Drug Addiction Counseling Community Outreach, Essay Example
For purposes of this paper I will call him Jim, though this is not his real name. Jim is a teenager whom I met and was able to sit in on his counseling session. Again I will not use real names, but we will call his counselor Mr. Smith. During their one hour conversation, I learned many interesting facts about Jim’s life, and some of the choices he has made.
Although the purpose of this paper is to share my community outreach activity experience and apply to theories I have learned in class, I will also share more about this person who I had an opportunity to learn about. as well as two other teenagers that had sessions that day. Through these individuals I obtained good insights into specific examples of addiction, peer pressure, and experience in the juvenile justice system.
What was observed during the experience?
On Sunday, June 24, I met up with Jim and Mr. Smith after Jim had attended church. From the moment I saw them together, I could tell they knew each other very well, and Mr. Smith had told me earlier in a phone conversation that he had been counseling Jim for about half of a year. Mr. Smith met with two other kids that day, whom I will call Alice and Damon. Jim is the one who stood out to me the most, only because he seemed most at ease with talking in front of me.
In summary, Jim had become involved with a bad crowd, and was arrested for drug use. He discussed his experience in the juvenile justice system, which led to his release under a rehabilitation program. What impacted me the most is that at the time he was arrested, he was only 12. Now he is 17, and he moved to this area in part to get away from his old crowd. He now lives with his Aunt and two cousins, and he comes for counseling voluntarily as it is no longer mandated. He claims he is completely off drugs and no longer desires to use them now that he is away from his old friends. What he described in his session is a good example of the theory of differential association, as he described a city environment where he looked up to older peers that introduced him to drugs. As one article describes, peer influence can impact adolescent judgment and they become susceptible to coercion. Desire for peer approval can affect a child deeply in direct and indirect ways (Scott and Steinberg, 2008). We also know from differential theory that it is best learned and adopted through close personal interaction, and it can be a powerful influencer among adolescents.
I also had an opportunity to observe conflict theory when Jim described his old friends. He described many of the older individuals who were the de-facto leaders of his group as always angry. Many had unhappy home lives, and the two oldest could not find jobs. They talked about others being greedy, and how everything was set up so they could never have anything. There were clear examples of class associations described within this conversation, which are derived from inequalities of different social groups. Such examples are indicative of conflict theory.
The three counseling sessions were very different, and the people had little else in common with each other besides having experienced problems with drugs. Damon was the least interactive, and he was only there because someone was making him go. I know that because he was very quick to point it out in the first five minutes of the conversation. Mr. Smith told me that Damon was still relatively new to his counseling, and sometimes it takes time.
Alice did not have to be there, but she used to get more formal counseling from Mr. Smith and he told me she still comes by on Sundays on occasion. This was a much more casual interaction, and I ended up helping her with some homework she was doing. Apparently she is home schooled and I believe she may have been there for social interaction as much as anything, and of course to get help with her homework.
How did the experience affect you?
I felt for Jim and the story he shared. He was soft spoken and more emotional when he described his mother, whom he clearly misses as I gather he does not have many opportunities to see her now. It must have been difficult on her to allow Jim to move away and live with his Aunt and cousins. When I learned about people who have had his experiences, it makes me feel very fortunate, and lucky, to be able to live the life I am living.
Another observation I made was when he was describing his time of detention after being caught with drugs. It was years ago, but he still expresses anger at how he was treated. He claimed everyone made assumptions about him based on his appearance, his background, and the fact that his family was poor. Such a conversation reminded me of labeling theory, where majorities tend to view others negatively based on the fact that they are different. I am sympathetic to anyone who feels like they are being labeled before others even get a chance to know them.
My experience with Damon did not provide much in the way of content that I could apply to theories, but it did show me a good example of how a counseling project begins. Damon is being counseled because it is still an active part of his rehabilitative program, and there is clear resistance, reluctance and anger. He does not yet believe the counseling will help him, and it is up to Mr. Smith and those within his life to convince him to allow it to succeed.
Alice was an uplifting experience. She has a learning disability, and in some ways she is more challenged than either Damon or Jim to lead a normal life. Like Jim, I gather she chose to be with the wrong crowd in the past when she did attend school. That being said, she is an outgoing, very happy person that enjoys to laugh, and to socialize. I am glad I had an opportunity to meet her.
What are the needs of the population that you interacted with for this assignment?
I did not get the opportunity to learn the specifics on Alice’s past experience with drugs, but both Damon and Jim have had experience in the juvenile justice system, and it seems that in Jim’s case there is room for improvement in that system, particularly with communication between parents and those that are detained. What Jim described was a pretty negative experience, although they are both fortunate that they were not treated as adults because of their age. As imperfect as it may be, juvenile courts are more informal than those for adults. Police, prosecutors, and judges all have more freedom and flexibility in their decisions. This is because the focus is on rehabilitation, and not punishment (Shestokas, 2009). This system needs to work for those who enter it, and it needs to be effective in providing for the needs of these adolescents whom need rehabilitation, not punishment.
What the people I met need more than anything is to stay off drugs, and the counseling sessions provided by Mr. Smith are part of that effort. In Jim’s case, he also receives support by attending church and staying involved in the church youth group. From my observations, it appears Jim has been successful in his efforts to stay away from drugs and re-establish his life. He succeeded through the efforts of others, but also because he embraced the challenge facing him and made meaningful changes, such as relocating to avoid his prior friends and life. He also made new friends and surrounded himself with positive influences, such as Mr. Smith and church. This contrasts with what I observed with Damon, whom I hope will be successful in his own rehabilitative efforts.
A more ambitious way to provide for their needs would be to implement the resource mobilization theory. Although the theory stresses social movements, such movements could be generated by tapping into the resources of a local community. By doing so, there may be a way to help more and more people that have the problems experienced by Alice, Damon and Jim.
How can you help make a difference with this group?
I could continue to volunteer and learn how to counsel, although this is not the only task involved when working with disadvantaged youths who have experienced drug addiction. It was a worthwhile and interesting experience. I may consider going back to try to help Mr. Smith out again when time permits.
Additionally, if I wish to assist Mr. Smith’s counseling efforts and center through resource mobilization theory, I could begin a marketing and community awareness drive. Promoting the worthwhile efforts of those who are involved, and helping to identify and publicize what the community can do to get behind their efforts could lead to additional resources that in turn could help more teenagers trying to recover from drug use and addiction. Testimonials from those who have been helped, such as Jim, would show the community that the center gets results. Having had the pleasure of meeting Jim, I have no doubt that he would be willing to help our effort.
Scott, E. S. and Steinberg, L. (2008, Fall). Adolescent Development and the Regulation of Youth Crime. The Future of Children Journal Issue: Juvenile Justice, Vol. 18, Number 2.
Shestokas, D. J. (2009, May 18). Juvenile Law Focus is Rehabilitation. Retrieved from http://suite101.com/article/juvenile-law-focus-is-rehabilitation-a118607
Time is precious
don’t waste it!