January 27, 2017
Virginia Murauskas, 65, is an addiction counselor at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation in Center City, Minn.
Q. What is your background?
A. I studied psychology in college and spent several years in the human resources field. Over 20 years ago, I had an opportunity to enter the counselor training program at what is now the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. I’m licensed both as an addiction counselor and as a marriage and family therapist.
Whom do you counsel?
I work on a unit that treats women who are health care professionals like doctors, nurses and addiction counselors. Often this group has easy access to addictive medications. We have other professionals such as lawyers and airline pilots on the unit, and we also include people from all walks of life, for balance. Addiction doesn’t discriminate.
Do you work with a team?
We have a large one, including two other counselors, a unit manager, a care coordinator, mental health professionals, spiritual care and wellness staff members, and program directors.
Do you have group counseling sessions?
Besides counseling individuals, I facilitate chemical dependency therapy groups of about eight to 10 participants. Talking with their peers helps them clarify their emotions and develop coping skills.
What is one of your challenges?
Working with patients who don’t want to be in treatment. They may have come as the result of a family or employer intervention, or been referred by a monitoring agency that oversees their profession. Or, a court may have ordered them to attend a treatment program. These patients can be difficult to engage, but I enjoy challenges.
Aside from seeing patients recover, what do you like about the job?
It allows for creativity and spontaneity. I never know what a person will say in counseling, so I have to decide what to reply on the spot. I’m always working in the moment.
How do you deal with what is sometimes an intense job?
Self-care and a balanced life are important. I take time for myself, through gardening, golfing, traveling and spending time with my family. You need to separate your personal life from your professional life.