Remembering Joanna Franklin

Last week I had my bi-monthly breakfast with two of my colleagues who are also working with gamblers. The main topic of conversation was the sudden passing of our beloved colleague, mentor and friend, Joanna Franklin, on Saturday, October 5. We each talked about how we met Joanna and the impact she had on our lives.

I first met Joanna in the spring of 1997. She had come to Michigan to train those of us who were interested in working with problem gamblers. Our training was held in an office building near the soon-to-be Greektown Casino in Detroit’s Trapper’s Alley and sponsored by the now-defunct Michigan Council on Problem Gambling. My initial plan was to attend to see if there was something to benefit the program I was working in at a local hospital. At the time, I loved my work in chemical dependency. I loved my clients and colleagues.  However, that day in 1997 would mark a new beginning for me.

After Joanna was introduced by the executive director of the council, she stepped forward, her gaze sweeping the room, and said that gambling was “in one word, magic.” Gambling for the gambler, she said, was “magic” because it solved so many things, at least prior to the addiction manifesting itself. She talked about the impact of gambling, time that can never be recaptured, the financial and emotional toll on the individual and families. By the end of the morning session, I knew that somehow my career path would shift in a significant way. This, I knew, was to be the icing on the cake.

Joanna continued to work with us throughout 1997, providing education, inspiration and very practical support. She brought in other experts to expand our knowledge base, and she was always available to answer questions and validate the baby steps that we took on our road to becoming nationally certified gambling counselors.

It was Joanna who encouraged me to start a women’s group as part of my private practice. Joanna later told me that mine was one of the first, if not the first, group for women gamblers in the United States. She encouraged me to explore how women would better benefit from help within the treatment delivery system. I was inspired to look for any and all references and resources to be a more effective counselor. The early literature tended to focus on the issues of a predominantly male gambling population. Joanna encouraged me to talk to others about  working with women gamblers and explore techniques that would benefit their unique needs.

After my move to Arizona in 2003, our relationship shifted from a less direct mentorship as I began to gain more confidence. We always managed to connect each year at the National Conference on Problem Gambling, and she was always supportive and validated my growth, commitment and special interest in women gamblers. In Seattle this past July after exchanging our usual hugs she asked about my practice and my future plans. As always, I checked in to see what was happening with her in Maryland, and she talked about her daughter Heather, whom I had met at several conferences, a new grandchild, and of course, her husband Carl.  When we parted I said, “See you next year in Orlando.”

According to Keith Whyte, NCPG president, “Joanna trained thousands and thousands of counselors and helped set high standards for the profession through her work on certification.” She designed and delivered clinical training programs in 45 states, 10 Canadian provinces, among 31 tribes and in 9 other countries.

I know the world is a better place for Joanna Franklin having been here, in particular for those individuals and families who have been impacted by problem gambling, and for all who met her, her genuine caring and love for people. She was one of the most significant influences on the work I do today.

Thank you, Joanna. What a legacy to leave—a job well done.