A Conversation With…Alexis Bell
At age 23, Alexis Bell, Hudson’s Residential Counselor at Chestnut House in Salisbury, has accomplished a tremendous amount in a short window of time. Now she is “using everything I have learned up until now in this job” to help residents of the Treatment House she oversees find their way to a clean and sober life.
Bell, born and raised in Marion, earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from University of Maryland Eastern Shore while simultaneously earning a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work (BASW) certification at Salisbury University. She then went on to earn her Licensed Master’s in Social Work (LMSW) from SU, all within a five-year period.
As part of our series on Black Leaders at Hudson Behavioral Health, we spoke with Bell about her drive, how she reached a level of leadership in such a short time, and why what she does during her time off helps her in her career.
Q: Have you always wanted to go into social work or was it something you were exposed to in college?
I had been working towards this since I was a teenager because I knew I wanted to go to college. All the jobs I have had turned into leadership positions. For instance, I was a manager at Subway at age 17. I seemed to be good at getting people to work together which is why when I learned about social work, it appealed to me. Social work is something I have always been interested in; I just didn’t know in what capacity I wanted to use this degree until now.
Q: Where does your drive come from?
It’s just who I am. I have a lot of energy and focus. The more I do, the more it seems I want to do. At UMES, I won a seat on the Student Government Association, became a Hawk Mentor, was in the Richard A. Henson Honors Program and was vice president of Women of Distinction. I double-majored in Sociology and Social Work, which brought me to Salisbury University in the dual program. I also minored in English.
Q: How did you find out about Hudson?
A professor told me that SU offered a fellowship in substance abuse that covered 50% tuition, so I applied and was accepted at Hudson. While there I started growing a love for this kind of counseling. My boss Michele (Sterling, Clinical Treatment Manager) saw my growth as an intern and asked me to apply for a job. I had taken the internship to meet the school’s requirement, but by the time I finished I was so wholeheartedly in it. It was a complete accident but the best decision I ever made. I believe in signs, so I believe I was meant to be here.
Q: What is your job like now? And is it hard to be young with this responsibility?
It is a busy job! I oversee staff and patients in the house. I hold two therapy groups each day, meet individually with patients, coordinate treatment plans, report any needs for the building and provide necessary transportation in our van, amongst any other necessary duties. I think my age may help me connect with some of the younger patients, but in truth I think this job is about trust, not age. My age is challenging at times due to stereotypes; however, it is something I understand and can overcome. If patients think you are sincere and authentic, they feel they can trust you and that is the foundation.
Q: What is a misconception about your job?
Often people feel that if you are asking for help you are weak, but it is the strongest thing you can do. No one can “do” life alone, addiction or otherwise. In my groups I focus a lot on vulnerability. You can make the biggest strides when you are vulnerable.
Q: How is working in men’s housing different than women’s housing?
Well, our culture says that the “manly” thing is to handle it alone. My biggest challenge is convincing these men to let their guard down, share their feelings and then fix what is wrong instead of ignoring it. I have not worked in this capacity in a women’s house, but I feel from general therapy there may be more walls to take down with men.
Q: How do you handle the job stress?
The same way I tell my patients to care for their mental health. I, too, am in therapy. I practice self-care by taking a break with friends; taking bubble baths; using scents like lavender and occasionally taking a mental health day.
Is it hard when patients leave?
When people leave after their six months of treatment it is THE best thing ever – and it’s also bittersweet. We’ve built rapport and when they leave I can’t help but miss them a lot, but I know they have tools they need to stay in recovery. Communication is in their hands beyond discharge, and some will call to check in and share how it’s going, which I love.
Hudson Behavioral Health was formed in 1980 (as Hudson Health Services, Inc.) to bring the first residential recovery program to the Eastern Shore. Today, thousands of patients later, we remain the leader in recovery programs and resources, with our staff of 100 committed to serving each patient as an individual.