ACA Blog

Karen Bates
Jun 14, 2010

Variety is the Spice of Life

I see children from the age of 5 years-old, adolescents and adults. I have the wonderful opportunity to provide outpatient services to a variety of people. Our agency offers adolescent and adult substance abuse treatment as well as behavioral health and we are enhancing our co-occurring continuum of care services. In everything that I do, I always try to specialize while also looking to grow my skill set.

Three years ago our agency was awarded a grant for a prisoner re-entry program. The idea was if individuals have counseling to help with their transition into the community as well as substance abuse treatment, the recidivism will decrease because the clients are getting help in developing more effective and adaptive coping skills verses, here’s a bus ticket and a change of clothing, good luck.

Admittedly, my first reaction to treating clients coming straight out of prison was met with some slight apprehension. I remember asking every client if it would be allowable to have their accompanying relative, usually their mother or father, to sit in the intake interview. I was all the way in the back of the building on the lower level so I was a bit afraid if the client had a violent history, I may not know how to handle the situation. But I quickly changed that position when I realized that the clients from prison were some of the most motivated individuals that I had on my caseload.

So many times, you are faced with resistant clients that are court-ordered because of drunk driving or possession and they really do not want to be there, especially the teens. But working with the prisoner re-entry population, has not only been rewarding but enlightening. Now, granted, you do get your occasional, sociopath or someone that is so manipulative that you find it hard not to take it as a personal affront to your helping nature and feel that person is taking advantage. I realize setting clear boundaries from the start of treatment helps. I also have realized that showing respect and conveying a sense of dignity for each and every person that is coming into my office sets the tone for an open and honest rapport.

One of my hopes in writing my blogs is to provide some insights on working with resistant clients. So much of our work is sometimes done in isolation because we are so busy. I think that this opportunity to see what others are doing is not only important but vital to keeping our mission of counseling going strong.

Karen Bates is a counselor, addiction specialist, and a doctoral student at Walden University.

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