›› Educator/Addiction Professional Makes Sense

        by Rebecca Pavlik-Heger

As an educator I have been keenly aware of the needs of my students and have had the desire to serve them in the best possible manner. The decision to become an addiction counselor seemed to be a logical extension of my career in educating teens. With the encouragement of a seasoned substance abuse counselor, I started taking Continuing Education classes at a local rehab facility. I found myself looking forward to each opportunity to learn and meet with others in the field. Following years of referring students to outside agencies, I was becoming frustrated with the revolving door syndrome that seemed to plague many established facilities. Seeing the students on a daily basis, provided a clear picture of school, family and social issues that could not easily be understood by an outside therapist. So after exhausting all of the course offerings, I searched for a program that fit what was needed in our high school. In an effort to deal with both the mental and emotional issues of addiction, I chose to complete a Masters in Mental Health and Addiction at a local university. My decision to pursue a dual career in education and counseling has been both exciting and rewarding. As students get to know me, they become more at ease and readily step in my room “to talk.” After testing for confidence and comfort, students realize that there is an adult within their reach they can confide in. When the therapeutic relationship is initiated by the student, rehabilitation becomes much more effective and stable.

We are fortunate to have an administration who acknowledges the presence of drugs and alcohol within the lives of our students. In the last few years we have developed a full program to serve the needs of students who find themselves caught in the web of addiction. We have added a new AA advisor who teaches a drug and alcohol course and conducts weekly group meetings. As a therapist I conduct private counseling sessions to assist students in identifying the underlying issues that prompted their desire to use. Those needing more intense therapy are referred to outside agencies that are familiar and complimentary to our objectives.

My early mentor and friend passed away before seeing our dream come to fruition. I often think of him as we tweak and revise the program to continually improve our efforts. I can close my eyes and envision his nod of approval as our team of now three (Therapist, Advisor, and Dean of Student Life) work quietly and closely to improve the lives of those students we devote our time and energy to. Every success brings the fulfillment and joy of knowing our efforts are not in vain. I can’t think of a better way to spend my days!

Written in memory of Ed Lyle who helped me find what I wanted to do when I grew up! Thanks Ed.


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