Addiction Counsellor Steve talks therapy

“Recovering from addiction is not a solo project. You need help and support.” Steve Marshall is one of SCT’s newest Addiction Therapist and he knows what he’s talking about.

In recovery himself and armed with an Masters in Addiction Psychology, our intern, Madalena Caldas interviewed him to find out more about his work. 

Tell me about your background, what motivated you to work in therapy?

I've worked with the homeless for about ten years, doing outreach with the charity St. Mungo’s. I tried to get homeless people off the streets and into hostels. Before that I used to work in a hostel. Due to my own issues around addiction I lost my job and after a few years in the wilderness started to work on my own recovery.

"When people come into recovery their defenses come up. For example denial - saying they are okay when they are not. You have to be aware as a therapist that this is a strategy, and in many cases it’s what’s kept them alive for all this time."

I went to University in my late thirties and did a degree in Psychology which went really well. I then I worked in drug services and began my Master’s degree at Southbank University in Addiction Psychology and Counselling.

What is the most rewarding versus the most challenging part of your job?

The most rewarding part of being a therapist is feeling connection. There’s something about the relationship with the other person or people that feels warm. I really enjoy my work. I like to see people get better - it makes me happy. The biggest challenge is making sure I look after myself.

It’s also very hard when people find it hard to open up. Alcohol and drugs is one way of defending yourself. You’re medicated so you ‘don’t care’ or you don’t acknowledge that you care.

When people come into recovery their defenses come up. For example denial - saying they are okay when they are not. You have to be aware as a therapist that this is a strategy, and in many cases it’s what’s kept them alive for all this time.

What motivated you about SCT in particular?

The focus on addiction was certainly the primary reason, but the work with the homeless sector was also key. It’s an issue that keeps coming back into my life in one way or another - it’s always been a big part of my working life.

"I knew about SCT and they have a very good reputation having set up an abstinence-based project, which is pretty unusual and very inspiring." 

I knew about SCT and they have a very good reputation having set up an abstinence-based project, which is pretty unusual and very inspiring. SCT is a very warm environment – challenging yet kind.

As an addiction therapist, particularly someone who has also dealt personally with the struggles surrounding addiction, what do you feel is important to know about those in recovery in order to effectively help?

It’s not a solo based project - getting yourself out of an addiction. You need help and support.

I think the most difficult thing for people who haven’t experienced recovery is to understand how strong the desire to ‘use’ really is. It’s so hard to understand unless you have been in the situation yourself.

"I think the most difficult thing for people who haven’t experienced recovery is to understand how strong  the desire to ‘use’ really is. It’s so hard  to understand unless you have been in the situation yourself. However it’s good for therapists to bring different help perspectives."

However it’s good for therapists to bring different help perspectives. When you’re working in a community that aims to help people get back into life, you need a lot of different ‘parts’. You need someone who understands them but also someone to ground them and help them make sense of themselves. To help them look at their world outside of their addiction. A balance of those who know and those who empathise is very important.

Finally, do you have any professional goals?

In terms of professional goals, further training is inevitable in this field. One day I would like to have my own private practice, as well as doing my day job. I don’t think I could ever just do private work that. I enjoy having a job and being part of a team as opposed to setting up on my own.

It’s lovely to have you join SCT Steve!

Thanks to Madalena Caldas for the interview.

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