A Warm Welcome to the UK

Lila and horseSierra Tucson regularly invites professionals from all over the world to meet our caring staff and see our beautiful campus. We were fortunate to host several guests from the United Kingdom in September. Brent Clark, BA (Hons), MSC, a therapeutic director in London, shares highlights from his recent visit.

I first heard about Sierra Tucson eight years ago when studying for my master’s degree in addiction psychology and counselling. Max Cohen, Sierra Tucson’s treatment placement specialist (TPS) for the UK, gave a lecture on excellence in holistic care, and used Sierra Tucson as an example of how things could and should be. I remember being inspired by the breadth of vision in treating addiction and other disorders. I work with the homeless and marginalise at Spitalfields Crypt Trust (SCT), a local charity based in East London. We provide residential rehabilitation and continuing care for people who have been dealt a harsh deal in life economically, emotionally, and spiritually.

In the spring of this year, after heading up and developing our continuing care, I was given a new role as therapeutic director with the job of redesigning our residential rehab’s therapeutic delivery, which for many years had relied on basic 12 Step and Big Book delivery. Max is now my clinical supervisor and supporter of our charity, so being cheeky I asked if there was any chance of visiting Sierra Tucson and immersing myself in the programme. I was bowled over when Max informed me that Sierra Tucson would like to support SCT by inviting me to its Professionals Weekend so I could observe and have meetings with key staff for the week preceding.

The visit exceeded my expectations. At SCT, we pride ourselves on the relational and caring attitude we strive to uphold for our clients. Our resources may be limited, but we love much. I was concerned that Sierra Tucson might be excellent in terms of resources and sharp evidence-based delivery, but I wondered if it might be institutional and lacking in the recovery community focus we have developed at SCT. Furthermore, I was concerned I would be an imposition, another responsibility in a hectic schedule.

When I arrived, I was met with a huge screen welcoming me by name, a small touch, but one that typified the welcome I received from every staff member I met. I was often poached by staff members who wanted me to see their work or understand their approach. The passion was palpable and very affirming. In the week that I stayed in Tucson, I recognised what we are trying to do in East London: to make people feel cared for with kindness and grace, using the best interventions we can afford to help them overcome complex life issues. The integrative model was best typified for me in the staff meetings I observed, where all team members addressed each other with the kind of respect that reflected the appreciation that everyone’s work is part of the solution.

I am now in the position in London of trying to translate what I experienced at Sierra Tucson to our programme here. My week at Sierra Tucson was a personal and professional delight—one for which I am deeply grateful and will positively change the lives of the people we treat.