Richard J. Dowling
- 08/06/2016

Richard J. Dowling May 5, 1950 – August 6, 2016

The “Smile” guy, addictions counselor, introduced alternative to 12-Steps in NJ area Richard (Rich) J. Dowling, 66, of Denville, passed away on August 6, 2016 at home after a long battle with prostate cancer. He was born in Newark, New Jersey, and grew up in East Hanover. He and his wife, Susan Akers, were married for 29 years and lived in Morristown, Mount Tabor, and finally settled in Denville on Rock Ridge Lake. In addition to his wife, he is survived by sisters, Denise (Andy) Matarazzo, Bath, NY and her sons Andy (Colleen) and Jaime (Angela), and Maryann Lang, Waretown, NJ and her sons, Anthony (Joanne), John (Danielle), and James. Richard was predeceased by his parents, Alma (nee Baird) and Robert Dowling, as well as a brother-in-law, Bob Lang, and a nephew, Bobby Lang. Richard enjoyed the company of many aunts, uncles, cousins and their families throughout New Jersey, as well as Georgia, South Carolina and Utah. Education After graduating from Bayley-Ellard High School, Richard obtained an associate’s degree at County College of Morris, and a bachelor’s degree from Ramapo College of NJ. He continued his education with a master’s degree in counseling from Montclair State University. He then pursued additional credentials including a Master Addictions Counselor (MAC), Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), and completed courses as an Advanced Hypnotherapist. He became interested personally and professionally in Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT) and completed training as an Associate Fellow and Supervisor at the Albert Ellis Institute, New York City. Most recently, his interest in Spiritualism led him to become a member and train as a healer within the Journey Within Spiritualist Church, Pompton Lakes, NJ. Counseling Career In 1996, after working in social services and college counseling offices for several years, Richard decided to open his own private practice called The Thought Exchange, LLC: Center for Personal Achievement. There he offered counseling based on REBT, specializing in working with clients who were dealing with substance abuse issues. He became intrigued with finding options to the 12-Step (AA) model for people, and his explorations led him to a group of like-minded professionals and he joined them in becoming founding board members of SMART (Self-Management And Recovery Training). The SMART organization is now international in scope, offering groups worldwide as well as online opportunities for people to learn the basics of REBT and apply them to problem behaviors. SMART does not subscribe to the “disease” model of 12-Steps, nor does it require use of global labels for individuals such as “addict,” or “alcoholic” as they see individuals as complex and multi-faceted, and more than a particular behavior. As his clients will attest, Richard was a great believer, based on personal experience, in the power of thinking to help change and enhance one’s life and he believed in second chances for all. He enjoyed giving many presentations to students, professionals and the public on SMART and REBT principles, spreading the word and helping people to learn that they, their family members and/or friends truly had a choice in treatment for substance abuse and related issues. Teaching For 12 years Richard also taught at Montclair State University as an adjunct instructor in the Department of Family and Child Studies. Teaching was a highlight of his week and he enjoyed interaction with students and campus life. In a recent semester, seeking to demonstrate the power of positive interpersonal relations, he organized and worked with students to raise money and erect MSU’s first Peace Pole just outside the entrance to University Hall. He also introduced students to a different perspective on “race,” based on a Scientific American article he’d read which suggested the term was arbitrary, with no scientific basis. Richard understood the use of “race” as a factor in focusing people more on their differences rather than their commonalities as member of the “human race,” with various ethnic backgrounds contributing to their DNA. Volunteering As part of his life work, Richard was also devoted to many volunteer causes, having served as a VISTA volunteer in South Dakota, after college, and on several boards including Morris County Prevention is Key (MCPIK), Municipal Alliance Commitee, Morris Habitat for Humanity, and the Interfaith Council for Homeless Families of Morris County . He also founded and presided over Books Behind Bars and Beyond, a NJ nonprofit with a mission to purchase and distribute self-help books with REBT strategies to residents of correctional and transitional facilities throughout the metropolitan area. Interests Richard often remembered with great fondness his childhood in East Hanover, exploring woods and streams around his home with his dog. He later fulfilled a dream to return to woods and water when he and Susan found a home on Rock Ridge Lake in Denville where he enjoyed boating, ice skating and hiking in the adjacent 600-acres of Jonathan’s Woods, protected open space behind his house. He also found great satisfaction in landscaping and rock sculptures, including the creation of a labyrinth. The labyrinth was inspired by Richard’s many trips to the Lily Dale Assembly, a Spiritualist community in western New York, near to the Chautauqua Institution, where he and Susan spent many long weekends visiting his in-laws, John and Kay Akers, at their Lake Chautauqua home. The Smile Guy Lastly, Richard had a passion for seeing more smiles and laughs in the world. A few years ago, he created business cards on which he declared that “2007 is the Year of the Smile and the Laugh.” Each year thereafter he created the same cards and declarations for handing out to family, friends, and strangers. For this practice, he became known locally as the “smile guy” and was continually delighted with the universal results of presenting those cards. His premise to the end was that a smile is a smile in any language and always good medicine. A memorial service for Richard will be held at the Bradley-Braviak Funeral Home at 49 Whippany Road, Whippany, NJ, at 2pm on Saturday, August 20. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations in Richard’s name to either SMART Recovery ( or the CEC/Seabee Historical Foundation (, or the charity of your choice.

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