Meet Andrew “AJ” our Outreach Counsellor
From your perspective, what is Fresh Start Recovery Centre?
Fresh Start is a unique place where recovery is possible in an empathetic and understanding environment that strips away some of the stigma that gets attached to treatment centres in general. Fresh Start walks men through all twelve steps, which in my mind gives them a better base to start recovery.
What is the typical stigma for treatment centres? What truth or truths dispel that?
At first, I think I need to be clear that I know and believe that all treatment centre’s do tremendous work. The stigma that is attached to some treatment centres, from my view and experience, is that the centre will teach people a few things, some concepts, and then refer them to an outside 12-step agency or other organizations/counsellors. You carry on recovery from there.
Whereas Fresh Start has an approach, that is about recovery for life. You begin once entering the front door; you are part of a community rather than a place for strictly treating disease of addiction. It’s not simply a few short weeks or months of information, Fresh Start is a movement.
As a counsellor, what tasks and responsibilities come with it?
It is facilitating groups. That’s one of the biggest ones. The next one is the 1-on-1 counselling and support of each individual in that group. We are tasked within the mandate to take them through the twelve steps and support them in all major life areas.
We have 12 as the focus. Basically, they are the major life areas, which require support for them. We help them achieve their goals in all areas of their life and providing them with a strong base within the twelve steps to support their recovery.
As the outreach coordinator, what tasks and responsibilities come with this position?
In addition to the 1-on-1 counselling and support with the goals of the men in the case load (my case load), it is monitoring and supporting our various levels of housing, and the various levels of treatment in Fresh Start.I would be responsible for the phase II and the phase III men in the program for the step II and the step III housing. It is a continuum of care that continues indefinitely. They can stay with us indefinitely.We’ve had men with us over many years. They continue to receive support from me. In addition to that, I serve and support the alumni to achieve their goals.They might need support and drop in to see me with anything. It could be recovery housing, employment, financially, relationship-wise, and so on. It is a wide scope for the outreach coordinator position.
With the indefinite continuum of care, statistically, there should be some long-term attendees. Without breach of privacy of particular individuals, what are some of the most heartwarming stories seen by you?
I can think of one guy. Last month he achieved his 5-year milestone of clean time. I’ve known this gentleman in the recovery community for longer than that. He has never been able to be able to stay abstinent until now.This was an unemployable person. He had ruined his life. Now, he’ll be taking the 5-years. He is part of a major not-for-profit health enterprise. He is supportive and active in the Fresh Start alumni for the 5 years that he has been clean.Although, he is not in one of the phases or housing. He continues to receive support from the staff here. It’s one of those things. It is encouraging to see the men receiving residential treatment continue to use the resources available to them.It is successful, especially for this individual with a very successful life.
When entering situations with 1-on-1 or group as a counsellor, there are different methodologies and counselling streams – theory and practice. What theory and practice are the main ones used in counselling sessions by you – based on prior training?
Usually, I like to use the peer support. Within the group, as the outreach coordinator, I am responsible for the mentorship program as well. We assign a specific man further along in the program to new men.There’s the peer support model. In actual facilitation, it’s more psycho-informational rather than process-group. I present the information. I field any questions. Usually, for me, I will use a lot of information from our manual. I also share my personal experience with the men. I have that lived experience. I am in recovery. It can be part of what I do in facilitating.
Interview done by Scott Douglas Jacobsen