Dallas Hansen is a clinician for AiR Healthcare Solutions in St. Paul.
At 23, Dallas Hansen was â€œready to dieâ€. At 24, â€œI got a DUI. I spent a week in a psych ward. I decided to change my life.â€
Hansen went through treatment at Hazelden, where a counselor in a group session asked what made him different from anybody else in the room. â€œI couldnâ€™t give a good answer,â€ Hansen said. â€œI am like everybody else that I was in treatment with. They all had something going on that made their life chaotic. I started to open up for the first time.â€
Since counseling was key to his own recovery, Hansen â€œsaw that as an opportunity for myself.â€ He got an Associate Degree in addiction counseling from Metropolitan Community and Technical College (MCTC) and followed that with a Bachelorâ€™s Degree in psychology from Metropolitan State University. While in school, he had two internships â€” one of which led to a job as a residential treatment counselor.
He started at AiR in September 2014. â€œWe work with large treatment centers on the continuing care plan they create,â€ Hansen said. â€œWe do a lot of case management. I use my skills as a counselor, but our main job is to make sure theyâ€™re seeing the therapist in their hometown. Our average call is around 20 minutes. We do a lot of e-mailing. We also do text messaging. Twenty-somethings donâ€™t like to get on the phone and talk.â€
He makes a first-time contact while clients are still in treatment, then provides weekly contact for six to eight weeks, followed by less frequent contacts for a full year. He also works with family members to help them find a therapist or support group.
Hansen said AiRâ€™s unique structure helps to prevent burnout.
â€œWhen I first got into counseling, I was told the average length of time before burnout is two to two-and-a-half years,â€ he said. â€œWe have people who will call us to tell us theyâ€™ve relapsed or theyâ€™re feeling suicidal. A 20-minute conversation about making sure theyâ€™re seeing their therapist is different from sitting down and doing the therapy with them.â€
Hansen also credits the AiR culture for higher retention rates. â€œWhen I came here to interview, I said, â€˜Iâ€™m not used to seeing people smile.â€™ Here, if you have a bad call, from someone whoâ€™s drinking or suicidal, our bosses encourage us to get away from the phone, take a 10-minute walk. In my last two jobs, nobody did your work for you if you had a day off or a vacation. Here, team members split up your calls and e-mails. They make sure you can separate from the job if youâ€™re sick or on vacation. I will say this is the most relaxed eight months since I became a counselor.â€
Whatâ€™s the best part of the job?
The team. Without the team I canâ€™t do my job. Also, I canâ€™t say how great it is working with family members and giving them the gift of â€œnoâ€. We give them permission. They say â€œnoâ€ for the first time in 20 years or 30 years. That really helps them change.
Whatâ€™s the hardest part of the job?
Sometimes we get those tough calls. The client or family member doesnâ€™t want to talk to you. They want to stay stuck. I am responsible for the effort, not the outcome. I am there to give support. I canâ€™t fix them.