Here is a conversation with client Richard W. about his experiences receiving residential treatment at PRIDE Site and outpatient counseling through Project Contact.
How did you first get connected to treatment at CRW?
I had been in Manhattan treatment Court and they had referred me to you guys at CRW.
Are you currently enrolled in the Project Contact Outpatient (PCO) Program?
Cristin McKenna is your counselor, correct?
Did you first go through a course of residential treatment at PRIDE Site?
Yes I did.
What was your experience like in PRIDE?
My experience at PRIDE Site was excellent! Throughout the years, I’ve been to a couple of treatment programs, and this was different on so many levels. They provided me with the opportunity to figure myself out exactly in a way that was just really supportive. It gave me the resources that I needed, the people to talk to, and the direction I needed to be pushed in to figure out what I wanted to do and how I wanted to go about it. I ended up with a counselor who worked really well for me.
Who was that Counselor?
Adriane Giebel [PRIDE Clinical Counselor]. I’m gay so I was going to the LGBT groups which Adriane had conducted. I had also heard really good things about her and I figured it would make more sense for me to seek her out as my counselor. I was able to get onto her caseload and it was the best decision I could have ever made. I’m so glad that they let me do that because she’s just fantastic. She really helped me figure out what I needed to do in a way that was really supportive and interested and I didn’t feel like I was burdening her. A lot of times, at least I had gotten the impression that my counselor who I’m talking to is kind of looking at their watch, kind of you know, semi–interested. I just didn’t get that from her at all.
Besides that, a lot of it was me, I was able to reconstruct the way I saw things. After a month or two, I started to challenge myself to look at every situation as, how can I learn from this, what is this going to teach me, how can I better myself from this? With any type of interaction with somebody, this is a test in patience, in keeping my temper in check, or in communication. It put me in a place where I could look at things from a more therapeutic kind of perspective. I’m just passionately involved in everything and going on emotion.
Then I decided that I wanted to pursue a CASAC so I went to school. Honestly, I’m not trying to boast but I was like a model resident there. I never had a positive toxicology, I never had a behavioral issue with anybody, I just really excelled. And once I started to get a sense of pride for going through each day, and feeling good about myself and like I was accomplishing something, it sort of fed on itself and it motivated me to continue going in that direction. And you know, two years later, I’m where I’m at now. And I’m extremely grateful for that place, I can’t say enough good things about it, and the people there as well.
So it’s been a couple years since you initially sought treatment?
Yeah it’s been almost two years.
And how long were you enrolled in PRIDE Site before you moved onto Project Contact?
I was in residential for 13 months, but the last month or two, I was in outpatient while I was still a resident (Re-integration). So it’s just that my groups were different.
And are you still doing the outpatient counseling to this day?
You mentioned this idea of viewing each interaction as a learning experience. Do you remember any particular conversations you had that might illustrate more specifically what kind of learning experiences you’re talking about?
Yeah absolutely. There was a situation where it was the closest I had come to losing my temper on somebody. You have to understand being in a place like that, there’s a lot of toes that are stepped on and there’s a lot of micromanaging, so it’s very easy to get frustrated with other people and lose your temper. Now I was a Senior Coordinator which basically allowed me to go outside two times to have a day cigarette without the rest of the residents and without staff. There was one staff member who––it’s not that I didn’t get along with him, I just didn’t like him and he clearly didn’t like me or anybody. He worked on the overnights so I rarely saw him but when I did it would be really early in the morning.
There was this one morning where I came down two minutes late after everybody else went outside. I came up to him and I said I’m going to go outside and join them, and he said ‘no you can’t do that’. And I was like, ‘well, you can just consider it one of my one of my structure breaks,’ and I walked out anyway. In retrospect I don’t think he realized I was the coordinator and that I could do that. When I came back in, he was like, ‘I sent an email about it’, and my initial reaction was that I got angry and raised my voice a little bit. I didn’t curse him out or anything like that.
The point is, I caught myself in the middle of this and in my head I’m like walk away, because this doesn’t deserve this kind of reaction. The thing is, I walked around for a long time avoiding this guy, because I didn’t want this type of thing to happen. I think that in this moment, it was me kind of coming out of all of the things that I had stifled. After I had walked away, I’m thinking to myself this is a test in patience and dealing with people. When I’m out in the real world this is going to happen, I’m going to have people that I don’t like and they’re going to rub me the wrong way, and they’re going to do things that are unfair and so on. But it’s all about how I react to it and not everything needs a reaction. Even though in the moment I’m angry and want to express that it’s really not that big a deal. So, it’s kind of stepping outside of the situation and really asking myself if it requires the energy that I’m giving it, or that I want to give it that moment. When I do that, I’m able to kind of separate myself from the emotions and use my brain more so than my emotions.
That’s one example, another is that there’s a lot of other residents there that you’re not going to click with. Especially with me, I was really trying to not be around toxicity and negativity. I wasn’t separating myself in a way where I was better than other people but I was very cautious about who I communicated with. When I would find myself in a situation where people are being racist or homophobic, or any of those things that I find negative, I would use that as a kind of a learning experience in patience and looking at people like they’re sick and this is just a result of their environment. I got this different lens of looking at things and it was all a test in how I responded to everything.
I’m also wondering about your old counselor Adriane, what do you think made her such an effective counselor in your experience?
Adrian had a natural kind of way about her that you got the impression that she was interested. Beyond that as a counselor, she listened one, and she had an interesting way of giving me the bait to figure things out for myself. She could have easily just interjected and said, ‘well, this and that might help you, but she let me figure these things out by myself.
Now that I’m in school, I’ve realized that that’s actually a technique called reflective listening and that kind of thing. But it helped my self-esteem and helped me feel like I was actually in control of figuring out my own dilemmas or goals. She was there to affirm it and congratulate me and there was also no judgement at all.
I don’t know her personally, but I feel like we were on the same page as far whole gay thing. Like I could get into that not feel weird about it, whereas especially with male counselors I couldn’t have talked about some things with. I have a pretty messed up history with prostitution and that whole thing. There were a lot of things that I needed to get out and I felt like I just couldn’t have done that with other people. Or I think I could have done with other people but it would have been harder for me.
I’m also curious how has your experience been with your current counselor Cristin McKenna [PCO Clinician]?
Cristin is amazing. When I was first put in the outpatient program I was with a male counselor and requested to get a female counselor. I ended up with Cristin and I’m super lucky and grateful because she’s just as good as Adriane, the same things I said about Adriane I could say about Cristin. All of my treatment was mandated but it was also something that I was ready to do anyway. Technically all I would have had to do was three months in jail and I could have been over it but I wanted to do all this. My mandate was lifted and I graduated the treatment court about three months ago, and I probably would have discontinued the outpatient if not for Cristen. Especially right now with the pandemic there are no groups, so it’s literally just me with her once a week on the phone for 45 minutes or an hour.
After a while there’s something about a counselor that you get along with and that you work well with that is really comforting. Because they know where I’ve been and where I am. Whatever goals I’m trying to accomplish or whatever confrontations or situations that are coming up in my every day, I have somebody that I can bounce that stuff off of who knows where I’ve been, knows what my trigger zone is, who knows me and I trust their input–super important for me. That’s the thing, I have gotten bad counselors in the past and I never realized it until Adriane and Cristin just how impactful having a good counselor is and how much it helps. Honestly it makes me feel bad for people that don’t have that, like they’re not getting everything that they could.
I would like to offer this last moment just for you to share anything else that you’d like to share?
If there’s anybody else whose praises I can sing, there is a staff member Rob Gordon [Motivational Enhancement Counselor]. He really made a huge impact on me. We didn’t talk personally but every night during the meetings, he would say these things that were just so inspirational. I don’t think that he realizes how much of an impact day he had. And I did tell him this when I left but I also only had like 30 seconds because I had a cab outside, so I really didn’t get to tell him exactly how much of an impact those things had on me.
When I first got there, he said something about his character and how he holds himself to a certain standard. I’m paraphrasing but it stuck with me. That’s kind of like the seed that started to have me hold myself to a higher level and strive to be a better person and to do that every day, and not to allow anything to take me beneath that level that I had wanted to be at. And that is just one example of like 100 things that that he had said in those house meetings in the evening that really made an impact on me. A lot of people don’t really don’t think that those motivational counselors are anything more than police officers and what not, but that’s not true, and he’s one of them that that is really valuable to that place. The pandemic happened literally two days before I left, but one day I would like to get over there and say that to Rob personally.