Beware of the Staff and the Patients will take care of
CD patients have been some of my best teachers in life, but I've learned so much more from the treatment staff.
There is a hidden agenda in most treatment buildings, that of the staff. That doesn't mean it's always bad or sinister, merely one group of recovering folks trying to replay and rebuild their lives.
I remember working with treatment staff that were millionaires, plus those who had completed school, right off of living on the street. It was an education greater than college, seminary or grad school.
The rules of engagement are simple. You are constantly encouraged to communicate openly and honestly, but many folks’ lack of recovery simply prevent it. There are multiple pecking orders in treatment, from the level of education to the status of the professional. Some may say that all are equal, but some are more equal than others.
On an encouraging note you'll meet some of the nicest people in the world, those who will appreciate you while you're there and send you cards when you leave.
On the challenging side, you must remember that communication—honest and open with both patients and staff should be your norm.
Here are lists of “You Musts” that come to mind:
You must leave a legacy of hope for the patient, even if their treatment plan is crowded with the input of those who barely know them. One person caring and offering hope (and challenge) is often enough to change a life.
You must not let their behavior--often erratic with emotions created by a lack of drugs--persuade you into anger, name-calling or frustration. They pay us to think sanely and to keep our cool. When two people are talking, one of you should be the adult.
You must not let treatment professionals embitter you against believing that all patients can recover. They can, and you must believe and practice that tenet with all your heart.
You must expect to be duped and tricked at times. Drugs make a person manipulate others. You must not expect otherwise no matter what you see or hear.
You must forgive yourself and your patient when you are tricked. You must learn from your mistakes. And you must not let that keep you from being a team player or from helping others. Treatment takes time and often multiple attempts.
You must be ethically straight and morally pure, to coin a Scout phrase. You must let your past be your past. You must find forgiveness to forgive others. You need the heart of a lion and the soul of warrior. More people lose their jobs for ethical violations than almost any other problem.
You must attend recovery groups if you expect others to do the same. Don't be someone that says do as I say, but not as I do.
You must report illegal activity that is currently occurring. You won't help your patient if you enable them to continue their behavior. A true change toward recovery may mention the past, but it doesn't wallow in it. Child and spousal abuse must be reported--among staff and patients.
You must not resent making mistakes or failing. Recovery is a tricky, complicated business. If anything seems too easy or too simple, it's likely not effective. Tried and true methods work, if you work them. New things sometimes work, but not until they are tried. Be open to new ideas, but not a slave to them.
Well, that is certainly enough "musts." You should enjoy cross training for another career so if you burn out here, you can transition out until you're ready to return. You may, it's a challenging, but rewarding job.
Remember, the staff may be as challenging as the patients. But you didn't go in to help the staff. So endure staffs that aren't healthy. Celebrate those that work well together. Remember your focus is on helping the client; when you can no longer do that, pursue your second career with a passion.
Being a CD counselor or therapist is one the greatest experiences of a lifetime, but you are more than that. You are the person who will create life change in others--your patients, those you supervise and those who are simply there to avoid more legal problems or to please their families. To that goal, I wish you the best.