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MCTC’s Addiction Counseling Program Creates Community for Bayla McDougal and Others

Bayla McDougalThe word “recovery” means different things to different people. To Bayla McDougal, it’s been her experience, her education and her profession.

When Bayla started classes at MCTC in 1983, she was a single mother, on welfare and newly in recovery from drugs and alcohol.

“MCTC had the first Addiction Counseling program in the country, a small campus, a great reputation and daycare for my child,” said Bayla. “I was able to finish my coursework quickly, and was hired right out of my first internship.”

Bayla went on to get her bachelor’s degree in Human Services at Metropolitan State University. She worked in the field of addiction counseling for 22 years, later received her master’s degree in Human Development at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota and this fall, she started her ninth year teaching in the Addiction Counseling program at MCTC. “This was the only place I could think of to teach,” said Bayla. “Not only am I working in the place where I started my career, I have an opportunity to work with students who are going to be the next generation of professionals in this field.”

MCTC’s Addiction Counseling program

“My classrooms are made up of people age 18-65,” said Bayla. “Anywhere from 60–70 percent of our students are in recovery from alcohol or drug use. They are students who already have bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, students in school for the first time and students who didn’t think finishing school was an option. The people in our classrooms, and the discussions we have, are very rich, with lots of history and experience.”

The Addiction Counseling program teaches multicultural counseling, psychopharmacology and case management, among other topics. “Most importantly, we teach students how to communicate to their clients,” said Bayla.

In addition, the Addiction Counseling student club is largest club on campus. Funds raised from its members, through events like Operation Recovery and others, send students to professional conferences and enhance their professional development. “The club maintains a very close connection to alumni and to the community. These relationships with current and past students keeps the program alive, and keeps students connected to the program once they graduate.”

The Addiction Counseling program and student club host an annual event, Operation Recovery, aimed at de-stigmatizing recovery. The event brings together students, employees and members of the MCTC community to learn about recovery, share their experiences and—most importantly—have fun.

Navigating the Stigma of Recovery

“Addiction is still clouded with stereotype, myths, morality and shame,” said Bayla. “People are less patient and accepting of it than other diseases. But I know from experience this campus, and the events on it, are safe spaces.”

A movement to de-stigmatize recovery is underway in the U.S., according to Bayla. “As with the stigma of HIV in the 80s, there’s a lot of work to do to change the public mindset. Those who are in recovery don’t do a lot of self-promoting. It’s important for professionals within the field, those in long term recovery and advocates who are family and friends, to put a face and voice to recovery.”

Maintaining Pride

As a graduate of the first addiction counseling program in the country, an experienced field practitioner and an established instructor, Bayla has built a career using her life experience to help her community.

“I love this place. I constantly tell people this is a campus where 81 languages are spoken—what a rich, diverse and supportive community MCTC is,” said Bayla. “Both of my children took classes here as well. They’re continuing this tradition of community.”

“I feel incredibly proud to be an alum, and especially to be able to come back as a teacher. MCTC is my community, through and through.”

Resources

Originally published September 2013

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