Jen Webster, the 370th person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers, says she’s become less judgemental since starting work as a drug and alcohol counsellor with Odyssey House last year.
The vast majority of her clients have mental health challenges, she says, and many have experienced horrific traumas at some point in their lives. Drugs and alcohol are often used to make the pain disappear, at least temporarily. Jen says she can never really understand what people are going through, so she couldn’t possibly pass judgement.
As a counsellor, Jen’s role is not so much to give advice but to make people feel heard, ask thoughtful questions and encourage clients to start taking steps to solve their problem.
For some clients, it takes decades to conclude they have a problem – not because they’re in denial but because drugs and alcohol have been serving a purpose. Once they decide that the pain associated with using those substances has become greater than the pain of giving them up, they’re ready to make a change.
From talking to Jen, I think she’d be a superb counsellor – partly because she feels a deep sense of responsibility toward her clients; mostly, though, because she’s so humble and recognises she doesn’t have all the answers.
Jen spent more than two decades in the corporate world. Initially, she worked in sales and marketing, before making a fortuitous switch into corporate social responsibility. She loved her new role, because she believes strongly in helping others and campaigning for positive change. From there, Jen switched to office roles in the not-for-profit sector. Then, last year, after securing the appropriate qualifications, she reinvented herself as a counsellor.