Addictions counselor returns for master’s at TMU

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By Jenny Gregory

CLEVELAND – Seventeen years ago, Marty Wilson moved to Habersham County, volunteered at the county jail, and later became the women’s chaplain at the jail. “It was there that I recognized most inmates had substance abuse issues, and I began to follow God’s lead,” she said.

Marty Wilson is a graduate of Truett McConnell University who has returned to get her master’s degree after seeing how her bachelor’s has helped her be a better counselor. TMU photo

Wilson wanted to make an impact outside the jail walls, so she and her husband Glenn opened a local Celebrate Recovery program. Celebrate Recovery is a Christ-centered, twelve-step recovery program for anyone struggling with hurt, pain, or addiction of any kind. Wilson hoped that raising awareness about substance abuse would help more people to overcome addictions, thus keeping them out of the legal system. Shortly after, they also formed the Breaking Chains Ministries (BCM), a non-profit organization, and Freedom Hill, a women’s recovery home.

“Freedom Hill opened in the city of Demorest as a women’s recovery home with seventeen acres, three homes, and a gymnasium,” said Wilson. Freedom Hill accepted its first client in February 2013. 

Years later, Wilson left BCM to pursue her counseling certification and a bachelor’s degree in psychology at Truett McConnell University (TMU). After graduating from the program, she began as an addictions educator and counselor within the Habersham County Detention Center, for the Mountain Judicial Accountability Court, and at Mustard Seed Counseling Service, Inc.

“I work with people who have substance abuse issues or are headed that way or with those who are in a relationship with someone with an addiction. The one thing that makes this type of counseling different (from secular counseling) is that we put God in the center of everything we do. After all,” she explained, “God created our brains, and He knows what they need.”

Not every client is a believer, but her role as counselor allows her to practice her faith and to be “an instrument” throughout the counseling process. “My relationship with Jesus is what gives me understanding of people. Jesus is the therapy,” she said.

 A Stigma Defined

Wilson is most passionate about the epidemic of substance addiction. “So often we think about people with substance abuse as ‘those people.’ What I have discovered,” she explained, “is that they are moms, dads, somebody’s son or daughter, or somebody’s husband or wife. They are people who, just like all of us, have wounds they don’t know how to heal.”

“They are looking for a solution,” she explained, “and for some of them, alcohol and drugs are the solution until the solution becomes a bigger problem. Yet the reality is, we are those people or we could be those people just as easily as anyone else.”

Through her counseling experiences, she realized there was so much more to learn. She returned to TMU seeking a master of arts in professional counseling with a desire to be more equipped.

“Personally,” she said, “I went back to TMU because, in my work in substance abuse, I recognized that almost everyone dealing with an addiction had trauma. That was the source of their addictions. I realized I needed to learn more about trauma and be more capable and knowledgeable about working with the effects of trauma.”

Her experience in the master’s degree program has been beneficial. She said, “My professors are full of lots of practical information. They welcome different points of views and encourage us to think for ourselves.”

Going back to school later in life has been rewarding. Wilson said, “You are never too old to learn.” She has also enjoyed seeing the passion in her younger classmates. “The students are hungry and want to learn. They are passionate about wanting to help people – whether it be children, teens, adults, or the elderly. It’s nice to see people love other people,” she said.

Wilson will soon be sharing her own experiences in the classroom when she begins teaching an addictions course this spring. Her plans are to graduate in December 2019.

An Outlet of Hope

With biblically-centered training, Wilson is hopeful that this degree will help her to counsel many who are struggling with substance abuse. “Positive steps have already been made with many of my clients,” she said. Just recently, she was able to help a client make huge improvements with an alcohol addiction by processing through trauma the client was completely unaware of having.

“It makes a difference when counseling provides an outlet and the person realizes the root of their addiction,” Wilson said, “and my prayer is that people will have the courage to reach out and do the work and that they would be open to God’s healing power, which sometimes comes through a counselor.”

Jenny Gregory is the digital marketing specialist for TMU marketing and communications.

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