• Steven Coleman

    Leading by Example

    Portrait of Steven Coleman.
    Steven Coleman
    Addiction Studies

    Addictions counsellor builds on personal experience with George Brown education

    Steven Coleman’s goal is to give back to others and help people break free from the cycle of addiction. The counsellor has the life experience; he has been a recovering alcoholic and addict for over 21 years. But George Brown College gave him the practical skills to pursue a rewarding new career direction.

    “I went and changed my career at age 55. I thought it was about time to give back a bit. I wanted a new challenge,” he says of his decision to leave the food services industry. Steven chose to complement his 2013 George Brown Social Service Worker diploma with the college’s Addiction Studies Certificate.

    “The biggest joy I have is being able to sit down with clients and understand where they’re coming from. You’re coming from a place where you’re being sincere and honest about it; you know what they’re going through. The education part has taught me how to speak to a client. You have to take a positive, non-judgemental approach to counselling, and George Brown helped me tremendously.”

    His continuing education course work gives him an edge when counselling clients at Renascent – Punanai Centre, a Toronto-based treatment facility for men. He has developed insight into psychotropic drugs and their unique side effects and addictive properties, an understanding of concurrent mental disorders and valuable communication skills. Most importantly, he has learned the important link between mental and emotional health and a person’s physical addiction. “Not everything is black and white – ’oh, you’re an addict … this is you,’” he explains. “We’re starting to understand that to get to the emotional problems, you have to deal with the addiction part first.”

    Being taught by teachers actively working in the addictions and mental health field also helped improve Steven’s professional point of view in his work as a counsellor. “You’re able to go to your teachers and say, ’I took this approach. What do you think? Was it the right one?’” he explains. “I found their real-world outlook on problems very helpful.”

    Steven started working at Renascent as an apprentice during the second year of his Social Service Worker diploma. He went on to volunteer before being hired as a counsellor while taking his Addiction Studies certificate courses. “I fell in love with Renascent,” he notes. “It was a great place to be. It felt like home.”

    On a daily basis, Steven now gets to help others battle the same demons he once faced. George Brown has given Steven the professional vocabulary to match his personal experience.

    “The biggest joy I have is being able to sit down with clients and understand where they’re coming from,” he says. “You’re coming from a place where you’re being sincere and honest about it; you know what they’re going through. The education part has taught me how to speak to a client. You have to take a positive, non-judgemental approach to counselling, and George Brown helped me tremendously.”

    One of Steven’s teachers advised him to “be honest, be honest, be honest.” He has taken this recommendation to heart, as it helps him connect with the men he is trying to help and heal. His certificate courses have challenged him to think candidly about himself and have changed his perspective as a counsellor. “If you can’t be honest with yourself, how can you be with someone else?”

    Once he completes his certificate, Steven plans to pursue his next academic opportunity at the college – continuing education courses in grief and bereavement.

    “I’ve had losses and it’s always been tough for me to find someone to talk to,” he recalls. “Understanding where someone’s grief is coming from will allow you to help them learn how to deal with it without drugs or alcohol.”

    Steven approaches every day on the job as the chance to help others, and says George Brown has helped him get through to more people. “We aren’t always going to be successful, but it’s all about adding more tools to the toolbox. If I can help one person, that will be great.”