Reconnecting with communityKatie's story
Katie’s calm exterior hides an adventurous spirit. Her journey to become a Family Counsellor with our Breakthrough for Families Program is preceeded by a life of adventures across the globe. Katie brings to her work an open and gentle nature, and a strong sense of justice – qualities that help her excel in the role.
In Africa, a village raises a child. In Australia, I’ve found people often lack community support – especially parents and families. I felt that there was a really significant need to help these people
As a Family Counsellor, Katie meets with clients and families to talk through their experiences and work towards the goals they set for themselves. She also runs community education sessions to help people understand the realities of problematic substance use, and break down the stigma associated with it. Ultimately, Katie says her duty is to walk alongside clients as they explore strategies that work for them. She explains that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to recovery.
“We meet clients where they are. I can’t go into a session thinking I have all the answers. Clients know what’s best for them and their family – it’s my job to guide them along this path.”
The impact Katie has on her clients is clear. Recently, a client told Katie she had felt empowered to strengthen her relationship with her partner, rather than leave the marriage.
“It’s a great moment for her. She’s applying the strategies she’s learning – she can now draw the line in the sand and be clearer about her boundaries.”
One of Katie’s favourite things about working at Lives Lived Well, she shares, is the organisation’s holistic approach to recovery.
“When it comes to drug and alcohol treatment, families are often excluded from a client’s recovery. This can alienate families. On the Breakthrough for Families Program, our support goes beyond the person undertaking rehabilitation; it extends to their family. The family can then support their loved one more effectively, and this can continue years after treatment. That’s really special.”
Talking to Katie, you’d think she’d been doing this work for decades. In fact, she joined us just three years ago. However, like so many of our fantastic team, her own life experiences drew her to a career in this space.
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A backpack and a one-way ticket
Katie’s an adventurer. She spent her twenties waitressing and bartending, working just long enough to fund her next trip abroad. Making her way from Turkey to Indonesia, Katie learned the local languages, all while absorbing a mosaic of histories and cultures.
After 10 years exploring and working in adult education, Katie settled in Mozambique with her partner. There, she encountered people experiencing extreme poverty and severe health issues. When Katie eventually returned to Australia, she came to another realisation.
“In Mozambique, I thought, ‘Australians have nothing to complain about.’ But when I came home, I realised we’re not as lucky as I’d thought. I saw we were missing something that sits at the heart of so many less privileged cultures around the world: community.”
Although people in Australia enjoy the comforts of Western life, Katie reflected, many of us are disconnected from those around us. As a result, we can suffer from deep isolation.
“In Africa, a village raises a child. In Australia, I’ve found people often lack community support – especially parents and families. I felt that there was a really significant need to help these people.”
Motivated to support members of her community in need, Katie retrained as a Social Worker. And in 2018, she became a Family Counsellor at Lives Lived Well.
Reflecting on her journey with us so far, Katie shares that she had to resist some early self-doubt.
“I thought I wouldn’t be any good in Alcohol and Other Drugs – I had no experience in this space. I even considered cancelling my interview. But finally, I decided to go along and see.”
Three years on and Katie is still improving her clients’ lives – in big and small ways – every single day. And along the way, she’s had training and support to give her the chance to build on her theoretical skills and hone her practice. To people considering a counselling career in Alcohol and Other Drugs, Katie has one piece of advice:
“Do it. Lives Lived Well cares about the person you are: your authenticity, compassion, optimism and openness. You’ll learn everything else once you get here – but you need to take that first step.”
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