International Student's Decision to "Step Up and Learn More" about Addiction Leads to a Career in Counseling and Advocacy How does a multilingual translator from the tropics of Haiti become an addiction counselor and suicide prevention specialist working in the far reaches of northern Minnesota? Meet Anderson Saint Georges, MA, LADC, CPP, a 2019 graduate of the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies. "It is said that this profession is a calling," Saint Georges observes. "I'm grateful for the opportunity to answer the call," he adds with a warm smile. For Saint Georges, "the call" came in 2010, in the aftermath of Haiti's catastrophic earthquake. Serving as a translator for international medical teams and mission groups conducting rescue and relief efforts, he recognized the need for another type of humanitarian aid in his home country. "When I went with medical and mission crews into emergency shelters and neighborhoods, I realized that untreated mental health conditions and addiction were causing great suffering for many people. Substance use and mental health problems are seen in my culture as moral failings—frowned upon and not talked about—so people are left to struggle on their own." Saint Georges resolved to "step up and learn more" about addiction treatment, a quest that eventually—through a series of coincidences and connections—led him to enroll at a small college in Bemidji, Minnesota, where he earned a bachelor's degree in addiction counseling. Finding employment wasn't an issue. The need for addiction and mental health professionals is particularly critical in rural areas. Newly licensed, Saint Georges transitioned from the local treatment center where he completed his clinical residency into a full-time counseling and crisis management position at Compassion House, an inpatient facility in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, serving men—many of whom are court-ordered to complete treatment. Like communities across the country, the rural area has been hard hit by the opioid epidemic and under-resourced in addressing the crisis, says Saint Georges. Within two years of practice, the heavy caseload and severity of his patients' needs began to take a toll. "I started to experience compassion fatigue," Saint Georges shares. "If I kept spreading myself too thin, I knew I would become a less-effective counselor." As a clinician in Minnesota, Saint Georges was well-acquainted with Hazelden Betty Ford's pioneering treatment approach, publications and leadership in the field. When he learned about the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies, the next step in his professional journey became obvious. "I was eager to improve my skills and knowledge as a counselor," he explains. "I also wanted to learn self-care practices so I could stay in the field and help more people." A graduate degree from such a highly regarded institution would also help Saint Georges fulfill his dream of, one day, returning to Haiti to establish an addiction treatment center. Until that day comes, Saint Georges continues to find tremendous rewards and challenges in his work at Compassion House. He describes his treatment approach as "recovery in action," helping patients experience what freedom from addiction feels like through nature walks, workouts at the gym, fishing excursions and guided meditation. In fact, it's not unusual for Saint Georges to hold group sessions outdoors. "Being out in nature, the men are more playful, happy, open and willing to share their stories. They can more readily understand that I am trying to help them learn to live differently and become the person they want to be." Whether working in small-town Minnesota or inner-city Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saint Georges sees the redemption of recovery as equally transformative. "People everywhere deserve the chance to turn their lives around." Critical Need The critical need for addiction and mental health counselors in Minnesota's rural communities has inspired Anderson Saint Georges to become an outspoken advocate for greater access to behavioral health care. He serves as Region 4 Governor for the Minnesota Associate of Resources for Recovery and Chemical Health, where he chairs the Rural Health/ Disparity Committee.