Friday, January 9, 2009

5 Questions for Kiesha Wright, Intake 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: Kiesha Wright
Job: Intake Counselor, Lancaster Center
Time with BCI: 1 year

1. How is the economic downturn affecting your clientele and how you do your job?
I’m an intake counselor, which means that I see people when they come straight from the streets. A lot of our clients that are coming in right now are very, very needy. When I say needy, I mean housing, food, clothes. Because the economy is so bad, a lot of [counseling] time is being taken up with things that people need immediately. So that definitely puts a strain on what I do. Because we’re therapeutic. A lot of that therapeutic aspect is being taken out. If we can help them with food, and things like that, we’re supposed to. But it’s not supposed to be our primary job. My whole session shouldn’t be on helping the client get food, housing, and clothes.

And that’s why we have case managers now. What we do now is try to coordinate with their case manager, who does handle Medicaid, food, housing, clothes, and other necessary resources, so that we can do the therapeutic aspect of counseling.

2. As an intake counselor, you see clients on a temporary basis until they’re stabilized, but you don’t follow them through treatment. What’s the appeal and the challenge of working in intake?
It depends on how much you want to be involved with the client, and how far you want to follow them. Intake works for me, because I don’t only get to see the end result. When they move up [to a permanent counselor] they’re supposed to be stabilized, [and if I’m the new counselor] I don’t see anything that they went through to get there. I’m the type of person that wants to see the client through all of those steps. Once they are stabilized, I want to pass them on to somebody who’s maybe a little bit more experienced, somebody who will follow them the rest of the way. Not everybody gets stable before they go upstairs, but in an ideal situation, I would take them through all the beginning stages, get them 30 days clean, and then they would go upstairs to Core.

My biggest challenge in doing my job is not to take it personal, not to take it home with me. If I’m working with someone and they get 30 days clean, and they relapse, I can’t take that as if they relapsed because of me. I have to also be understanding. They’re going through different stressors than I am. And, not to take it home with me.

3. Many of our staff express their personality in how they decorate their office – tell us what you have in your office.
I have a big poster of a waterfall, and the water’s green and the sky’s blue, and this is what I use to escape when I’m having a very, very stressful day. I also have a lot of sayings. “Life is about making mistakes and learning from them.” “Make an effort, not an excuse.” And, “You can’t change your past. You can change your future.” I have other little thoughts for the day. I have a little plant that one of the girls gave me that left, that I’m trying to keep alive.

When I got here, I got the office painted. I wanted it to be really bright, because I wanted people to walk in my office and just, like, cheer up! Even if they were sad! Unfortunately, I was told that I couldn’t make it as bright as I wanted to. (Laughs) So I settled for orange. So, when people walk in my office, I want them to be, first of all, surprised by the color – like, “Oh, that’s a bright color,” and open up their eyes. And I just want them to feel comfortable. I try not to have anything that’s intimidating to people, or anything that’s going to offend anyone. I also have the regular things, too, some NA schedules, some diagnosis charts. I have some of Habib’s decorations, so he has a little touch in my office too.

4. What’s been your most rewarding moment at BCI?
When somebody reaches 90 days clean time [and earns take home medication], and the reaction that they give you. And you’ve seen that person struggle, you’ve seen that person from intake - which is why I like intake - you’ve seen that person come in and say, “I’m not gonna make it, but, this is what I have to do, to maybe stay off the streets.” And they actually get to 90 days, and you see the reaction that they give you. That’s a big reward. I actually have two clients that just reached their 90 days.

I have a client who transferred to us from Kirkwood Detox. She came in and she was like, “You know what, Kiesha, I’m gonna stay with my mom. She’s gonna kick me out, I’m still using, the hardest part for me is to get to 90 days. I can’t get to 90 days, I won’t make it to 90 days, but I’m gonna try.” Her son’s father took custody of the child, so she was upset about that. She wasn’t employed, she had psych issues, and she was just all over the place. Well, I just recently saw her for our third or fourth session, and she now has four months clean. She’s going to court for a custody hearing. She’s very hopeful that she’s going to get custody back of her son. I’ve even met her son. She got a job, so therefore, she’s paying for her own medication. Things are going better between her and her mom, because her mom’s not financially supporting her.

So that actually made me feel happy. She came in recently, and she was like, “I just want to thank you for sticking it out with me, ‘cause you could’ve just gave up on me. And that’s what I thought you counselors did, you just pushed people through.” So, that made me feel good. It made my heart smile a little bit.

5. If you had $30,000 to donate to BCI what would you do with it?
I would update the computers, because we’re going paperless now, and I had a couple clients where I couldn’t do their intake, or couldn’t complete it. I keep getting the error message, “No Token.” So I would update the computers, definitely, because that’s a big, big, big part of it. And… oh yeah! I would put it into having our own food closet for people that are not in NSAFE or Safety Net, so it’s not like we’ve got to send clients out to get food. We’d have the food here. Of course, I guess, we’d have to build another room for it. So I’d build the room! (Laughs) And have the food in there, and also a clothes closet. So the computers, a food closet, and a clothes closet within BCI! That way it makes it easier for everybody. That’s what I would do.

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