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Counseling Awareness Month: Spotlight on Jennifer Hardee!

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Counseling Awareness Month is celebrated each year in April. Sponsored by the American Counseling Association (ACA), the month-long observance honors counselors of all kinds, including mental health counselors, school and college counselors, career counselors, and of course, substance use disorder (SUD) counselors.

Here at Gaudenzia, the counselors at our SUD treatment programs make an impact in their communities every single day. This lifesaving work takes empathy, dedication, and grit. We’re excited to honor and celebrate the incredible counselors we have on our team this month. Today we’re turning the spotlight on Jennifer Hardee.

A Q&A with Jennifer Hardee

Jennifer Hardee began her journey with Gaudenzia in January 2022, working in the Men’s Residential Program at Gaudenzia’s Maryland-based Crownsville location. Recently, Jennifer received a well-earned promotion to the role of Clinical Supervisor of Crownsville’s ICF/Detox/WARMS program.

Here’s how she describes her path into the SUD treatment field:  

I found myself at a turning point in my life. I had gone from a stay-at-home Mom to a single Mom in the twitch of a nose. The landscape of my old career had changed, and now required a degree for the position I previously held. I decided in 2014 I would return to school (let the anxiety attacks begin!). I had every excuse there was, from being too old to saying, “I will never pass math and graduate!” I now have three degrees in Human Services, Addiction Counseling, and Psychology. I also have what I refer to as “fancy letters” behind my name: CAC-AD. I’m also a Board Approved Supervisor. I’ve held positions working with a very diverse population of clients in great need of support, and I am a strong advocate for reform. Most of my career I have served working in treatment in Baltimore City.

We’re so grateful to Jennifer for taking the time to answer our questions. Keep reading to learn more about her role here at Gaudenzia.

Jennifer Hardee, Clinical Supervisor at Gaudenzia

Can You Describe a “Day in the Life” as a Counselor at Gaudenzia?

One of the most fulfilling and enjoyable experiences of being in this field — and especially at Gaudenzia — is that no two days are ever the same. While working in Men’s Residential Treatment, some of the most memorable experiences are witnessing clients meet their grandchildren for the first time, holding a group that produces insightful feedback, and having clients really connect to their self-worth and start to make those imperative behavior changes. You will often find me saying, “That’s MY client!” with pride. The interpersonal relationships are another aspect of my day for those “not so good days.” A positive support system is important. As I have transitioned into my new role as a leader, I have such respect for the staff we have here and the work we do every day, because no day is the same, and some days, we “can’t make this stuff up!”

What Unexpected Lessons Have You Learned About Counseling in the SUD Treatment Field?

The most heartbreaking and unfortunate part of this field is the loss of life. I must have missed class the day they taught us how to tell any mother their child has transitioned. Learning that previous clients transitioned is hard — witnessing is something I never thought I would be a part of.

The Covid pandemic impacted our field in a way that no one could have prepared us for. We seemed to be left out of those who were talked about on the nightly news as HEROES. I feel there is still an impact on the field from Covid in loss of staff and an increase in clients.

What are the Biggest Challenges SUD Counselors Face Today?

Substance use disorder comes in many forms and keeps us on our toes. We must be multidisciplinary to best serve our clients. In this field, our skills and competencies are what help our clients be successful. Our field is ever-changing, and it’s important to be aware of the treatment services we have to offer. Gambling is going to be a major factor in our field soon with how accessible it has become through technology. It is imperative that we understand this disorder, along with other mental health disorders, and their role with co-occurring SUD.

How Do You Take Care of Yourself to Prevent Burnout?

Music is my go-to! Music can bring you up or bring you back down. I have music playing all day, every day in my office. I enjoy attending concerts — the Foo Fighters and Eric Church are my favorites. You can also find me in my Jeep, Roosevelt. I love May-October when the doors can come off! I also love football season. I am a Ravens fan, but I’ll watch any game I can on Sunday! I make sure I do other important self-care practices, like getting enough sleep, getting my nails done, staying organized, and going shopping.

What is the Best Part of Your Job?

That’s a hard question. On the good days, it’s seeing a client go home after completing treatment or checking back in and being successful. It could be that all the documentation is caught up, or it could be working through a situation with a co-worker and having a plan that helps that colleague or client be successful. It could be thriving at an organization you didn’t think you would last two weeks at, because you reframed your thinking, built relationships, built respect, and challenged yourself. It could also be having productive meetings, being able to express gratitude, and having a good cup of coffee.

What Advice Do You Have for New Counselors Entering the Field?

You cannot want it more than they [the clients] do. As a professional, you can be on the sidelines with enthusiasm and skill, however, you can be met with indifference or ambivalence. It is so hard to see our clients walk in or out through the doors of our programs before they are ready. Substance use disorder does not discriminate. There is no demographic.

There but for the grace of God go I.”- Bradford

If you or someone you love needs treatment for substance use disorder, please contact our Treatment and Referral HelpLine at 833.976.HELP (4357) or email [email protected] today.

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