In the second part of a three-part series, Rick Dauer shares more personally about the effect that being a part of the Helping Men Recover had on him and two other counselors:
Last month I shared some observations regarding how clients have responded to Helping Men Recover, the first trauma-informed treatment curriculum for men (Covington, Griffin, and Dauer; Jossey-Bass 2011). In this column I would like to comment on how the three Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselors who have been the primary group facilitators have been affected. Affected not only with respect to their professional growth, but also in their personal lives.
Lee Cunningham is relatively new to the field. His first position, after completing his degree and internships, was at River Ridge Treatment Center with the men's program. In his own words: "The Helping Men Recover curriculum has shattered my perspective on what recovery can be. It broke down the walls that insulated me from experiencing relationships and life in a more robust and rewarding way. I found permission and encouragement to explore and discuss areas of my life that I had thought were off limits for men. I have grown more in the last 18 months than in all the previous years of recovery. And, my personal excitement for recovery has increased my desire to work with other men."
I have seen Lee grow as a clinician, particularly in the past several months as he has become more comfortable and confident with the curriculum. He is less directive, confrontational, and judgmental. He accepts that some of his clients will fight to hang on to their old ways of thinking and behaving. He is now willing to honor what the men hold dear at the same time that he offers them new information and alternative coping strategies.
Tom Jay had been working as a men's counselor at River Ridge for two years when the first pilot group was initiated. His training had been in Cognitive/Behavioral Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, and 12 Step recovery principles. Tom states, "I used to believe that the clients were sick and my job was to be the healer. I now see that my real job is to create a safe environment, provide some structure, and then join the men in their journey of self-discovery. On a personal level, it has been impossible to be a facilitator of this curriculum without being profoundly affected. I recognized that I had some healing to do, despite being in recovery for over 15 years. I found the courage to begin therapy and address my own trauma. I also have taken huge strides towards practicing better self-care. This in turn makes me a better counselor."
The changes in Tom have been remarkable. He is now eager to lead discussions on topics that once caused him a great deal of discomfort. He exudes a sense of calmness, authenticity, and good humor. He has learned how to develop and nurture therapeutic alliances, and yet still hold the men accountable.