by Erin Oden, ASW, Clinical Director
I recognize that many people early in their career path think about going into the field of addiction. Case management is a popular choice for many, as it is empowering to the individual to see how s/he helps clients who are suffering to change. Last week I had the pleasure of sitting down with ARS’s own amazing professional case managers, Teeka White, and Kirstin Cautillo, with the goal of getting an inside look at the job. As expected, Kirstin and Teeka were extremely gracious in their responses to my inquiries about their lives and career paths: Check it out!
“How did you come to decide that you wanted to work in treatment and be a case manager?”
Teeka: I wanted to help other addicts since I could understand their battle. I was a drug addict for almost 20 years. I watched others living the kind of lives I wanted so I made the decision to turn my life into something I could be proud of. On August 24, 2005, I decided to surrender to a power greater than myself and it was that ultimate surrender that has gotten me through 13 years of continuous clean time. [Through working in treatment] I want to share my hope with others, to show them that sobriety is something that can and does happen.
Kirstin: I have wanted to help people that struggle with substance abuse since I was young. I noticed that after I graduated college I was not working in a field that served me with purpose. That desire to help people who struggle, drove me to become a case manager.
“What level of education did you complete? What was that experience like?”
Teeka: I went to a private college for my certification course. It was a fast track, however, it was one of the best experiences of my life. I learned about the disease of addiction from a textbook standpoint, to add to my own personal experience. It did help me to understand so much of what I had gone through but didn’t understand the causes.
Kirstin: I completed my B.A in Psychology and needed my RADT-l and continued education to be certified and receive my CADAC (Certified Alcohol and Drug Addiction Counselor). The experience of becoming educated and receiving these degrees/ certifications was rewarding, yet difficult at times. It took a lot of patience, determination and drive to do what I wanted for a living.
“What is your favorite part about being a case manager at a treatment center?”
Kirstin: My favorite part of the job is watching clients grow through the process of treatment, to hear how they are doing once they leave treatment and to see the change from hopelessness to hopefulness throughout the recovery process.
Teeka: Watching the transformation happen for a client, when that preverbal light comes on for them, that’s when the real work takes place inside that client.
“On the flip side, because it cannot be all roses, what is your least favorite part?”
Teeka: That there are those that I am not able to help and their disease takes them back out that dark, desolate, hopeless place with the possibility of them dying in the process.
Kirstin: Seeing clients struggle with the fear that they are destined to die using drugs. It’s hard to really determine my least favorite part of the job, because knowing that some imprint is made for each client, is why I chose to be in this line of work in the first place.
“Do you have any advice for someone who is thinking of going into this field?”
Kirstin: I would say to understand that we cannot change anyone or make him or her sober is important; all we can do is help them through the process. Don’t take anything personally or internalize how a client reacts. Understand that clients are fragile when they first step into treatment and to help empathetically.
Teeka: To make sure that you are taking care of yourself in all areas. If you are in the program, continue to do the things you did when you first got clean/sober: self-care, don’t be afraid to ask for help and understand the difference between empathy and sympathy.
And with that, I hope you all got a good look into what it takes to be a case manager in the addiction field. I think Kirstin topped off the interview in a positive light with her final comment:
“I love being a Case Manager and seeing the light come on in clients through the treatment process. I find it to be a very rewarding job, I am happy to get up in the morning and come to work.”
by Erin Oden, ASW, Clinical Director