A rewarding path: My lived experience led me to help others
Our counsellor Kurt explains why he became an alcohol and other drug counsellor.
At Counselling Online, we know it can be intimidating to approach a total stranger about what’s going on in your life. Meet one of our alcohol and other drug counsellors — Kurt — and learn more about why he become a counsellor.
Alcohol and other drug counsellors are all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds. Some of our counsellors are just starting out, while others have been working with people with problematic substance use for decades. Some have personal experience with the struggle, or have been through it with family or friends. Some have just been touched by the journeys they see in the world around them. The one thing they all have in common is: they’re here to help.
What set you on the path to becoming an alcohol and other drug counsellor?
My lived experience with substances as a coping mechanism
From a younger age my family moved around a lot, so I went to a lot of different schools. Changing schools and trying to make friends affected the way I connected to people. I found it hard to feel a sense of belonging and find social groups.
To cope with the challenges of connection and belonging I had my own ‘lived experience’ including substance use. At the time it felt like it worked but over time it took its toll. The consequence of my experience with substance use was hugely significant not just on my social health but also my mental health. I experienced significant psychiatric illness and trauma which required acute and ongoing treatment.
Fortunately, I found the right support from a psychiatrist with whom I could develop a therapeutic relationship. We grew my self-esteem, validated my experiences and helped me trust myself more. This was the beginning of my recovery journey.
Along the way I’ve met many wonderful people, some of whom have had their own misadventures with substance use. I noticed that there is more to a person’s story than the way they look and the stigma society has attached to them, such as the courage and determination shown by continually seeking recovery despite barriers and lapses.
Using my experience to help others
A key part of my recovery involved mindfulness meditation, which developed coping skills that drugs could never provide. I realised that I wanted to do something meaningful with my life that involved supporting people to trust themselves more and feel more emotionally free.
A career in counselling appeared to be a way for me to both help people connect with their own wisdom and to also help myself by aligning with a culture that intentionally questions stigmatising assumptions and aims to be non-judgmental, empathetic and confident in people’s capacity to learn from their experiences.
While studying counselling I learned about Motivational Interviewing, a method of communication used in the AOD sector to facilitate behaviour change towards recovery. Motivational Interviewing involves focusing on a person’s own goals, motivations and reasoning. Supporting people to live with more emotional freedom and sanity in their lives has been both a worthy outcome of my journey as well as a rewarding path going forward.