Samantha Michelli wants to educate as many people as possible about co-occurring disorders, substance abuse, and recovery. “I was excited to pursue my CADC (Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor) simultaneously with my LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor) because the two so often go hand-in-hand.” Samantha was impacted personally by losses due to substance abuse and educates others in their honor. “I don’t want to lose any more people if we don’t have to. It is not just my professional job, it is my job in society,” Samantha said. “I love this profession and demographic, but I want to supply knowledge for everyone.”
“When I worked in a residential facility, I watched people come in for treatment with luggage, family, and support, and others with a garbage bag and no emergency contact,” Samantha said. “All that they had is literally all that they had with them.” She is elated and honored to be part of what can be a transformative process. “Seeing a client get a job, see their child for the first time, or go back to school, these things inspired me to focus on recovery and co-occurring disorders.”
Samantha knows we humans are often problem-fixers but thinks it is important to recognize that another person’s substance abuse is often a problem we cannot fix. She encourages loved ones to ask how they can help. “The role we play is to support, be there and love,” Samantha said. “They need to do the work. It is so hard to watch someone we love struggle but you aren’t the individual. I’d love to fight cancer for someone but all you can do is be there for them. Do the research, join a support group, but ultimately ask the individual how you can help.”
Samantha wants people to know that substance abuse is preventable and treatable, but recovery is not a linear process. “Every recovery journey looks different,” she said. She wishes people would give more grace and patience to those in recovery. “I hope people read and educate themselves and come away with a little more empathy and understanding. That is how change happens.”
Q&A With Samantha
Inner Voice: What would you tell someone considering therapy for the first time?
Samantha: I always thank my clients for sharing their space with me and trusting me, for being vulnerable. For even getting in my office. I know the process to get here was not overnight. First you might think about going to therapy and ruminate on that for a while. Then you might look up therapists, you might even call one after the links sit in your tabs for a week or two. I ask clients to show up ready to be engaged and open to whatever the journey looks like. It looks different for everyone.
InnerVoice: What do you wish people knew about seeking mental health treatment?
Samantha: I think sometimes people feel they need a specific, tangible reason for therapy whereas, I think everyone should be in therapy. I don’t know anyone whose life isn’t a little hard, who doesn’t have struggles or stressors. Who wouldn’t benefit from having one hour a week to simply focus on them? Seeking help is the presence of strength, not the absence of it. Your problems are valid no matter what your problems are.
InnerVoice: What do you like most about being a therapist?
Samantha: I don’t think there is another relationship that is as sacred as one with the client and therapist. There is nothing that brings me more honor than being that safe space for someone. I might be the person that hears something for the first time, and that is so powerful to me.
InnerVoice: Do you have a personal slogan or mantra?
Samantha: It is not mine, it belongs to a nonprofit called Hope for the Day, which I follow closely. Their slogan is “It’s OK not to be OK.” It really resonates with me. I feel there is a lot of toxic positivity that goes around and you aren’t just allowed to feel your feelings. That slogan has always re-instilled that however you are feeling, it is valid, it is ok.
InnerVoice: What are your top 5 wellness and self-care strategies?
- Routine. Whatever that means to the individual. Something that is the norm for you. During COVID having a routine kept me grounded, I had things I was doing every day for my mental health such as meditation or journaling. When the world was on fire outside, my little village inside was calm and content.
- Nature. I’d prefer to go hiking but obviously, we don’t have many mountains in Illinois. So, I’ll take a trail or nature preserve. I think there is something very instinctual about nature.
- Music. I love music in all forms. I use it to dance, listen to, I use it to ground myself when I’m feeling anxiety.
- Progressive muscle relaxation and belly breathing. I ask all my clients, “How do you breathe? Do you know how to breathe?” For someone like me who carries a lot of tension and stress, progressive relaxation can be life-changing.
Read Samantha’s bio here.
“Recovery is for Everyone: Every Person, Every Family, Every Community”
IVPC celebrates Recovery Month in September to honor individuals and families who are in recovery. IVPC urges all community members to join the celebration and help stem the incidence of mental health and substance use disorders. Free, confidential help is available 24 hours a day through SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or 1-800-487-4889 (TDD). Offering support to those experiencing mental health and substance use disorders can make a huge difference. Together we can help others realize the promise of recovery and give families the right support to help their loved ones.
Learn More here: https://rm.facesandvoicesofrecovery.org/
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.