Counselors tackle substance abuse

By Jessica Evans

Students Against Substance Abuse (S.A.S.A) is a club through a chemical dependency program that deals with addiction and mental health.

At the S.A.S.A. club meeting on Nov. 25, Professor Kevin Stepanyan spoke about his journey of being a student at ELAC to working on his PhD.

“It was difficult but rewarding when I was offered the chance to work as a substance abuse counselor after earning a master’s degree,” Stepanyan said.

People often relapse because they go through depression or go through domestic violence issues, but a counselor’s job is to know how to handle or work through the situation.

Stepanyan’s style as a counselor is to be in control until the client starts to realize or understand they might get some control back.

Stepanyan stresses the importance of listening and paying attention. Clients disclose too much information that might hurt the counselor.

Counselors have an emotional reaction to their clients because the client doesn’t ask questions or disclose enough information.

“It is always important to be honest, be professional, and for counselors don’t pretend that you know something if you don’t,” Stepanyan said.

As an example, he said giving the right to a client would be wrong because it goes against ethics. A counselor’s responsibility is that he/she is liable for the client.

“Pay attention to your mistakes,” he said.

Stepanyan believes counselors who are just entering the field are going to make mistakes.  Counselors don’t want clients to look at them as a friend or as if a client is on the same level.

Stepanyan gave his opinion on being protective against clients.

“I don’t let anyone know this is my office. When clients walk in I don’t have any degrees hanging up. There are no pictures of my kids or me on my desk for my personal transparence,” he said.

Stepanyan does this in order to keep his clients focused on their reasons for their visit.

If the problem persists, Stepanyan believes counselors should take another approach such as validating the client’s emotions.

For example, telling a client why they don’t take a little bit of time and talk about how this can benefit them.

This way the counselor doesn’t say no, and they wouldn’t be saying yes, while speaking to the client in a mellow tone.  The counselor stays calm, and in a sense, sensitive.

The club is working on a proposal to start an eating disorder program. S.A.S.A goes out to the community and schools to inform youth and teens about the dangers of substance abuse and ways of preventing it before it happens.

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