After living the grueling and studious life of a student at Harold Washington College, StreetWise vendor Roosevelt Harris has at last earned an associate’s degree in addictive studies. He recently completed a 28-day internship with Lutheran Social Services as an addiction counselor.
How were you able to help your clients that you met in your internship?
It was an experience for me and the client. I think I was able to help them mostly from self-disclosure. It was about allowing them to see that there was a time that I was even worse than them, and that I turned my life around. What I was trying to do was try to help them to see that what they needed was in “me.” Because a lot of clients believe that they go to a counselor or therapist and the therapist is almost like a health doctor. As if they would give them some sort of medicine to get well. But really you try to show them that you are really concerned and what they need is inside them already. You try to help them see that and inspire them to change.
The first person you were able to help, how did that feel for you?
You must have an attitude that makes a client automatically want to talk. If you could be comfortable with the client and have them be comfortable with you, it’s like the satisfaction of getting an “A” in a course that seemed impossible. You have to make sure you don’t get a big head, because I didn’t feel like it was really me healing these people, but I was able to get them to open up.
Do you have any steps for further education?
I would love to get a bachelor’s there. But, when you look at the job you want, a master’s degree is almost always necessary, especially when you have no experience. I just want to get some experience and go to school at the same time. That would be the main thing though, getting a job. Given my age. That is a fact. I think I did hear in certain areas that people are hiring older people, because they are more likely to stick with it.
What would you say to encourage someone to do what you did, to not let go of their dreams, and really pull themselves up?
I would ask “do they want to change?” Not only that, but “what do they want to change?” I’d tell them to talk to someone. It’s good to have progress reports and to see where they are at and where they have to go. It was obstacles that have prevented me from getting where I want to go. How well I go about changing my situation is how I get where I want to go. I have always been self-sufficient. But I’m coming to the conclusion that ‘no man is an island.’ Look to others to discuss your goals and aspirations. Because others can see what you can’t see and see the goals that you should set.
By Torey Darin & Brittany Langmeyer
StreetWise Editorial Intern & StreetWise Staff