I had no idea what I was doing...
I didn't get off to a good start as a counselor.
Right out of graduate school, I (Amber), went to work at a local inpatient psychiatric hospital. Because I had previously been a high school teacher my boss thought I'd work well with teens. I had only been working there for a few months when they tasked me with developing and running an Intensive Outpatient Program for adolescents with chemical dependency. The only experience I had with addiction counseling was a few months as an intern in an adult addiction outpatient program. I certainly didn't want to tell my new employer that I was in way over my head, so I jumped right into the deep end of the ocean without a life jacket.
To help you get a feel for what I'm talking about...
My job was to convince addicted teenagers (who didn't want to be there) to stop using drugs.
Most of these teens were newly released from an inpatient unit at the psychiatric hospital for major psychiatric issues.
Because it was at night, there were no other regular counselors or admin staff on site. I was a brand new counselor left alone in a tiny little room with about 8-14 addicted teenagers who were mad about being there and I had no idea what I was doing!!!
The first thing I had to do was figure out how to get these teens to come back to the program each night. So I decided the best way to do that was to make it a good experience for them. I focused on getting to know them and being a good listener. Thankfully, this worked pretty well. Most of the kids decided it "wasn't that bad" after a session or two.
But, of course, that didn't solve everything. The parents of these kids expected me to do something about the problem. I was stuck for sure.
Mostly the teens talked to me about how their parents were unreasonable and also about their dating lives. Eventually they liked coming to the group and didn't want to stop coming, so I created a mentor program. If they graduated the program and stayed sober, they could keep coming back as mentors to help the new group members.
The mentors program became the key motivator for the teens getting sober.
Kim got assigned to do an internship in my program. The program was getting bigger and bigger so I was happy to have a helper, but at the same time, I knew that my methods weren't very conventional. I remember first meeting Kim and giving her a heads up to be prepared to listen to a lot of teen drama and bad language. Kim jumped right into the mix without skipping a beat.
Next, we added a parent group. We worked on how to rebuild some trust with their kids while also holding boundaries.
The parents decided they wanted to keep coming to the parent group, so we added a parent mentor group. The program grew and grew. The parent group actually started to outgrow the space where they met (which was the gymnasium of the hospital). The parent mentors would help the new parents and we all become a tight little community.
Most of the parents knew all the kids and vise versa. Sometimes one of the teens would even seek advice from someone elses parents. (why is it always easier to hear it when it's not your parents!) Everybody just looked out for each other.
I'm not saying it was an easy or smooth process. There were constant ups and downs and lots of drama, but it worked.
Campbell joined our parent group after she had rather suddenly realized one of her sons was dealing with an addiction. (There's a wonderfully funny story about the first time I met Campbell, but she tells it better than me, so I'll let her tell you that one)
Things weren't great with Campbell's son, but she (and Frank) decided they wanted to continue coming to parent the group anyways. After A LOT of ups and downs things finally started to get better for Campbell and her family, but it was a long hard process. In fact, the whole situation made such an impact on her, she decided to go back to grad school and get a counseling degree.
Over the years I was at the hospital I did all sorts of things. I was the Patient Advocate, I worked on the acute psych unit, and I even did a stint as the primary counselor on the adult detox unit. (working on the detox unit was like addiction counselor hell)
I actually loved working in the hospital. I learned so much. But, eventually I grew disenchanted with it. When you spend enough time in the treatment system, you start to notice all the problems and gaps.
I started seeing some private practice clients on the side. I was still working with adults and teens struggling with addiction issues, but I needed more support structures in place for their family members. I was being inundated with calls/emails from my client's family members, but I couldn't really give them the attention they needed. I wanted to give them the inside scoop, but I also need to protect my client's confidentially and my relationship with them.
Around this time, as luck would have it, Campbell was ready for her counseling internship, so I asked her to come be my intern. And, it was just in the nick of time, because I really needed the help. I wasn't getting very far with my private practice clients. Their families wanted me to address their addictive behaviors, but the clients only wanted to talk about how their families were a pain in the you-know-what. I felt totally trapped in between.
I would get these long emails from the families telling me everything my client had done wrong. A few times, I actually got spread sheets!
One day I get this long email from my 17 year old client's father. He's telling me all about the fight my client got in with her mom. Including the fact that she called her mom a B*&CH, snuck out with he 22 year old boyfriend, got drunk, was gone for two days, etc... After working with this girl for weeks, I was very aware that a lot of her acting out was her attempt to punish her mom (who she felt was critical). She would split the parents against each other, and cause all sorts of trouble.
Despite my efforts this 17 year old girl wasn't about to loose this battle. I knew that the only way out of this family drama was going to be for the parents to make some changes. Finally, out of sheer frustration, I told this father that if I was going to continue to work with his daughter, they would have to do some sessions with Campbell. She would know how to guide them out of the power struggle they were all locked in.
The three of decided to open a private practice utilizing this new family treatment model and it was working great. However, we were very limited in the amount of families we could take on. That's when I started noticing how often we'd be in session and someone would say to us, "I wish I had that information on a recording". After about the 50th time, it dawned on me that we could actually record this information and advice, and we could make it available to anyone who needed it on social media.
This is the point of the story where YouTube comes into the picture! Which is probably where you met us, so you likely know a little about thiis part of the story.
Looking back, I'm glad I didn't know anything about treating addiction because if I had done things the standard way, it wouldn't have worked.
I've learned so much from this experience.
I've learned that building a positive trusting relationship is the key to helping someone to make a change.
I've learned that the family has the most influence and with a little guidance, the families could help the situation turn around much faster than I could.
Most of all, I've learned you don't need fancy counselor training to help someone. It's all basic stuff that anyone can do, and we are here to show you how.
Don't you hate it when you ask a counselor for feedback or advice and they say something lame like "How does that make you feel" or "what is your heart telling you"?
Did you know counselors are actually trained to give the kinds of vague nonresponsive answers?!? Counselors aren't supposed to give advice sharing anything personal about themselves. Basically counselors are supposed to be kind, supportive, good listeners while you figure it out on your own. 🙄
But, when you're family is dealing with an addiction crisis, you don't have time for that kind of warm and fuzzy stuff. You just want to know how to fix the situation.
That would be like standing by and watching while some trys to figure out how to get out of a burning house, instead of telling them where the exits are.
But seriously though....
Counselors spend time examining the past, looking for solutions to emotional concerns, and seeking a diagnosis required by insurance companies.
Coaches help clients work on their goals for the future and create a new life path.
Even though we're all trained couselors with fancy degrees and credntials, we made the deicsion shift over to choaching because it allows us to help more pople in a more effective manner.
When you're dealing with addiction, you're living on a rollerocaster. You don't need someone to sit and listen to your frustrations for 6 months while you figure it out on your own. You need someone who understand exactly what you're dealing with and can navigate you through this mess.
Due to licensure restrictions, we don't offer counseling for anyone who lives outside of South Carolina.
However, we have several online programs designed to help you no matter where you live! We also offer 1:1 virtual consultations and coaching.
Hope For Families does not file insurance.
If you receive counseling services with us (in-state clients only) we can provide you with a coded receipt that you can turn in to your insurance company to get reimbursement if your insurance allows for out-of-network coverage.
Insurance does not cover coaching or consultation sessions.
Our model relys heavily on amount of contact, influence, and leverage you have with your addicted loved one. Sinice partners and parents typically have the most direct line of connection with the addicted person, we get the best results in those two situations.
If you're loved one doesn't fall into those catagories but you have a lot of contact and influence over your addicted loved one, our program will be helpful to you too.
As much as we want to be able to help everyone, our methods aren't the best for every situation.
For our methods to work, you need to have a reasonable amount of influence over the person (ie: they live with you, or you have regular contact, or they're financially dependent on you.
You and your children/grandchildren need to be safe.
Your loved one needs to have at least some amount of reasoning ability and functionality left.
Here are some examples of situations that aren't the best fit.
1. If there are major safey issues for yourself, your kids/grandkids, or the addictd person.
2. If you don't live with the addicted person, or at least have regular contact with them.
3. If you think you're loved one's addiction is so advanced they've lost all ability to reason and fuction on any adult level. (ie: they're homeless, hey don't take care of basic hygene, they don't keep up with any responsibilities on their own)