. “Most of the drivers wanted to change their routes after a time, but I kept mine. I ended up really caring about those kids. It made me want to get married and have kids myself, and it also made me want to go into counseling, to help children like them.”

Now married to Suzanne and the father of daughter Maggie, 13, and son, Kai, 11, the dedicated Farr has many irons in the fire of substance abuse counseling.

He still lives in Wilton, Saratoga County, and works full-time in Troy as coordinator of the Hudson Valley Community College Human Services and Chemical Dependency Counseling program, which trains counselors to take the state certification to become CASACs. He supervises 40 students interning in various recovery programs across the region.

He also works part-time as a counselor at St. Peter’s Addiction Recovery Center.

Farr’s small business, run alongside, is called First Step Consultation. He does presentations, interventions and counseling, as well as blogging on its two websites. He brings First Step’s wisdom into schools to speak to small groups of children about alcohol and substance abuse. He prefers addressing a single elementary school class or a high school health class so that the students are more comfortable making comments or asking questions.

“I show a Powerpoint presentation and work on related lessons with the students,” he said. “I ask the kids to consider why they might choose to use alcohol and drugs. I tell them to ask themselves, ‘What do I do for fun? What makes this fun?’ Drug use can start with peer pressure disguised as fun. It can also start as self-medication. Kids drinking too much alcohol are often in pain.”

One alcohol-related issue he and his First Step coworker Langdon Jenkins focus on is how the advertising industry pitches to young people. Jenkins, who has an advertising background, is adept at finding the mixed messages in commercials and ads. Youths are told alcohol is “Absolut Magic,” but that they must “drink responsibly.”

Another route to helping these kids is through the Prevention Council, a Saratoga Springs nonprofit seeking to stop alcohol, drug and other substance abuse. Farr is a council board member.

Finally, a new recovery community organization Recovery Advocacy in Saratoga has formed; its mission is to eliminate the stigma associated with addiction by promoting long-term recovery as a life-affirming movement to unite communities and families. Farr is involved with this fledgling group.

“The 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous have a long history of protecting the identity of their members,” he said. “But now, other recovery mentalities are coming forward. Some people think the only way to change policy is to set aside anonymity.”

Farr states in his online biographies that he has been in a happy, healthy recovery for 18 years himself. He states this in person as well.

Education and open discussion of addiction issues are key, for children and adults, he said.

When first attending college, Farr received a Bachelor of Science degree in communications arts from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh. He then worked for his family business, a sporting goods store, while driving the school bus that changed his life road. He earned his Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor certification at HVCC, then got a master’s degree in education at Plattsburgh.

Farr’s first education position was as a teacher in the regional BOCES Young Scholars program, after which he started at HVCC in 2012. He and his wife also began the Odyssey of the Mind club after school at Dorothy Nolan Elementary.

“All these threads connect,” Farr said. “My overall focus is on the war against abuse and addiction. I do whatever I can to educate people, especially young people. It’s important for us adults to both talk to kids and listen to them.”