Treatment can be a difficult time. Everything is new, emotions are returning, and clients are often unsure if staying sober is the right thing to do. It’s “one day at a time,” but in early sobriety, that can mean struggling with a tough decision every single day. On a rough day, it’s one moment at a time. We know that our clients’ addictions are filling their heads with treacherous thoughts and memories. And we know that fear and uncertainty are powerful motivators. So we do our best to offer support from every angle. We try to stand in between our clients and their urges to use. We know that it’s hard. Many of us have been there ourselves. This is why we are incredibly proud of our client advocacy team for all of the hard work that they do. Nobody knows what it’s like to be “in the trenches” better than Jimmy Weiss, Client Advocacy Services Manager, and his devoted team of client advocates, Missy Jace-Reasor and Danielle Theriot. Together these three add a layer of support that goes beyond therapy. Client advocacy gets to the core of what it means to be human – it reminds us that nobody has to do life alone.
The Client Advocate position began as a concept. Ten years ago, Mike Neatherton, Northbound’s CEO, and Jimmy were working together at The Betty Ford Center. Mike wanted to create a position for Jimmy that revolved around his unique skill set, an ability to connect with clients on a deep level and an innate ability to motivate them to stay the course. Jimmy was the original client advocate, but he has added many layers to the position since then. Client advocacy has been a part of Northbound’s culture for years, but we were excited to bring Jimmy on board in 2015 to lead the team. We knew that infusing his enthusiasm into our program would take our client advocacy efforts to the next level.
So how does Client Advocacy work? We make sure that a client is introduced to at least one advocate during their first days with us. At times, it’s Jimmy, Missy, or Danielle who picks up the client and brings him or her to Northbound. Jimmy also runs a group in detox, while Missy meets each and every client while they are there. From admission through detox, and into treatment, they become a symbol of trust and authenticity. Jimmy and his team have a wonderful ability to reach clients on any level. The relationship between client and advocate is casual and authentic, and it builds over time. Patience and listening are just as important as humor and theatrics. They show clients by example that there is fun to be found in sobriety. When one of these three walks onto a room, their bright presence is difficult to ignore. These three larger than life personalities have the ability to light up a somber room, but they can just as easily ground a chaotic environment. It’s a rare person who can master both sides of the scale, but this is what makes them great at what they do. It gives them the ability to walk with clients through any fears, challenges, and obstacles that stand in the way of the treatment process when things get tough. If a client threatens to leave, and in moments of crisis, an advocate can step in and rely on a solid relationship that has been nurtured since day one. It takes a special individual to create a unique bond with each client – we know how lucky we are to have these three as a part of the Northbound family.
Client Advocacy is 24/7 crisis intervention and ACA aversion, but also consists of working on treatment extensions, admissions, business development, and after care support. Our client advocates are intricately weaved throughout our program so that they can remain accessible to any client in need of their care. Being a good client advocate often means being a jack-of-all-trades. By staying ever-present, they are able to help clients reach the safest, most responsible decisions they can make in a moment of confusion, anger, depression, or craving. And after a crisis, they follow up. The advocates are reliable; they show those fearful of trusting others that there is more to life than solidarity. Our client advocates are the epitome of “support.” They are not clinicians. They are not parents. They are not sponsors. Jimmy and his team are tasked with spending as much time as needed to set someone free from the shackles of their disease. In moments of crisis, a struggling client may not respond to an authority figure. But a client advocate who has shown up for them time and time again? They may have an easier time guiding a lost addict back to the safe path of recovery.
Jimmy himself is a force of nature, a character with a magnetism that is tough to forget. His dedication to help others is evident in all that he does, and his heart is right there on his sleeve. Leading the client advocacy department is a tall order. It takes resilience, patience, and a thick skin. But according to Jimmy, it’s worth it. He says, “The greatest gift that comes from working this position is watching clients break free from compulsive slavery, that insane obsession, the rigid self-will and entitlement, to walk through their treatment process and emerge on the other side lit up in the spirit of recovery.” And his team couldn’t agree more. When asked about Jimmy, Missy was happy to say, “He taught me how to meet the client at their point of resistance and journey with them to the other side into recovery. The power that comes through his interventions really can’t be put into words, other than ‘he does what he does.” His leadership skills are immeasurable according to Danielle, “Jimmy’s positive outlook keeps me motivated, and his support allows me to be vulnerable without fear.” He is simply one-of-a-kind.
The client advocates see addiction at its worst; and at times, it’s heartbreaking. Client advocacy is a challenging position that requires an understanding that there are no bad people here; it’s the disease at work. A struggling addict isn’t a bad person, he or she is just impaired by addiction. It takes a special person to stay present in a crisis, see through the chaos, and maintain a connection with the humanity within an addict who is on the brink of relapse. Jimmy, Missy, and Danielle repeatedly show empathy, tolerance, and a true desire to help addicts and alcoholics. Their hearts are in the right place, and it shows. It’s unconditional love. It’s unfamiliar to many in early recovery. And sometimes, it’s that extra dose of love and support that just may save a life.
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