Young adult Chemical Dependency group –pages of a career journal


“I have been running a Chemical Dependency group bi-weekly and the knowledge of facilitating a group and structuring a curriculum has truly been an invaluable learning experience for me. I am less than a month away from completing my 320 hours practicum at _. I have asked the staff to compile a list of things they would like to know from an intern’s perspective and I will draft up a report. This will be a great way for me to review my six months of learning experience and to help them realize gaps that they might not have known existed. Lord, I ask that you help me to remember and capture the points of this learning experience. What I know for sure is my passion is to work with and counsel youth who are homeless and/or at risk. When I say at risk I mean failing grades, living in poverty, being pressured by their milieu, sexual activity, using drugs, large amount of tardiness.” God’s Wisdom Nehemiah 8:10

Reading this entry I also found a slip of paper stuck between the pages that read:

  1. Have clients discuss and define what a problem is. List the characteristics of a problem.
  2. Have each client identify how they view what a problem is and think of a problem that they currently have in their life. Note: This does not have to be a drug problem.
  3. On a sheet of paper, have each client list the reason that makes their identified problem a problem to them.
  4. Discuss what denial is and how it can influence one’s ability to deal with a problem that he/she faces.
  5. Have the clients list all the problems or characteristics of drug related problems that they have faced. Characteristics of drug problems.
  6. Compare this list to the list in the initial problem that they identified and the definition of what a problem is.
  7. Talk about how denial can affect treatment

Those seven questions were the core of my being a facilitator. They were what my residential clients and I went back to each week. Over the course of the five months I could see the growth in myself and in them. To any students thinking about going into the mental health profession, let me tell you the fear you have of putting on the white hat and being the savior for others is very normal. If you don’t have this fear; well, then you simply may have a God complex and this may not be the profession for you.

Though for those who have butterflies while in a room with a client and may be thinking “f*#% why are you asking me? What do I know?”, I say breathe and know even the best of us have been the student once. It is totally okay to apply the “fake it til you make it” model with your clients. That does not mean provide them with a bullshit answer, it is okay to say “I don’t know but I will get back to you.” It just means to project an air of confidence so that the client will have trust in you. You will find that you know much more than you give yourself credit for.

As a student you should have a safety net of professors, practicum liaisons, and your field instructor to help guide you into becoming your best clinical self. When I ran CD groups I had an amazing safety net- particularly in a gentleman who had been a CD counselor since before I was born. He was truly an aficionado and co-facilitated group with me once a month. He also encouraged me (okay made me) to call him 24 hours after my weekly group. The 24 hours was for me to process and write down my notes, to become clear headed with questions, and to check in with myself to see if I was experiencing any transference. Through that practicum experience I learned so much. I still apply those questions years later in other groups. Now as far as what the staff wanted to learn, they wanted to know how I always stayed so positive and appeared to be having fun. The essence of my report was “You can have fun and still be efficient. In fact you will be more efficient.”

For those seeking help with chemical dependency, I find these questions to be great ones to ask your treatment provider.

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