The best part of Barbara Rye’s job is that she gets to witness “Aha!” moments in people who really need “Aha!” moments.
Barbara, who holds an M.A. in education in counseling and is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and a Licensed Independent Substance Abuse Counselor (LISAC), is the family program director at Prescott House addiction recovery center. That means she helps people recovering from addiction repair strained relationships with their parents, siblings, partners and children. And when a person in recovery starts to regain personal control that was lost during the downward spiral of addiction, the transformation is full of revelations, Barbara says.
“It’s really cool to watch the light turn on for people,” she says. “When a person has been struggling with addiction for so long, they lose themselves. And when they start the journey of recovery, first there are a lot of obstacles, but then I start to see the light turn on: the person begins to have hope and to believe in himself again.”
At Prescott House, Barbara focuses specifically on the family aspect of recovery. When a client is in his second or third month of treatment and his primary therapist thinks he’s ready for the family therapy session, Barbara starts communication with his family. While the primary therapist preps the client—the recoverer, if you will—Barbara works with his family to prepare for a family weekend when the recoverer’s loved ones will come to Prescott to see him. (Most of Prescott House’s clients are from somewhere other than the Prescott area.)
Before the family visits, Barbara talks with each person about their concerns and asks them to write a family impact letter that outlines their view of the past impact of their loved one’s addiction and their current and future hopes and boundary expectations. When the recoverer’s family then reads their statements about the effect his addiction lifestyle has had on them, it’s a powerful experience, Barbara says.
“The light often comes on during family session,” she says. “The sessions are profoundly difficult but very rewarding. The client and family often feel a sense of relief, a sense of healing, like they can move forward.”
Some family sessions are immensely cleansing and result in a renewed sense of purpose for both the recoverer and his family members. But that’s not the case every time; of course, not all problems are immediately resolved during that short two-day visit. Sometimes, Barbara says, people will feel like there’s still something unresolved, and then the discussion turns to what both parties can do to accept, let go of or continue to work on the particular issue. For any parent or partner or other family member who continues to struggle with mending the relationship with their recovering loved one, Barbara talks further with them after the family session. She usually encourages the person to work with a therapist to keep processing those feelings or to join a family support group tied to the recoverer’s specific addiction (e.g. Al-Anon Family Groups or Gam-Anon family support).
In her 30+ years working in the field of addiction and mental health, Barbara says that the family aspect of treatment has always been the most poignant for her for one simple reason: she can empathize. She was raised in an alcoholic family. And she says when she went away to college and started studying psychology, only then was she able to see her own patterns and struggles and correct them.
“I couldn’t believe how much better my life got,” she says. “Before I got into Adult Children of Alcoholics, I didn’t know how to avoid addiction patterns. Knowledge is power. And now I like helping families better understand what addiction is and how to help their son [or sibling, partner or father]. I like helping people free themselves from their struggles.”
If you or a loved one are struggling with the destructive cycle of addiction, Barbara and the rest of the Prescott House counseling team are eager to help. If addiction feels like a black hole you can’t find your way out of, call us. We’ll help turn the light on for you.