This coming July 1, 2020, will mark the fourth anniversary of working in the addictions and recovery field. During this time, I have had the opportunity to work with literally hundreds of substance abusers and their families. They all come into residential treatment for different reasons – some are obliged to come for fear that they will lose their jobs, many are there because of pressure from their loved ones, and most of them decide to seek help because they cannot go on any longer living the way they are.

My triumphs include women that find fulfillment in life without the use of substances. They learn how to manage their disease of addiction, and now they live happy and productive lives.

My failures include people who have dropped out of treatment or suffered multiple relapses. I have even lost some clients forever, due to the opiate crisis or other contributing risk factors.

Through it all, I have learned a number of invaluable lessons – lessons that I would never have had the possibility of learning if it were not for the training that brought me to this point of my life.

My first position at the treatment center was Client Care Worker. This was a challenging position which included de-escalating conflict among clients, giving out medication and recording it, writing support logs pertaining to the client’s behaviours and interactions, and doing intakes.

I had minimal education in this area when I began the job. Shortly after, I started my first class at Vancouver Community College; it was Basic Counselling. I began to learn basic tools that helped me communicate and understand the clients and families that I was working with. The idea of using empathy as a therapeutic tool was something that I was taught, and I began to apply it in all areas of my job; from talking on the phone with a fearful parent to speaking with a client that was just intaking into the program with the belief that she had completely destroyed her life.

I enjoyed learning so much that I decided to keep moving forward in the program, Addictions Counselling Skills. Each course that I took highlighted a different area of the work that I did, such as individual counselling skills, diversity and culture, family systems, and theories of counselling. I went to school and was blessed with having wonderful teachers that have been working in the field for many years. The knowledge, wisdom, and personal experience that they shared with us was invaluable, and I was able to directly apply it in my day to day work.

Through this, I was promoted from Client Care Worker to Client Care Supervisor. This new role allowed me to oversee the work of the other CCW’s and step into a position of leadership. From there, I became certified through a combination of education and work hours by the CACCF, which is one of the Canadian governing bodies for addictions counsellors. Two years after my education began, I was promoted again. This time, it was my dream job. I had wanted to be an addictions counsellor for many years.

It was one thing for me to teach my clients the theories that I learned in school, but it was quite another thing to watch these techniques change people’s lives in the most significant ways.

When I can inspire the clients to trust in something greater than themselves – community, the recovery process itself, other women, then they are able to find a sense of purpose and meaning in their lives.

To me, it is a unique and indescribable feeling to be front row and center to one of the most profound changes that another human being can make in their lifetime. To be able to be a part of that is a gift.

There is nothing like seeing someone who arrived in utter hopelessness and sheer desperation, constricted by the bondage of their addiction, who shortly thereafter moves to a place of confidence and determination in their newfound life path. That is what makes my work so rewarding, I am grateful for the opportunity for the education that brought me to this place.

Patricia Sekutowska | Program Supervisor | Westminster House Society

If you or someone you know needs help, call Patricia 604-524-5633