I had never done much professionally or unprofessionally in the field of education or mental health before. I was never educated in the usual classes; however, I have done my share of field research on both a personal and interpersonal level.
I have attended my share of learning seminars and taken a fair amount of courses. I have a few certificates and a strong resume; yet still, I have been subject to the snobbery of those with different experience or higher ranks of education.
Above all else, I think there is a forgotten measure when it comes to humanity and mental health. I was speaking on a panel and listening to other clinicians talk about their practice and what they encourage with their patients.
I thought to myself as they spoke. I listened to them tell about their methods of practice and I wondered about them.
I wondered if it were me. in their chair.
Would I speak to them?
There was an initiative a few years back, which I was part of. One of the directors asked me how I felt about the project.
I was asked if it were me, would I have opened up.
The director was surprised by my answer because my answer was, “No.”
The one thing I know for certain is no one is ever going to relinquish their control or give away the secrets unless they want to or this comes with a benefit.
I have been asked to sit in meetings. I have been part of interventions, in which the measures looked desperate, and yet still, the client resisted.
I heard a parent accuse me, “I thought you were supposed to be good at this!”
No matter how good anyone is, no one is going to change someone that does not want to be changed. There is no way to take someone away from themselves unless they want to be taken.
There were times when I sat in front of someone as a coach or specialist; I saw them sick as ever, eyes like a vanished soul because all their charisma had been muted by a destructive pathway. The attitude against me was stronger than my willingness to help.
The resistance was always the same.
“What do you know?”
“You don’t understand!”
“You don’t know what it’s like!”
I had to learn how to navigate through conversations like this without dispute or argument. This is why I never talk about the “Problem” or talk about accusatory ideas.
My first interview with a client went very well. In full disclosure, I have to acknowledge that the client was in a processing room after an arrest with a large amount of heroin, pills, and an angry probation officer that was undoubtedly look to press him through the grinder.
He was a young man, perhaps north of 25. He had a girlfriend, which he lived with and abused—but only when he was on crystal meth—and I say this because the point was stressed several times by both him and his girlfriend (as if the fact made this acceptable.)
The client was no stranger to jail. He was not a very big man. He was not fit but scrawny and he was certainly hopeful that he could beat the option of a jail in exchange for going to a drug treatment program.
He was a dealer, a punk, a wise ass for sure, and completely resistant to everything I had to offer.
To be honest, I had to put my biases to the side. In fairness, I did not like the client nor did I like what he was doing.
I did not like the beady look in his eyes, which were almost rat-like, and I didn’t like his posture either. I didn’t like the way he’d try to con me, to which I addressed appropriately.
This was not a con. This was an “Either/or” conversation.
I had no influence with the prosecutors or judges. I was not looking to help someone “Get over” on the system and I was certainly not looking to have someone take advantage of me or my position.
The client began to tell me what he intended to tell the judge. He told me what he was willing to agree to.
He said this as if he had a choice. Then he asked about my part in this. He thought I only get paid if he agreed to treatment.
I told him, “Look, you got the wrong guy. I can help you get in treatment but I can’t dress you up or make you look pretty for a judge.”
I was very clear, “Anyone that tells you something else is selling something. Me, I’m telling you this much. Judges don’t like when people try to get over on them but they do like when people get help and are proactive instead of reactive.”
I told him, “I’m not here for the money,” which was true because the pay was hardly anything.
I told him, “I’m not here for the food and friends either.”
“So then what are you here for?”
“I’m here because someone was there to help me when no one else would. So, I’m going to pay what I owe and try to help someone else.”
“You ever been arrested before?”
I answered, “Yes.”
“How many times?”
“Quite a few.”
“You ever do time?”
“Not in prison.”
I told him, “I chose to go out to The Farm.”
Going to ‘The Farm’ is a common way of saying treatment but in my case, my placement was in fact, a long-term facility on an actual farm.
We talked about this for a while. I had the client laughing when I told about my first time in a barn. I fell, face first, in a pile of pig shit.
Safe to say, I was not happy
He laughed but promised me, “I’m not going to anyplace like that!”
Then he laughed and told me, “You should have just taken the jail time. It might have been easier.”
I answered, “True, and I might have been dead.”
We talked about what this meant to me. Without going deep into self-disclosure which is a fine line to walk along; I explained the ideas I had and the thoughts I lived with. What I shared was relative to him. I also allowed him the dignity of being an actual person and not a junkie or a convict.
I talked about the life I always wanted, which was far different from the life I had at the time.
I told him about my losses and then I told him, “I was tired of losing all the time.”
I allowed us to share a sense of humanity, which was true and undeniable.
I don’t know where the emotion came from or how it started. I saw it coming though; and then I leaned in and asked more about him.
He wept . . .
There is an idea that tough guys don’t cry. I agree with this idea in certain atmospheres, like, say, jail for example. Jail is not a soft cushy place where one is free to be themselves and encouraged to be open.
Tough guys do not cry in a fight. They don’t wince when they feel pain or loss; they just move, almost unmercifully, and they keep going because pain is fuel and fuel is fury. This is might. This is a tough guy.
There is an idea that tough guys act a certain way. Then again, those ideas are all based on fear.
The true tough guy is not afraid and does not need to hide emotions. A tough guy does not have to act or worry about how to protect himself. This is what people do when they’re scared. Tough guys don’t get scared. Tough guys live with fear and face the challenge anyway. They call this bravery.
It is true; a tough guy endures. A tough guy can take pain but also, a tough guy doesn’t have to hide facts or lie because a tough guy is not afraid to tell the truth.
In the long run, physical ability (or toughness) loses to mental and emotional duress. The weight of the world only grows heavy and heavier. Trust me on this.
Eventually, the body breaks. People lose to themselves more often than they lose to outside forces.
In this interview, the young man lost to himself on countless occasions. For him, the choice came down to a few questions:
How much more do you have to lose?
Does Child Protection Services have to take away your child?
Do you have to lose your freedom for another term in jail?
Do you have to be one of the statistics and push a needle in your arm and die?
After the client agreed to the option; I had to remove myself from the interview to allow the clinician to do an intake.
The client agreed to terms but assumed I was the counselor.
The client asked, “Why does he have to leave?”
“Because I have to do your intake,” explained the counselor, and then added, “Plus, he is not a counselor.”
“I’m the counselor!”
This was stated in a show of validation for both the client and myself to hear.
The client argued, “Yeah well, I’d talk to him before I’d talk to you!”
In fairness, the outcome was not good for the client. In the long run, he went back to his old life and had more troubles with Child Protective Services and the courts.
The thing is none of this was on me. The thing that I dislike most about the business is the location of blame.
The failure to adhere to a new life and the failure to launch has nothing to do with the specialist or the clinician or the treatment center.
“When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”
This is a true story.
All one can do is offer options and remove excuses.
I was on a panel and asked, “What can we do to coerce someone to stop what they’re doing?”
My answer: I don’t believe we can coerce anyone to stop or do something they are unwilling to do.
We live in a “Me first” society. We are, “What’s in it for me,” kind of people.
Unless people see a better prize and believe they can own it for longer than a minute, no matter who they sit in front of, nothing is going to change their mind.
The hardest thing to change is someone’s beliefs.
In the case of addiction or abuse disorder; help someone change their beliefs and empower them to a better understanding of self-worth and I promise you will see an entirely new person.
Also, try a little humanity
Quit the highbrow snobbery
It just might help