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 some of the incredible counselors we have on our team this month, and today we’re turning the spotlight on Wendy Vazquez.
A Q&A with Wendy Vazquez
Wendy Vazquez is a Counselor III at Gaudenzia’s Re-Entry House. She has been with the organization for almost nine years, with an upcoming work anniversary this May. Wendy graduated from Esperanza College of Eastern University in 2013 with an associate degree in criminal justice.
While her initial goal was to become a probation officer, she took advantage of an opportunity to participate as a counselor with Gaudenzia in a specialized program for Hispanic clients within the prison at SCI Chester — a medium-security correctional facility based in Chester, PA. Wendy then transitioned to working at Gaudenzia’s Re-Entry House treatment program with the intention of using this opportunity as a stepping stone toward her goal of becoming a probation officer. Instead, she found a home and her calling as a counselor.
We’re so grateful to Wendy for taking the time to answer our questions! Keep reading to learn more about her role as an SUD counselor.
Can You Describe a “Day in the Life” as a Counselor at Gaudenzia?
To be honest, you never really know what a client will present on any day. The only thing I can do to prepare for my workday as a counselor is to be in the here-and-now mindset with every client, every day — unless otherwise focusing on goals and objectives personalized to their areas of need. It’s important to be supportive and attentive in every session or interaction with a client.
Some days are better than others, but I still need to be effective at my job and be a daily motivator. Not only do I assist the clients with daily life skills, but I prepare documentation, including personalized treatment plans and notes. That’s a vital part of our job. Being bilingual, I also provide services in Spanish to our Latino residents. Lastly, my role as a counselor goes beyond just listening, teaching, and offering suggestions or advice. My responsibility is to help this population recognize their problematic and addictive behaviors and guide them into the process of recovery. I empower clients to take action and make the necessary changes in their lives to stop the vicious cycle that brought them such havoc and pain. A day as a counselor in Re-Entry House is very rewarding, especially when our alumni return still maintaining their recovery and living their lives as productive members of the community.
What Unexpected Lessons Have You Learned About Counseling in the SUD Treatment Field?
I learned how high the demand is for treatment of individuals struggling with substance use and co-occurring mental health disorders.
How Do You Take Care of Yourself to Prevent Burnout?
I practice self-care and meditation, and I keep consistent schedules and routines.
What is the Best Part of Your Job?
My team of co-workers. We have each other’s back with support and daily encouragement. I also love being able to provide support, encouragement, and education to my clients daily. It’s good to see my former clients/program alumni return and express their gratitude for all the support, care, and encouragement they received. It definitely feels good to witness the changes.
What Advice Do You Have for New Counselors Entering the Field?
Remain teachable, practice self-care, and take mental breaks.
If you or someone you love needs help with addiction treatment, please contact our Treatment and Referral HelpLine at 833.976.HELP (4357) or email [email protected] today.