Limelight: The Sanford House Therapist Interview 3


The “sunroom” above that long driveway… Sanford House…


Walk up a steep, cobbled drive and a steeper set of front porch steps, and you’re there – Sanford House at John Street for Men. Visitors have been known to pass 221 John without seeing the immense building high on a hill, because it’s hidden in plain sight.


Setting the stage…

It’s part of the charm. An addiction treatment center with the right amount of privacy, nestled in the heart of Grand Rapids. It’s set back from the road with an imposing facade. But, when you walk through the front door it feels homey and welcoming. House Manager Rod Townes is in his office to the right. And there is usually a client with him. There might be a process group in session. Or men gathered for art therapy at the huge dining room table. Therapy dog Santino is stretched out on a rug. And Chef Leslie is in the kitchen whipping up “dude food”…


Jonathan Hunt walks Into this congenial setting. He wears a pink shirt and tie – an expectant look. He is the third in our Limelight interview series. Our goal with Limelight is to demystify addiction treatment and introduce our team of therapists. Because they are the primary relationship our clients and their loved ones will experience while at Sanford House, it’s nice to “get to know” them before entering treatment.


Limelight: Jonathan Hunt, MA, RBT


Jonathan Hunt in the first floor “family room”… Sanford House…


1. Why did you become a therapist?

I guess I fell into it? Substance use disorders run in my family: uncles, my grandma. I was Pre-Med – and Psychology just clicked. I didn’t have to study. After I got my BA in Psychology, I became an inner-city paramedic. And later in life I joined the  Army (Psychological Operations Battalion).


2. What is your primary focus?

I use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Reality Therapy. The “tough love” wake up call to those who may be in denial… And on Sundays I lead a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) inspired, Interactive Journaling group that deals with trauma. Sometimes a traumatic experience will sit dormant for years until an emotional trigger brings it front of mind.


3. How do you personalize your work?

I think establishing a sense of safety and trust is the most important thing. And I tie all the therapies together, so that it’s a very well-rounded road map to recovery. I think my experiences have made me more empathetic, especially to those who have experienced trauma. And because I can relate on a personal level, I am able to give advice from my own life.


4. What would you describe as the “fun” part of your job?

The whole job is rewarding – I love it! As a therapist, you “live” the job. Take it home with you every night. But my favorite part of what I do is interacting with any given group of men at John Street. Joking around, laughing, and watching the relationships develop. It’s interesting (and sometimes surprising) to see who “buddies up”.


5. What is the key to success in recovery?

You have to be ready for it. It’s got to be in your head that you want it. And recovery success includes comprehensive treatment that incorporates art, exercise, wellness… It is incredibly helpful to have a supportive family. And you need a structured lifestyle.

I am a proponent of medically assisted treatment (MAT). It is necessary for some to get stabilized emotionally, but I recommend tapering off after six months. You know, life is hard. Choosing to relapse is easy. We need to provide the tools to help our clients choose to tough it out…


6. And the biggest pitfalls/triggers to relapse?

Isolation. And not attending 12-step meetings. Also, anxiety and apprehension – drugs and alcohol are like crutches or companions and without them, controlling anxiety is very important.


7. What is your most marked characteristic?

I am honest and (perhaps even) blunt.


8. What words or phrases do you most overuse?

Tough it out. There are great rewards ahead. You will see happiness again.


9. What type of books do you read?

I grew up with a family of readers. I like Dean Koontz and Stephen King. But, I have Siamese cats, so my very favorite books are “The Cat Who…” mysteries by Lilian Jackson Braun. I have read them all dozens of times!


10. What is your motto?

The world is how you perceive it. NOT how others see it.


Words to live by… Thank you Jonathan. SH



We can help.


Sanford Behavioral Health is a residential and outpatient facility located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Sanford offers excellence in evidence-based practice models in a home-like, restorative setting. Our clinicians, supported by our medical team, focus on resolving the underlying issues that often cause substance use, such as trauma, unhealthy relationships, co-occurring disorders and isolation. Programs include both in-person and telehealth: residential, day programs, intensive outpatient, outpatient, medication-assisted treatment (MAT), education and relapse prevention classes, one-on-one and family therapy, and alumni and family support groups. At Sanford, we want to inspire you to find your inner grit, rekindle your interests and engage your passion.