Johnnie's counselling course gives him the tools to help others

Serving prisoner Johnnie describes how passing a drugs counselling course with distinction has changed his life:

“I’ve completed the Drug, Solvent and Alcohol Abuse Counselling distance learning course which has taught me so much and given me the vital tools and understanding to help other people.

It has also increased my self-awareness and personal development, and given me a real purpose that had disappeared after having been incarcerated for the last 17 years.  

At my last Sentence Planning Board, the supervisor and chair asked me: ‘In what way has the Drug Counselling course benefited you?’ I responded by passionately describing how the course has given me the knowledge to help lots of inmates and people outside of prison with serious addiction problems and for me, giving help to people in distress is really rewarding and worthwhile and has given me a sense of purpose in my life, which I enjoy.

Already through studying drug counselling, my relationships with other people have improved because now I listen more carefully, which has made me become more aware of what people are really saying and meaning, and my own communication has become infinitely clearer. I’ve also developed a better understanding of why people take drugs and why they react and behave in the way they do. As a result I’ve become more tolerant of others and passed on that understanding to prison officers struggling to deal with some of the issues concerned with drug addiction.

I also told the supervisor that, generally, counselling courses, education and personal development led to change which has had a ripple effect on my whole life. For instance, my family and friends have become aware that I’m easier to talk to and overall my relationships have improved.

I have now applied for another course called Anger Management, Professional Coaching and Consultancy. A person from the National Careers Service who helped me prepare my application asked me what my life in prison has taught me. I told her that prison days could be identical, kaleidoscoped together into a blur where the typical day is a typical week, which is a typical year of waiting. Waiting to get let out to use the toilet or empty your bucket, waiting to use the shower, waiting for letters, waiting for parole, love, freedom or for any day that is different from before…waiting for the crazy banging noise of someone on your door to dip, so you can sleep and escape in your dreams. Or you can break free through education. I told her I’ve learnt that if I don’t like my outcomes and what I’m experiencing, then I have to make changes.

I had to assess what I really wanted my life to look like and what was required for me to achieve that. I’ve set myself the achievable target of educating myself, so that I’m equipped to work with young people. With belief, determination and hard work I know I can not only accomplish what I want in my life, but create a life purpose.”

Since this letter arrived, Johnnie has been hard at work making use of the knowledge he has gained from this course by putting together a proposal for a better detoxification programme within the prison system.