Todd Whitmer, regional vice president at the Caron New York treatment facility, recalls struggling to forge a career path during his early recovery. He found himself jumping from job to job with little overall direction.
“I got sober in my 20s, and I had no idea what I wanted to do,” Whitmer says. With a college degree but no plan, “I had to build houses for a while. I had no one to guide me.”
Beginning later this month, Caron New York will launch a one-year career development program that Whitmer prefers not to label as purely “vocational” or purely “recovery.” While it will offer individuals in early recovery some of the type of assistance commonly seen in a traditional vocational services program, it will focus largely on the intersection of recovery and work, in areas such as how individuals can successfully apply recovery tools to address workplace challenges.
Whitmer expects that Caron New York’s REACH program, which will cost participants $7,000 for the year of skill building and support, will mainly attract individuals in their 20s. But it could also benefit an older group that might have work experience but could be seeking a change in direction career-wise in order to keep their recovery strong.
“This will also be available to adults who might be in a career that is not conducive to their recovery,” says Whitmer. “They might be exposed to various triggers, such as that they are in a field where they are around alcohol too much, or they’re in a high-pressure job.”
For many individuals in recovery, workplace conflicts that might even be peripheral to the individual’s own job also can lead to problems, Whitmer adds.
Yet it is not just work stress that can create difficulties for the recovering individual—work success can bring its own challenges. “Both of these issues can be triggers,” Whitmer says. “When there is that sense of heightened excitement, how do you celebrate?”
Partnering with Caron New York in this venture is Write Wellness, LLC, an entity that assists organizations in developing social initiatives. Program facilitators will include Write Wellness founder Yali Harari; Paulette Rao, founder of the True North Resources Conscious Coaching Institute; and John Ovrutsky, founder of BridgePath Solutions and its Jump Start Job Search program for college graduates.
Whitmer explains that the first three months of the program will involve sessions on two to three evenings per week, with group work, individual assessments and a mentoring program introduced. This represents a more personal and intensive approach than the typical phone contact that occurs in many aftercare programs, where someone may only be asked informally about the status of their work-related pursuits.
While topics such as writing résumés and honing interviewing skills will be part of the work, REACH will seek to probe participants’ true interests to determine what type of career might suit someone best. “We’ll ask, ‘What’s really meaningful to you?’” says Whitmer.
As Caron states in materials promoting REACH, “Finding a career direction is a process. It is not an event. It is a journey to finding one’s potential and living one’s uniqueness.”
The class that will launch the program on Feb. 25 probably will include 12 to 14 participants; Whitmer says a second class could be added if there is enough interest.