April 27th, 2021
Addictions counseling students value field experience, personal aspirations, and support services at GC
Bennett to graduate in May, Guthrie in August
"I knew an addict. I wanted to go into a field that taught me how to deal better with matters of the heart." (Bennett)
"I have battled my own addiction. I have grown up with addiction all around me and still see people that I love and care about suffer." (Guthrie)
These are the words of addictions counseling students and Grantsville area residents Alyson Bennett and Samantha Guthrie on why they decided to pursue a career in addictions counseling.
Bennett will be graduating with her A.A.S. degree in addictions counseling in May, while Guthrie will begin completing her fieldwork experience this summer and is on track to graduate in August.
"If I can make a difference in just one person’s life or even just listen to them, that can make a difference," stated Guthrie, who battled her own addiction. "I ended up on a path of darkness, letting my addiction swallow me. I hurt people that I loved, but if I wouldn’t have gone through my mass destruction phase from the ages of 16-19, I would not be the person that I am today. I just want to tell people that it is possible."
Guthrie jumped on the opportunity to begin her studies in addictions counseling when Garrett College first began offering the program.
"I had been wanting to get into a profession with addictions counseling for a few years, but colleges did not really have a program specifically dedicated to just that," she said. "Online was not a good fit for me and finally Garrett College opened a program. It was more convenient for me with work and my schedule."
As for Bennett, she wants to help bridge the gap and form connections with the people that need it most.
"There are people that are underserved in our communities and the only way that we are going to help them is to make better connections," remarked Bennett. "This is what counseling is all about."
For Guthrie, sharing her story and learning has been one of the most enjoyable aspects. She’s learned different skills that have helped with her personal development.
"I went to a rehabilitation unit to clean myself up and going through these courses I have learned a lot," she remarked. "Things that you would not expect when it comes to families and brain processing, including how to talk to and have empathy for a person. I learned different skills and ways to incorporate in my own story."
Both individuals agree that Garrett College has worked to their advantage.
"I am graduating from this program not only with the classroom knowledge, but also the hands-on experience," added Bennett, who is familiar with serving every age and how they are affected by addiction. "The classroom setting included independent learning, flexibility, role playing, and other techniques that has served me very well."
Bennett added, "Garrett gave me the experience, offered flexible scheduling, and allowed me to extend my education and degree - all of which have made me more appealing to employers."
Bennett and Guthrie give credit to the supportive environment they experienced among GC’s faculty and staff.
"The instructors are really in it to help you succeed. They are all very prompt to respond, resourceful, and utilize modern educational techniques," Bennett remarked. "My advisor was always checking in on me throughout the semester. I really wish all levels of education were like this!"
"Nicole Andrews (GC’s director of social and behavioral sciences) has taught me so much and helped me dig deeper into myself," Guthrie added. "I think out of all my classes the skills and knowledge I have picked up from her alone will help me not only in the profession, but myself as well."
With working full-time, Bennett and Guthrie agree the convenience of classes and flexibility were necessary as they worked towards their degree.
"Due to the variety of classes being offered in the classroom and online, I was able to do what best suited the needs of my family and myself, including balancing my job as a registered nurse," noted Bennett. "I was able to log into class while my car was being worked on and do assignments while we were at ballet class. I was able to take the classes I needed wherever I went!"
As for Guthrie, GC made it possible for her to balance work, family and personal life while working towards her degree.
"The convenience of evening classes was wonderful," said Guthrie, who has two children and works full-time as a property manager with Property Management Services. "When I did have to miss work it was nice that I only had one class or only had to miss an hour of work. This was easy for someone that is trying to take care of their family and work full time to try and finally reach their degree goals."
In addition to the theoretical coursework and practical, hands-on instruction students receive in GC’s addictions counseling program, students that follow the recommended sequence can also attain Alcohol Drug Trainee (ADT) status in the State of Maryland prior to graduation. Successful graduates of the program are eligible for certification as a Certified Supervised Counselor- Alcohol and Drug in the State of Maryland.
"Addiction does not discriminate," stated Andrews. "If you don’t personally know someone with an addiction, you likely know someone that has been affected by addiction in one way or another. The addictions counseling program at Garrett College helps students gain an enhanced understanding of the field."
She continued, "Successful graduates are also prepared for transfer to a four-year institution for further study in psychology, counseling, social work, or related human services programs."
The fieldwork component offers students the opportunity to gain real-world experience in the addictions counseling field first-hand.
Bennett completed 250 clinical hours at Mountaineer Mental Health, LLC in Romney, W.Va., a setting that was well-rounded with group, individual, family, home, office, and school sessions.
"It was absolutely amazing. I gained experience in working with clients of every age affected by addiction," stated Bennett. "I had a devoted supervisor, Jacque O’Neil, who was open to any questions I had and was always there, offering a supporting hand, or a gentle kick, to give me the tools and experience I needed. All of the counselors there were very knowledgeable and kind."
Guthrie is looking forward to starting her field experience work this summer at the Joseph S. Massie Unit in Cumberland. Prior to this summer, she also completed some of her fieldwork hours at Garrett County Lighthouse, Inc. in Oakland.
"I did see some individuals come in and out of the crisis home (Garrett County Lighthouse, Inc.) suffering from mostly mental and some addictions," Guthrie said. "I know the learning experience I will gain from this summer will definitely help me in finding a job after I graduate."
"Samantha exhibits a true passion for giving back to others," remarked Andrews. "She wants others to know that recovery is possible."
As for her next step, Bennett plans to continue following her passion to see where it might lead her.
"I never expected to end up here. I’m not sure where I am going next, but I am following my passion," she said. "I have developed a few favorite areas like working with both children and corrections, but I have learned the things I am passionate about are not random – they are my calling."
"Alyson strives to help others find their light again," said Andrews. "Her fieldwork experience provided her invaluable insight into both the field and the role of an addiction’s counselor."
Bennett continued, "This field will break your heart. It is filled with trauma, emotions, tough conversations, and truth. It will keep you up at night and make you hold your kids a little tighter at bedtime. It is worth every single minute and if you don’t make a difference in someone else’s life, you definitely will make a difference in your own."
Guthrie aspires to do her part in making a difference.
"We need to start making a difference in individuals, and I want to help," Guthrie said. "I am hoping to work at Joseph S. Massie Unit, along with checking into starting recovery homes for women and men to increase the number of options for the individuals in our county and surrounding area."
To learn more about Garrett College’s addictions counseling program, visit https://www.garrettcollege.edu/addictions-counseling.php or contact Nicole Andrews at 301-387-3108 or email@example.com.