Rosita Harris gives a close look at her role as a PCO Clinical Counselor and Intake Clinician, and her working of supporting clients in recovery.
Rosita, how long have you been working at CRW?
Since October 2019 so it’s been a bit over a year.
What do you enjoy most about working as a clinician?
Most of all I enjoy working with clients. I feel that everybody that walks through the door has an entire wealth of potential that they could reach and wants better for themselves. To be able to be a part of that journey with them is what I find most rewarding because from there, they just take on this energy that I don’t see in normal everyday life. Especially when they begin to realize that they can possibly beat whatever addiction they have or that they’re worth more than they’ve allowed themselves to think.
What do you mean by energy that you don’t see in everyday life?
It’s a certain enthusiasm. I think that we all go through the motions of life on an everyday basis when we’ve achieved our goals. But when someone hasn’t achieved their goals and they realize that they have that potential, they end up having this enthusiasm to become a go–getter, to hit every mark that they want to make. As they do this they’re reporting it back, they’re so proud of themselves and they’re so energetic about it. To see a person’s eyes light up that they’re enrolling in school, or that they are going to try to get a job, or obtain housing, or they have six months clean under their belt, this is something that you don’t see every day–someone with this spark and readiness to seize life.
I think that we take for granted the little things, like having a roof over our head, or education and other vocational opportunities. To see someone so excited and so humbled by that experience reminds me of how fortunate I am.
Are there any treatment techniques that you find most helpful for clients?
I usually go with empowerment strategies because when people walk through the door, they are not at their best point in life. I feel and from what I’ve seen, empowerment strategies give the person that little push to just get to that next step. To say, ‘hey, you got here, you came through the doors, you made it for intake, the first leg of your journey has begun.’
Those empowerment strategies really do help to get that person from the intake process over to that next scary part of integrating into a population of people that they are not familiar with. Because they don’t know what to expect, they don’t know what the program is going to be like, they don’t know if they’re going to get along with everyone. Some of the clients fear being “locked down”, and I put that in quotes because it is a feeling that they can’t leave. This is all a very scary and new experience for them, so I feel like empowerment strategies help them get from that first area of coming into the program to that next step of integrating the population.
When you say empowerment strategies, is there a simple way to explain for someone without a clinical background what that means?
It’s similar to encouragement and also there’s a lot of reflections. If someone is able to identify that they’ve made that commitment, and that they made it to intake, we bolster their own beliefs that they already they already have their foot in the door. We help them to realize that they can just soar with potential from there.
Okay, so it’s helping them to realize their own potential?
Right, and through that you also hope the person elicits what they would like to do. Once you hear what they want to do, the first step with that always is making the commitment to recovery. The fact that they walked through the door and are at the intake, that’s always something that can be that can be leveraged. I can help make that apparent for them.
To clarify, your position at CRW is twofold since you’re an intake clinician and also a clinical counselor for the Project Contact outpatient program, right?
Right. In the intake portion of it, I try to manage perceptions, which is also part of empowerment. You try to manage the perceptions that people have about treatment and help them to acknowledge that they have what it takes to be successful. That’s different from say, when I work as a clinician, where I am working with individuals who have already completed the residential program. With those individuals, it’s more so strengthening their already gained knowledge of skills for long term sobriety. I also work with individuals who have no experience in residential treatment and small amounts of coping skills. In those in those instances, they do need to start from the bottom up. It’s different areas of social work with this population that I touch every day.
What is one thing that you hope you can accomplish with the clients who work with you or that you hope that they will take away from their counseling relationship with you?
I think the biggest thing that I want people to take away when I complete working with them, whether it’s in intake, or actually clinical work with clients in outpatient, is better self-esteem, higher self-worth, and the wherewithal to know that they can achieve whatever goals that they set for themselves. We know that addiction can rob you of housing, financial stability, and family. A person can have a criminal history which impacts their ability to get a job. But what is little talked about is a person’s self-worth and self-esteem and how they see themselves in relation to others that they perceive as ‘normal’. I really do try to work with clients on strengthening their own perception of themselves and their self-image... lacking self-esteem is one of the ingredients in a recipe for addiction.
What do you think is the biggest way that the pandemic has changed your work?
In the beginning it was a huge adjustment for everyone. This is the first time, at least in my lifetime, that social workers and providers are now experiencing more of the same exact issues as their clients. I believe that the pandemic has now caused people to rethink how they approach service delivery because they are actually experiencing the same fears and anxieties that their clients are experiencing. The pandemic has caused fear, it has caused people to be separated from family, it has changed the way people work and communicate with each other. That goes across the board whether you’re the social worker or client.
It definitely did create some barriers in the beginning but now I believe that people are adjusting more. With each new introduction of technology to try to bridge that gap, it is getting better. But there is nothing like having the one-to-one session or assessment in person where you can actually see a person’s facial expressions, how they are dressed, if they’re taking care of themselves, these are all things that go into your assessments that are not necessarily 100% clear when you’re on the phone or doing virtual work.
I can give an example. I have one person that I’ve worked with that until I saw the person virtually, I wasn’t able to notice bags under their eyes. It’s one thing for a person to say, ‘I have trouble sleeping’, and then it’s another thing to see a person in a video session that appears extremely worn out. Sometimes a person won’t verbalize to you that their sleeping patterns are off because they’ve become so accustomed to managing with less sleep. But being able to say, ‘hey, I’m noticing that you look more tired than usual, is anything going on with your sleep?’ That’s how I think in-person sessions differ from telephonic sessions. With the help of the virtual sessions, we can get a better glimpse into that.
Is there anything else you’d like to share as a closing thought?
I feel that the work we do is so vital to the community. Right now, there are so many people who have food insecurity in addition to other issues, like loss of contact with family, mental health issues, and substance use. That is why working in the community is so important. I want to give a big shout out to everyone who takes part in the food pantry. It’s a big operation and I’m a lot of times in my office working and trying to get through the day, and I see everyone that’s involved in that undertaking twice a week, picking up heavy bags, running back and forth with carts, talking to the community, trying to make sure everything is in order, trying to make sure that everyone that has a ticket is getting food that day. I just think that the work that is being done is something that needs to be recognized and shouted out as much as possible. I’ve seen our new Volunteer Coordinator Gail there many times, running around and trying to make sure everybody receives their bag of groceries. It’s just a wonderful operation and just being witness to it, I’m humbled by how much work goes into that and how many people are actually helped out.