Thursday, July 3, 2008

5 Questions for Susan Hammond, Counselor/Case Manager

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: Susan Hammond
Job: Counselor/Case Manager, Lighthouse Program
Time with BCI: 5 years

1. The Lighthouse Program was started to fill a need that wasn’t being met in Delaware. Where would these women and children be right now, without this program?
My job with Brandywine used to be the DFS [Division of Family Services] Liaison. I saw women who had either lost their children, or they were close to losing their children because of addiction being in their lives. And there was nowhere that I could help them go. I’ve seen moms come in with kids that they really didn’t know that much. Maybe it was babies, maybe it was kids that stayed in daycare a whole lot, or stayed with other relatives.

But now that we have The Lighthouse, the mothers can choose to come here, receive their addiction treatment, and bring their children with them. So there’s no need to stick kids in foster care. There’s no need to separate mothers from young children. And it’s kind of neat.

2. What kinds of things do you help the women with?
I do a lot of case management during the individual sessions. Most of the time, by the time women hit treatment, their problems are kind of multiplied. I have some clients who don’t have their driver’s license, they have never received any job training, some of them needed eyeglasses. So my job is to refer them for services, and there are agencies that provide help with some of that stuff.

Most of the women work with Vocational Rehabilitation. Some of them have sought out help with passing their GED. Some of them are looking at classes at Del Tech. Some of them are getting to the level here at Lighthouse where they can find some employment, so some are actually seeking employment now. And it’s good to watch them grow, and to see them becoming responsible, productive members of society.

I just finished an Education Group on maturity, about measuring their own maturity. This morning we had a Concern Group. Usually we have process groups, we have other education groups. There’s parenting people who come in here a couple times a week. There’s all kinds of different groups! There’s Computer Group, Sewing Group, all kinds of different groups.

3. One of the most difficult things the women must do is learn to change long-held behaviors and attitudes associated with their addiction. How do you help them do this?
This is a modified “T.C.,” therapeutic community. In a therapeutic community, ultimately it’s the people in it who run it. In a modified therapeutic community, it’s a little bit different, we still have staff overseeing the women running the program.

Usually, women notice behavior of other women. And if it bothers them, most of the time it’s something within themselves. Maybe it’s a behavior that they find themselves doing sometimes. Or maybe it was a behavior that they used to do that caused damage. Usually there’s some reaction to it. But it’s up to them to use the tool of the therapeutic community, and call these women on their issues. If a resident would see another resident acting out in some way, it’s up to them to bring it to Concern Group, because here, I think they say, “I am my sister’s keeper.” And that’s because those who know the people well are the ones who can see their behaviors.

4. What advice do you have for someone who would like to do the job you do?
Go back to school. It’s never too late. I was doing a job that I really didn’t want to do anymore. And that was painting houses, and hanging off the ladder, and scraping paint, having it in my eyes and my mouth and my nose. And I was no longer physically able to do that work. I went back to school - this was after I got clean, of course - and I got a degree, and I came to work. I worked several jobs before I came to work for Brandywine, but I’m glad I’m here. I’ve known Shay [Lipshitz] for a long time, and when I heard that Brandywine was going to open in Georgetown, I said, “Oh, I want to work for you!”

As a recovering addict, I hope to soon be celebrating 19 years clean on July 27. It takes a lot more than I thought it did, but it’s really rewarding work. I can go home at night and lay my head on the pillow, and fall fast asleep, knowing that I’ve done the best I can do at any given time.

5. If you had $30,000 to donate to BCI, what would you do with it?
Make Lighthouse bigger. Buy the parcel of land over there next door, or maybe that one back there, or that one there, because I think we need to be bigger than ten moms.

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