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From client to counselor

In celebration of our 50th anniversary, each month we will be sharing a story that highlights one of our programs or treatment populations. Here is Gilbert Bell’s story, who completed our staff-in-training program as a client and now works as a senior counselor for young men in our East Village facility.

Counselor rehab nycWhen Gilbert, 38, first came to Odyssey House as a client in February 2010, he never thought he’d still be here six years later. But today he is a senior counselor for young men in residential treatment. Referred by an alternative to incarceration program, Gilbert says he was what he would call a typical client – resistant to treatment, with an “I can do whatever I want” mentality.

But a few months in, something clicked. Listening to the experiences of his peers, he saw he had a lot more in common with them than he’d thought. “I realized that I had an attitude and behavioral problem that was creating conflicts in several areas of my life, and I needed to make a drastic change,” he says. He also discovered he had an aptitude for helping his peers through their struggles.

Newly motivated, Gilbert learned about a staff-in-training program that would send him to school for counseling, allow him to do a paid internship, and possibly lead to employment. “It was the perfect opportunity to turn my life around. I met with my vocational counselor who helped me apply to the program, and I haven’t looked back since.”

Now a licensed Certified Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor, Gilbert finds working for Odyssey House to be the most rewarding thing he’s ever done. “I feel like every day I work here, I’m giving back to the community by helping young men stay out of the justice system and guiding them towards a better future.

“Having been through the program gives me a unique perspective on the client experience. I can relate to what they’re going through – I know how frustrating living in a structured treatment environment can be, but I also know how gratifying it is to complete the program and improve your life.”


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