Meet Mary Ann, one of our Helpline Chat Specialists

We chatted with Mary Ann, one of our Helpline Chat Specialists, to find out a little more about her background, why she’s passionate about helping parents struggling with their child’s substance use and what she hopes parents will get out of chat.

Mary Ann - chat helpline
Tell us about yourself, both personally and professionally, and your journey arriving at the Partnership.

Personally, I was inspired to specialize in addictions based on my own previous history with substance misuse, ensuing recovery and many years of continuous sobriety. I have also been a family member of persons struggling with this problem, too. I find that my personal history provides an added perspective for relating to people and their struggles with this issue. I am also a parent of two grown children and am familiar with how daunting it can be to face the challenges of raising teens and addressing concerns with young adult children.

Professionally, I have a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology and extensive training in counseling methods. I am a Licensed Professional Counselor in New Jersey, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in New York and Florida and maintain a private therapy practice. I specialize in working with individuals and their families struggling with substance abuse. I am a member of the National Board for Certified Counselors (NCC) and hold a Master Addictions Counselor (MAC) credential. I am also a trained facilitator for SMART Recovery. I have previously worked for and remain affiliated with an acute care hospital specializing in psychiatric and substance abuse treatment. I have an extensive background in co-occurring disorders, medication assisted treatment, treatment program placement and support groups.

Who is the Chat Helpline for? What kind of a parent would benefit from logging on to ask a question or highlight a concern?

The Chat Helpline is a resource that provides support for parents regardless of the severity of the problem. Sometimes parents have basic questions regarding substance misuse or aren’t sure if their child is using. Others are in the throes of a full-blown crisis. Parent Specialists at the Chat Helpline are equipped to handle a myriad of issues and, not to sound cliché, but there are no dumb questions! If it matters to you, it matters to us, and we will refer you to resources that can help you if we don’t have the answers ourselves.

What would you tell someone who might be reluctant to chat?

It takes a lot of courage to reach out and ask someone for help. It might feel awkward at first to put yourself “out there” with someone in cyberspace, but within a few minutes most people start settling into a comfortable rapport with me. The experience feels like having a good talk with a caring professional who is knowledgeable and also objective.

Our Helpline is a place to go for understanding and a place where you will feel neither judged nor criticized when discussing your problems. Whereas asking friends and family may result in criticism or advice that isn’t always helpful, the Parent Specialist will help you arrive at solutions that feel right for you and your family.

What does the landscape look like out there — what you are hearing from parents in chat?

We often hear from parents who feel stigmatized about having a child who is struggling with substance use and the lack of support found in their communities. From our standpoint, we know parents are certainly not alone in this and we help them find local support groups and online communities to connect with others.

Some of the more frequent concerns we hear about are teen experimentation with marijuana and a general lack of understanding about the dangers involved in marijuana use in the development of teen brains. Also, over-the-counter cough medicine/DXM is easily obtained and abused by teens to get high. In addition, a common concern is that teens are gaining access to their parents’ Rx prescription medications, which are often kept unmonitored in home medicine cabinets. And a current and pervasive problem is opioid abuse in the form of pills (Oxycodone HCL) and heroin.

So, we are here to help parents navigate a host of issues — big and small — and attend to each parent’s unique situation during a chat conversation. Once we have agreed on some resolutions for next steps, we typically obtain an email address for the parent and follow up by sending appropriate resources at the end of our chat time.

Much of what we do during our chat conversation is to empathize with the parent who needs validation and support for how hard it is to cope with constant worry. At the conclusion of our chat, parents will usually express gratitude pertaining to our genuine concern about how they are affected by their loved ones’ troubles.

It’s extremely satisfying for us to help parents in this way!

Connect via Live Chat

Have a question, suspicion or concern about your child’s drinking or substance use? Chat with Mary Ann or another specialist Monday-Friday, 5 pm – 10 pm ET and Saturday & Sunday, 12 pm – 5 pm ET.

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