Since 2017, Shalem has offered a special service through which we provide psychotherapy to individuals identified as having experienced harmful or dependent substance use in their lives.
Working with the Ministry of the Solicitor General, Shalem employee Stephen Doucet Campbell provides this service to clients who are on probation or parole and have an identified substance use history. Stephen sees up to 20 clients in the 3.5 days a week he works at three Hamilton probation and parole offices.
The focus of therapy is on decreasing shame and de-stigmatizing substance use, helping clients understand that it is not a matter of moral failure. Stephen focuses on helping people identify the reasons they are dependent on substances so that new, healthy ways of coping can be learned.
In addition to having substance use issues, these clients are often also experiencing emotional or mental health concerns. Many of these clients have limited social supports, unstable housing, and challenges finding employment.
Stephen provides therapy from a trauma-informed perspective because many clients in this population have experienced, or are currently experiencing, trauma of some sort. Many have experienced domestic violence, physical, sexual or emotional abuse as children, or have been victims of sexual assault or abuse as adults.
Some clients coming to therapy have made meaningful changes and are in need of some counselling and support to maintain the changes they’ve made. Others are dependently using substances on a regular basis and are hopeful to make some changes but don’t know how or where to begin. In this case, the focus is on increasing motivation, providing psychotherapy, and helping clients navigate the various addiction and mental health services available.
In addition to providing individual therapy, Stephen piloted a weekly group for eight men earlier this spring and plans on running another one in the fall. The group focuses on increasing awareness of common reasons for substance use, helping clients assess the impact substance use has had on their lives personally, learning healthy ways of coping, emotional awareness and management, and developing harm reduction strategies. The group also helps clients connect with resources and supports that are available in the community.
In the year and a half since the service began, Stephen has seen over 230 clients, some for only a few sessions, and some for long-term (10+ sessions) psychotherapy.
Stephen also spends some time each week offering psychotherapy at Shalem’s Hamilton office, where he sees clients about a range of topics. Shalem is fortunate to have in Stephen a psychotherapist with such a wide range of skills and with specific expertise in substance use and addictions.
Susan Winter Fledderus is a Clinical Therapist with Shalem Mental Health Network