Jennifer Ivan Week 12 Addictions Blog

What does it mean to you to advocate for clients and challenge bias? How do you feel about taking on that role? Is that a role you expected to take on as a counselor? Are there some groups for whom it would be harder or easier for you to advocate for? Does that reflect on your own beliefs and values? How so?

I sometimes view advocacy as a way for speaking up for people who cannot speak up for themselves. Currently, due to the persistent and negative stigma regarding addiction, it must be hard for an addict to explain to a non-addict what it is like to deal with this sort of disease. The non-addict may simply think the other individual is just trying to rationalize his/her behavior to make it more acceptable. But I think people might be more willing to listen if addiction education came from someone who was not an addict or who had already conquered his/her substance abuse. 

Being an advocate for all types of mental illness is one of the principle reasons I decided to pursue counseling, so I am more than willing to take on that role. As someone who has experienced extreme anxiety and understands how debilitating and isolating it is, I want to be the voice for people with similar stories. 

It may be harder for me to advocate for those who are incarcerated due to violence against another person (physical/sexual assault, homicide, etc.). I think this coincides with my personal values because I believe that all human life is precious and that no person has the right to strip someone of his/her right to live. We are all unique and have something special to offer to the world, it’s a horrible tragedy when someone’s life is snuffed out. 

I guess a way to try and conquer this bias is to still try to see a perpetrator as a human being. He/she probably was not always violent and there was something about his/her life or upbringing or eventual personality traits that caused him/her to morph into something different. 

~Jennifer 

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Addictions Week 11 Blog Post

What were your attitudes toward use of substances when you were a child and an adolescent?

I did not really have much of an opinion towards addictive substances when I was a child and young adolescent because I did not have much exposure to them. Both of my parents would drink alcohol occasionally, but they were never problem drinkers. They would sometimes offer my brother and I little sips of what they were drinking, but they always made it clear that their beer and wine were “adult drinks” and I was not allowed to have too much. It did not really bother me as I did not much care for the taste at the time.

Other than alcohol, I do not think I was aware of any other types of addictive substances expect perhaps of nicotine in cigarettes. I did not really have a bias towards people who smoked since I did have some family members who did, but I knew of all the negative health risks (I even did a science fair project on it middle school), and thus I had no desire to start that habit.

What was your personal and peer group experience of substance use? How are your views the same or different now? What might it feel like to work with clients making different choices, or to encourage choices that you did not make?

Once I entered high school, I became more aware of other addictive substances. High school is a time when young people first try to exert their independence and that often involves using substances like drugs and alcohol. One of the most memorable experiences during my high school days was when a group of students two grades higher than me were expelled for having and distributing marijuana on school grounds. I remember thinking how stupid those kids were; not for the fact that they were using drugs, but because they were idiotic enough to bring them to school.

Parties are also a staple of the high school experience and I attended a few parties where alcohol was involved. I often did not drink at those parties, but when I did, I tried to limit myself to one drink. I would see how people acted when they got too drunk, and it did not appeal to me all that much.

I think my views on drugs and alcohol are relatively the same. When I was younger, I believed that it was not my place to pass judgment or tell someone not to do something. The only time I really questioned the choices of my friends was when their drug or alcohol use severely negatively impacted their lives like when that group of students brought drugs to campus and were promptly expelled or when a few years after high school, an old friend was pulled over by the police with 68 pounds of marijuana in his car. I wondered to myself, “what could they have possibly been thinking?” “Why make these decisions that will stay with them the rest of their lives?” or “Why did they not think this through?”

But I do not think that it will necessarily be hard for me to work with individuals who made different choices than me. My clients and are I are not the same; we have different families, different experiences, different cultures, etc. As a counselor, I simply want to understand what drove them to make their decisions. I think this has been a consistent characteristic of mine, even before I decided I wanted to be a counselor. It never mattered to me that someone was using drugs and/or alcohol, I was just curious about what led him/her to that decision.

Who advised you about drugs and alcohol, and when? What was your response? What encouraged or discouraged use in the approaches you encountered? What do you hope to emulate or discard from your models?

I probably got my first real education about drugs and alcohol in my high school health class. It was the first high school class I ever took as it was in the summer before school started. But my parents talked to me a little bit, specifically about alcohol. They told me stories about their own drinking experiences, both in high school and in college. They recognized that they could not completely shield me from it since such a prevalent thing in our culture. They only stressed the importance of being safe. They always told me: “if you ever find yourself drunk at a party, call us. It doesn’t matter what time it is, just don’t drink and drive. We won’t be mad at you, we just want you safe.” I think the fact that they had so much trust in me was one of the factors I did not drink much in high school. When I have children, I will remember that it was my parents’ trust and support in my decisions that ultimately led me to make smarter choices.

~Jennifer Ivan

Addictions Session 9 Blog Post

If you have been under a lot of stress, resulting in overuse of self-control resources, this fatigue may have led to ineffective coping strategies. Has this ever happened to you? What were the circumstances?

As I have mentioned in previous discussion and blog posts, I have dealt with some anxiety issues since I was about 13 years old. Due to the fact that it’s mostly situational and it’s been a part of me for so long, I usually have a pretty good handle on it. I know how to calm myself down and I’ve developed coping strategies like deep breathing and distraction to assist me if I do start feeling anxious. But last Fall, there was a lot of stuff going on in my life. My grandmother had just passed away, I was feeling homesick, I was struggling to find a practicum site, and I had the normal work and school stressors. It was just too much and the anxiety and stress was overwhelming. I was exhausted, even if I got enough sleep (which did not happen often) I would still wake up tired and remained tired throughout the day. I experienced chest pains, which had never happened to me before, so that caused me to freak out even more than I already was. I was so caught up in how awful I was feeling that I couldn’t concentrate. I had so much work to do, but it was hard for me to get myself motivated enough to do anything. And once I actually started a task, I could only work for for a few minutes before I had to take a break. Luckily, Thanksgiving break came along and I got to go home for a few days. Being back home with my friends and family really helped me slow everything down again and regain some normalcy.

~Jennifer

Addictions Week 8 Blog Post

AA 12 Steps:
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable;
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity;
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him;
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs;
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character;
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings;
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and become willing to make amends to them all;
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others;
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it;
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out; and
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Treatment Goals:
• Abstinence from alcohol and other drugs;
• Steady employment;
• Stable social relationships;
• Positive physical and emotional health;
• Improved spiritual strength; and
• Adherence to legal mandates/requirements as applicable.

How does 12-Step facilitation of treatment relate to your personal theory of life? What parts could you integrate if desired?
Two aspects of the 12-Step facilitation of treatment that I found personally relatable were the religious aspect and the encouragement of members to engage in self-reflection. My relationship with God is an important tenant in my life. I was raised in a strongly Catholic family and my mom encouraged both my brother and I to have our faith be the most important thing in our lives. A constant phrase she would say was, “God, family, school, then friends.” I truly believe that God is a constant presence in my life and has helped me to overcome many of life’s difficulties.
I also like how 12-Step programs encourage self-reflection. As counselors, we are also taught to constantly self-reflect so that we can grow and develop. By truly understanding ourselves, we can recognize our triggers, strengths, weaknesses, motivations, etc. I think that self-reflection can also help a person determine when a particular problem or issue began. This newly found insight can be the initial stepping stone for clients to begin altering their maladaptive thoughts and behavior.

How does 12-Step facilitation of treatment relate to your preferred counseling orientation? What parts do you see that you could utilize for treatment?
My favorite counseling theory is Adlerian therapy. The 12-step program goal of forming stable social relationships definitely relates to Adlerian therapy as Adlerian therapists often believe that an individual’s problems stem from faulty interpersonal relationships. In addition, Adlerian therapists believe that people are constantly trying to overcome feelings of inferiority. This is similar to the 12-Step goal of achieving emotional and physical health. Finally, Adlerian therapists encourage clients to look deeply into their past, their memories, and even their dreams to gain insight into any issues. This aligns with the 12-Step idea of self-reflection.
If my client were religious, I could discuss with them how their faith has influenced any decisions. Adlerian therapists like to look at every aspect of their clients and this includes culture (and religion). But, like I mentioned I would only go down this path if the client admitted that religion was an important aspect in his/her life.

~Jennifer

Addictions Week 7 – Pharmacotherapy

Choose one of the following perspectives and explain your position: “Do you support the use of pharmacotherapy in the treatment of addictions? If so why? If not, why not?”

I can recognize the benefits of the use of pharmacotherapy. Medications like methadone can reduce an individual’s desire to use substances and the medications also limit the amount of pleasure or euphoria an individual would experience if they decided to use again. Pharmacotherapy is a great tool that can stabilize individuals and help them gain control over their lives. These individuals can now hold steady jobs and be present with their families.

However, I do not think that pharmacotherapy alone can guarantee long-term success. The arguments surrounding the use of pharmacotherapy in the treatment of addictions reminds me of the continuing debate of “should psychologists be allowed to prescribe medications, or should this be limited to psychiatrists?” It is an interesting questions, but the problem is, it appears to have created a rift among the mentioned parties. I find this annoying because squabbling amongst ourselves is providing no benefit to our clients. We should put more effort into working conjunctively and offering our respective insights, experiences, and knowledge to providing the most effective treatment to our clients.

Thus, I believe that an individual chooses to pursue the pharmacotherapy route, he/she should also be encouraged to engage in other therapeutic exploits as well such as individual addictions therapy, attending AA/NA meetings, etc. Research has shown that medications, in conjunction with talk therapy, lead to higher treatment success. It is in my opinion that this would apply to pharmacotherapy, as well.

~Jennifer

Addictions Blog Week #6

A quote from your text states: “… we get so involved in the role of counselor that we sometimes forget the client inside us. It can become habit to separate ourselves from our clients with a sense of self-righteousness that we do not have the problems they do.”

Do you see this tendency in yourself?
I’m pretty sure I do not have a sense of self-righteousness about my clients because of my own struggles with anxiety. I do not view myself as above them or better than them, but I do sometimes find myself frustrated if (in my view) my clients or patients are not putting in the effort to get better. However, through constant self-reflection, coupled with the skills and knowledge I have learned from my courses, I try to meet my clients where they are in their treatment. Mental illness is not something that can be cured or managed in a day and there are many reasons for client resistance.

How do you stay in contact with your inner client?
I use my own struggles with anxiety to try understand, at least a little bit, where my clients are coming from. Although the patients I work with at Sheppard Pratt are often enduring more chronic and intense illnesses, I can at least empathize with the frustration and hopelessness that comes with a mental illness.

What does that mean for you?
I think it’s important that we do not lose ourselves in our counselor roles. A great way to do that is to enter into therapy ourselves. By continually working on ourselves, we make ourselves stronger and better adept at being there for our clients.

What beliefs about yourself do you have that will allow you to find commonalities with your clients so that you do not see it as “us” versus “them”?
I have had anxiety since I was about 13 years old. For the longest time, I thought I was completely alone in my struggles because I thought, “no one else could be thinking the completely irrational thoughts that I endure every day.” However, in college, I found an online support group filled with people who had so many similar stories to mine. It was such a relief to know that there were people in the world who understood what I was enduring. That’s why I decided to be a counselor. To be that person of understanding for countless others, like the members of that support group were for me.

~Jennifer

Addictions Blog Post Week #5

Which of the foundational philosophies of counseling are you most comfortable with and why?

I have always been drawn to the Adlerian style of counseling. Adlerian Therapy is a very positive form of therapy that employs complete cooperation with the client and therapist with the therapist encouraging the client to better themselves and their lifestyle. This method does not view clients as sick or in need of a cure, but simply as people who may be struggling with a particular crisis. This therapy coincides perfectly with my personality. I am empathetic, encouraging, and a great listener. All of these traits are needed in order to be an effective Adlerian therapist.

In Adlerian Therapy, the client is not viewed as sick person in need of a cure. Instead, during sessions, the therapist focuses on all aspects of the individual, not just his or her diagnosis. One of the greatest problems in society today is the stigma that comes with having a mental illness. Once a person is revealed to have some sort of mental illness, all other people see is that illness, not the actual person who is suffering. Unfortunately, these people are often shunned, pushed aside, or called “crazy” or disturbed.” The stigma of mental illness is extremely hurtful and I hope to one day put an end to it.

Another great aspect of Adlerian Therapy is that the therapist encourages the client to improve by engaging in a friendly, collaborative relationship with the client. Mental illnesses can be debilitating. They take a great toll on the individual both mentally and physically. However, a simple way to ease that burden is to be supportive, caring, and empathetic to that individual. This is the role the Adlerian therapist takes in the therapeutic process and it is a role I wish to fill in my future career.

In addition to the fact that my personality and values coincide with many Adlerian tenants, I have made a point of studying and enhancing my knowledge of the therapy. Last semester I took a course solely about Adlerian and learned many useful skills and techniques. I also got have a more in-depth learning experience in to why Adlerians approach clients in a specific manner.  

How has this material been affecting you so far? Do you think you would be effective working with individuals with substance disorders?

So far I have found this course to be very interesting and informative. Prior to taking this course, I did not have much knowledge about substance disorders beyond my brief experiences on the Co-Occurring Disorders Unit at Sheppard Pratt. However, I am completing my internship this year at an Addictions clinic, so I want to absorb as much information and knowledge as I can. Prior to taking this course, I did not really have any desire to work with individuals with addictions. However, I have come to realize that this is essentially impossible since at least a quarter of the mental health clients I will be working with will have a substance use issue.

This past weekend I took the course “Achieving Change with Difficult Clients.” Oftentimes, difficult clients are those struggling with addiction. I learned many useful techniques and approaches in that class and I feel that after I finish this course I can use the information, experience, and knowledge from both classes to help me at my internship and in my future career.