Sanford House at John Street for Men is a comfortable place. When you walk in it feels good – friendly. And the clients say they are establishing, in their words, a “brotherhood” while in treatment. With a strong alumni organization, our clients can, and do, form lifelong friendships. The subject of our interview, Drew Martini (yes, she gets jokes about the name), is one of the reasons why. Her individualized approach, humor, and energy shine through in our Zoom interview.
I appreciate working with men. They are receptive to our “tell it like it is” style. We encourage the strength of vulnerability, and chip away at stoicism and the concept that men don’t cry.
Drew Martini, LMSW
At Sanford, the goal of men’s addiction treatment is not exclusion or complete independence. We want to prepare our clients to go back to their “real life” situations. But, we understand that men and women are still influenced by gender roles and norms. And we equally understand that looking at each individual’s unique identity is the best way to prepare them for long-term recovery.
Men’s Addiction Treatment – Limelight Interview: Drew Martini, LMSW
1. What is your primary focus as a therapist?
I take a person-centered, eclectic approach to therapy, allowing clients the opportunity to do much of the talking because at the end of the day, they are the experts on their stories. While there may be similarities in the struggles different clients are facing, each is their own, unique person, so they should have a personalized treatment experience. I don’t believe in a “one size fits all” approach. I like to infuse different styles and techniques depending on the person. Some of my go-to’s tend to be CBT and DBT strategies.
2. And your treatment philosophy?
Addiction is rarely an isolated issue. There are usually co-occurring disorders that accompany substance use disorders, like anxiety, depression, trauma, etc. Addressing these issues together is vital for long-term sobriety.
3. Speaking of anxiety, how has COVID-19 impacted addiction treatment at John Street?
The good news, is that the pandemic has allowed us to be creative, both in-person and in telehealth. Think about it – a smile or a pat on the shoulder is a go-to for setting someone at ease. We have had to relearn, behind a mask and at a distance, to replicate that feeling. When it comes to outside meetings via virtual platforms, we can “visit” a meeting in Charlevoix, for example. And alumni are able to join us! One of the things we have included in aftercare planning now, are lessons in how to navigate virtual platforms.
How do you replicate the non-verbal communication?
We still have to build rapport. Especially when first meeting our clients. We use an elbow bump and some silly references to fogged glasses, or the “sameness” of our shared experience. A sense of humor in general is important in this field, but now …
What about our signature excursions and van trips to outside 12-step meetings?
It’s challenging. But it’s another opportunity to be creative. We have yard games and the in-house gym. There are walks around the neighborhood, and the guys have mapped 16 laps around the house as a mile. We still go to an “outside” meeting every evening. And it’s good practice for our clients to see how it works via telehealth.
4. Why did you become a therapist?
I always knew that I wanted to work with people in some capacity. My undergraduate degree is in psychology and criminal justice. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the criminal justice system is less “rehabilitative” and more “punitive”. So, I wanted to focus more of my energy and effort on a system that was about helping.
5. In your view, what is the key to successful outcomes in recovery?
Keys to success. It is not just one thing. You have to want it…because it isn’t going to be easy, but it’ll be worth it. And I think there is also a lot of benefit in building a strong community and support system. Sanford and John Street do that very well. Alumni connection provides a unique and wonderful opportunity for the clients to continue building the bonds and supports that were formed while in treatment. I’m also an advocate of continued counseling. The work does not and should not stop when
someone leaves treatment and I think there is a lot of benefit to having a neutral third party to
bounce things off of.
Isolation and boredom.Too much time in our own heads can be dangerous, which I think added to the already challenging aspects of COVID. It has made it difficult to do some of those things that we discuss as vitally important in recovery.
7. What is the fun part of your job?
The clients, hands down! And in the residential environment, we have the opportunity to accelerate rapport building because we spend so much time around our clients. I am grateful to be a part of someone’s journey and be given the opportunity to hear their stories. It takes a lot of strength and courage to be vulnerable and share your story and I appreciate it.
There may be vast differences between the life experiences of the men at John Street at a given time. But there are common themes – loss, grief, shame, trauma … And the men hold each other accountable. I think sometimes it takes knowing someone to change implicit biases. We are all more similar than different.
8. How about the challenging part of your job?
Paperwork. I would be happy to spend all day, every day with clients!
9. Do you read outside of books on men’s addiction treatment?
I try to read, or more recently, listen to, a lot of different genres. I love an author who can captivate and challenge me. Lionel Shriver is an amazing author! Her book, We Need to Talk About Kevin is the only book that has ever truly scared me. I think that says a lot about an author, when they can make something so real for you that it’s frightening.
10. What words or phrases do you overuse?
My coworkers would probably say that my most overused phrase is, “tough to say” and I would absolutely agree. I picked it up from a previous coworker and it has just stuck with me. I think it has a lot of versatility.
11. What would you say is your most marked characteristic?
I call it like I see it. And I think there is a lot of benefit to that. I will always tell my clients that I will be one of their biggest supporters and advocates along the way, but I am honest about the fact it comes with having difficult conversations with them. I am very direct and honest with my clients. It won’t help anyone if I just tell them what they want to hear.
12. Do you have a motto? Words to live by?
We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated. – Maya Angelou
Throughout life there are going to be failures, things that don’t go as planned, or that we wish we could have done differently, but instead of being defeated by these things, I try to view them as opportunities to learn and grow.
Thanks Drew SH