Friday, April 25, 2008

5 Questions for Monalee West, Senior Counselor

5 Questions is our ongoing feature where we introduce you to the people who make Brandywine Counseling run, spotlighting a different staff member every two weeks.

Name: Monalee West
Job: Senior Counselor, Alpha North Wilmington Center
Time with BCI: 2 years

1. The Claymont Center is BCI’s smallest office, with 3 staff and 49 clients. How does that affect your treatment environment and your role as supervisor?
Because we’re small, it’s really family-oriented. [Our clients] seem to be very motivated. They just seem more connected, and I think it’s because our groups are smaller. Within three weeks of clients attending groups and getting involved with Claymont Alpha, they exchange numbers, they get involved with 12 step programs, they set up transportation. It’s very supportive here. If a staff member goes out sick for even a few days, the clients are very worried! “Are they okay?” And they’ll leave get well cards, it’s kind of funny!

My job here is unusual, because it’s a first. I’m a senior counselor, and it’s the first time that BCI has had a senior counselor position. It’s kind of unique, but basically it’s similar to a supervisor. I monitor the day-to-day flow of the work that we do here, urines, I do training, and one of the major job responsibilities I have is staff morale.

Communication and patience have always been my two greatest challenges. As people will say, I hit the door moving 190 miles an hour and I never stop! I have to remind myself, “Slow down, you’re not the only person here! You don’t have to do it all by yourself!” And my staff is great at reminding me of that.

2. You were very involved in rolling out Alpha’s motivational incentives program last year. You wrote the training manual, you were the first counselor to do a test run, and you ran a focus group to get feedback from the counselors. Why was it important to you to be so involved in this project?
I understand the difficulties with motivation. I’ve found that it’s not that people don’t have the desire to achieve abstinence, there’s just a lot of life factors that get in the way. And I know that anything we can do as professionals to help encourage or support motivation makes a world of difference. When the motivational program was explained to me, I thought, oh, this is great! This is just something else we can do as treatment providers to help clients accomplish their goal of becoming abstinent. And I find it’s been a great help. I’ve seen a big difference in clients. They really like it! And when they come for their assessment, and you explain it to them, and they get to draw that first bead, it really does encourage them to come back.

3. Many of our staff decorate their office with personal items. Tell us what you have in your office.
As soon as someone walks into my office, they know exactly what my ethnic background is. I have a lot of Native American artifacts on my wall, including my Medicine drum. That seems to draw everybody’s attention the most, and they usually ask me about it. When I explain it to them, they really like the concept of what it represents, and how they can use it in recovery. I have actually been asked on more than one occasion to bring my drum into group and to explain it in group, because it talks about the Four Elements of Self, in relation to the four elements of the environment, and how that helps serve as a support network.

And, I had to order a bookcase to hold all of my family pictures, because I have pictures of all my children and my grandchildren. Because I have to have them with me, that’s my family. And everybody likes that I’m family-oriented, and they can tell when they walk in and see my bookshelf with all my pictures.

4. If you had $30,000 to donate to BCI, what would you do with it?
One thing would be a scholarship program. There are quite a few clients who would like to continue their education and cannot. Something as simple as a GED program, they don’t have the money for that. Finding other ways to enhance motivational programs for clients, would be another thing.

5. Tell us your favorite client success story.
It was a gentleman who had been using marijuana every day, about a half an ounce daily. He smoked it like most people smoke cigarettes, for twenty years. He had a lot of medical problems, and he got involved with [BCI] because his doctor said, “If you’re using marijuana, we can’t give you your pain medication.” When he first came into treatment, his view was, “Marijuana should be legalized, I don’t see it as a problem.”

And as he stopped using, and started coming to groups and learning, and as he got education in his individual sessions, it was nice to see that light bulb go off, and hear him be able to tell us what he had learned, and why he felt that he was glad his doctor had said he needed to stop using marijuana, and just getting his life back together. And getting more involved with his son, who he didn’t have a good relationship with when he first started treatment. When he left, he was going fishing with his son, he was doing a lot of activities, and it was really great to see him have that.

Seeing the light bulb go off over someone’s head, when they find themselves again and they start realizing that there is hope, that’s such a great thing to see. That’s a great feeling, and no amount of money can replace that for me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading what Monalee shared. I attended BCI - Claymont 2 years ago and got to meet Monalee and staff. I moved away for a summer and then I returned attending 2nd Street Alpha Bldg. in Wilm. Monalee's favorite client success story was interesting and probably very common - many people underestimate and minimize the effects of Marijuana in their lives. I was a daily smoker only in high school and I know the effects. The denial is very strong as it is with all drugs. I found it easier to function using marijuana than say when I started using harder drugs like crack cocaine which took away ALL my morals. I still believe marijuana is a gateway drug for Most people. Not all. I have found the internet like life, can be used for a positive in recovery or a negative... It is our choice. PP&T - I have a choice what I read and participate in. Addiction exists even more so on line as I have experienced. Thanks for letting me share. And thank you Monalee for your service.