April is Counseling Awareness Month

kenwidmerApril is Counseling Awareness Month, a time when all counselors make an effort to help the public better understand their profession, the work they do, and the contributions they make to the communities they serve.

Ken Widmer, a student in the online substance abuse graduate certificate program, tells why he chose this field.

My name is Ken Widmer and I live in Wasilla, Alaska. I have a master’s degree in vocational rehabilitation counseling, but only worked in this field for a few years. I enjoyed the work, but I was young and looking for something more exciting.  I chose to become a firefighter for the Anchorage Fire Department where I worked for 31 years, before I was forced to retire because of a debilitating injury.

I have always had a desire to help people, which is one of the reasons I chose to be a firefighter and why I am currently enrolled in the substance abuse certificate program at ECU. Working as a firefighter, I had firsthand experience with the homeless, alcoholics and drug abusers in Anchorage. Over the years, I came to the realization that they were not that different from what society considers “normal people.” Many were quite intelligent and had skills that would provide them with all those things necessary to be a member in good standing in society except:  a few bad decisions, genetic factors, being born in the wrong place, a predisposition toward addiction, coming from a dysfunctional family, etc.

My plan is to return to work to see if I can help people like this make changes that will improve the quality of their life. The classes that I have taken through ECU have taught me that there is no simple solution to substance abuse, but I feel that whatever difference I can make will be worth the effort.

In my life time I have dealt with many people whose job it is to help the sick, the drug addicted and the mentally ill. Some are great while others make you wonder why they are in this line of work. My advice to those that are planning to enter this field is to go to an AA meeting or a NA meeting, volunteer with the homeless. Instead of passing the street person, stop and talk to them. If after doing this, you do not feel empathy for them, then, in my opinion, you have chosen the wrong field.