“When a client has a breakthrough moment, and their face just lights up the room, it’s an amazing experience to be part of.”
Kelly Smith, licensed alcohol and drug counselor, has created a well-rounded therapy practice which includes her passion for working with children and families, children with developmental disabilities, and adults with dual diagnosis, substance use/addiction, and mental health challenges.
Kelly believes that everyone has innate strengths and worth within themselves. Perhaps they have just been covered up by patterns of thought and behavior that are no longer serving them.
She finds both humor, and mindfulness/meditation to be effective techniques in helping the client feel safe and supported throughout the session.
In her personal life, Kelly takes time for self-reflection, positive affirmations, and physical exercise.
Can you talk about your background in the field?
Originally, I wanted to work for the Department of Children and Families (DCF).
I’m a playful person, and I’ve always felt a strong connection to children. I studied Psychology, with a concentration in Child Development. It was fascinating to learn more about developmental disabilities, specifically, children with autism. They all carry such different strengths, and characteristics that make them unique. I loved learning about how play therapy can benefit children with autism and other developmental disabilities.
Through college, I worked for a day program helping adults with developmental disabilities. From there, I worked as an in-home therapist counseling children and families twice a week.
After earning my undergraduate degree, while figuring out what I wanted to do next, a close friend of mine overdosed. I didn’t have any background knowledge about addiction, but the experience pushed me to get my Masters Degree and become a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor-I (LADC I).
I started working in a methadone clinic with adults struggling with dual diagnosis, substance use, complex trauma, and mental health challenges.
What's your approach to working with clients?
Despite my different concentrations on substance use/addiction counseling and children’s counseling, I always take a universal strengths-based approach. I focus on using the client’s strengths as a coping mechanism through their life challenges.
Positive psychology, and positive affirmations, are a big part of my practice. Instead of taking a situation, experience, or characteristic away from the person, we figure out how we can integrate it into their life: resulting in positive outcomes.
How do you develop a relationship with your clients?
When I’m working with children, I always have “get to know you” games like jenga, cards, and questions about self-esteem to better our relationship, and their relationship with themself.
With adults struggling with substance use/addiction and mental health challenges, I focus on developing trust. I’m transparent with the client, and I’ll use personal stories, when appropriate, to create a sense of trust.
What therapeutic modalities do you bring to your practice?
I use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with adult clients. With my strength based and positive psychology approach,
I really enjoy using Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), especially with children.
I’ll use talk-therapy with both children and adults, and motivational interviewing with adults. I find it helpful for the client to pinpoint moments in their life, past experiences, where challenging feelings and behaviors started.
What mental health challenges do you offer counseling for?
I help clients move through the following mental health challenges and life situations:
- Anxiety, Panic, and Phobias
- Autism Spectrum Disorder/Asperger’s Counseling
- Bipolar Disorder
- Substance Use Disorder
- Anger Management
- Self-Harm/Self-Injurious Behaviors
- Attention-deficit Hyperactivity Disorders (ADHD/ADD)
- LGBTQ+ situations
- Academic/Occupational/Work Issues/Career
What coping strategy do you find most effective for adults struggling with addiction?
I remind the client that they matter, and they have strengths within themselves.
When someone has struggled with substance use/addiction and begins their sobriety, they have so much of themselves to learn. The cycle of addiction really obscures a person’s sense of self, so I help bring the client home to themselves.
Questions like, Who are you? Do you want to be in the workforce? Do you want to be a parent? help the client define and embrace their role.
After we uncover the client’s strengths that were hiding underneath the addiction, their faces just light up. It’s amazing to witness people find their inner strength, and make something out of it: whether it’s a relationship, career, hobby, or skill.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
Sometimes, as a therapist, it can be hard to know when you’re making progress with the client and when the work is clicking. When you see the lights turn on in the client, whether it’s with a child or an adult, their faces just light up the room. It’s an amazing feeling to be part of.
The client did all the work themselves, but as a therapist, you know that your guidance helped them create a positive shift within.
What’s your favorite part of living in Massachusetts?
Well, I’ve lived in Massachusetts my whole life.
If I ever left home, I’d really miss all four seasons. I love the transition of colors, sounds, smells, and temperature. It keeps me in balance, and excites me with change every three months.
If you’re seeking a positive and safe space to start your mental health journey, Kelly Smith, LADC I is here for you every step of the way.
Kelly offers individual counseling for children and adults both online, and from our Franklin office.
If you’re interested in scheduling an appointment with Kelly, please contact us today at (413) 343-4357.