An Educational Consultant’s Job

Myrna Harris’ career as an educational consultant takes her all over the United States. She helps support families as they embark on the daunting search for the appropriate solution for a child struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.

Whether a young man or woman is in need of an intervention specialist, a primary detox facility or a long-term recovery community, Myrna‘s expertise and understanding of adolescent substance abuse is a comfort to parents. Myrna explains what she does, how she does it and her impressions of New Life House.

As an educational and therapeutic placement consultant, I spend 20-30% of my time on the road traveling throughout the country visiting wilderness programs, therapeutic boarding schools, primary treatment programs, sober living homes, diagnostic and assessment centers and clinicians who provide wrap around services throughout the country. I consider myself someone who knows the resources out there, and when I return to my offices in NY, my job is to get to thoroughly understand my client’s needs from multiple perspectives.

Unless I have a client in imminent crisis (which does happen) I prefer to be proactive rather than reactive. Many of my clients come with “history” and with a paper trail. I take the time to read the history even before I meet with the client and his/her parents. Then I will meet with the client when possible and if they are engaged and willing. If not, the meeting takes place with parents. The goal is to fully understand the needs of the client physically, clinically, cognitively and socially and to assess how much insight and willingness they have into their own need for help. If I can establish rapport with the client, I will also ask permission to speak with a therapist or other trusted treatment team members who may have insights into his/her needs. Within a week, I will have put together several treatment options for my client and parents to consider based on the needs assessment done. And then the case management of the client and family begins.

When I visit programs, there are many criteria that I am assessing; safety, physical appearance, professional credentials and professionalism of staff, programming, clarity of mission and vision and how well it can be articulated, and I can go on and on… Perhaps the one thing that melds a solid program together is the culture and the values that it holds dear. I see this in the best of programs. There is little negativity or underground; there is gratitude; there is camaraderie and the emotional safety to be vulnerable.

I felt all this and more on my first visit to homes at New Life House. The young men felt totally present and grateful. There was fellowship they felt as a brotherhood of men who were willing to be vulnerable, supportive and strong when necessary.   Ironically, after several months into their program, they all became rather, clean-cut, with short hair and collared shirts! (No dress code required!) Aside from the houses being impeccable and warm, the men took great pride in calling it their “home.” There were gathering spaces large enough for entire house meetings of 14 men and kitchens spacious enough for them to all break bread together.

When we “circled up” for an introduction, the home with the 20-23 year olds (at New Life, the homes are age-specific) were eager to share their stories of how they arrived and how they and their families have evolved due to their work at New Life House.

Most of the men we met had spent years in therapy and not gotten to the core of their addiction. Chase Thayer, an alumni at New Life explained that if a client feels they need or want therapy, New Life, will make that happen on an out patient basis. However, most of the men we spoke to were not ready to approach their clinical issues until they had gotten a solid year of sobriety work under their belt. And they participate in multiple meetings throughout the programming day while at New Life. New Life is not for a man with serious mental health issues but can help a young adult who struggles with the anxiety and depression resulting from years of isolation and shame due to his drug and/or alcohol addiction.

I was most impressed that the leaders at New Life have built a recovery community that lives its vision – they support men in believing that they can create a NEW LIFE.

Myrna K Harris, M.Ed., CAS

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