A psychology major graduates from college but isn’t sure what she wants to do. She takes a year off and moves back home. She gets an entry-level position in corrections, overseeing groups of people who have been court ordered to perform community service.
Her leadership skills improve. She develops creative ways to motivate people. And, to her surprise, she enjoys the work. With no formal training or experience, she moves quickly up the ranks. And what started as just a job becomes a perfect professional fit.
The Goldy Factor
Today, MPS in Addictions Counseling (ADDC) student Cede Johnson, is a full-time probation officer with Hennepin County. At 28, she is one of the younger officers in the high risk probation unit, but with six years in corrections under her belt, she is more than qualified.
Johnson decided to go back to school to learn more about the intersection between chemical dependence and corrections. She chose the Addictions Counseling program to become an LADC (licensed alcohol and drug counselor) and to gain balanced information about the punishment versus treatment debate.
"There’s so much treatment involved in corrections," she says. "I knew (the degree) would help me. I have a lot of other probation officers come to me with treatment or assessment questions. I don’t think I would be as good or as resourceful an officer if I hadn’t gone through this program."
Plus, there was the Goldy factor. "Being from the Twin Cities, I thought ‘how cool would it be to go to the U?’ A secret goal of mine was to be a Gopher."
Taking Time, Taking Care
The toughest part of her job, Johnson says, is when she needs to provide recommendations following a probation violation. She tries to get a big-picture perspective of the person and their circumstance.
“I really focus on integrated care. I speak with the social worker, counselor, teacher, or spouse. I try not make snap judgments. I like to see the whole picture.”
"Self care was one of the greatest things the U taught me."
This is also the part of the job that requires Johnson to take care of herself, too.
“Self care was one of the greatest things the U taught me,” she says. “It was talked about in almost every single one of my classes.”
For several months, she would work overnights, sleep, take her son to the sitter, go to school, then head back to the office. In addition to her internship, she was working about 70 hours a week. She learned how to take personal time-outs and ask for help.
“I never could have done it without my family,” she says.
Always Be Curious
Growing up with a father who was often absent due to his own struggle with addiction and incarceration, Johnson feels drawn to helping families. She feels that it isn't fair that kids don’t have their parents because of an addiction.
"I like seeing the good in people when they sometimes can’t see the good in themselves, when the world only sees them as a convict or a criminal. You can have a criminal history without being a bad person. Many people have good intentions."
The biggest lesson she’s learned in the program, she says, is to always be curious. "Instead of judging people, I wonder ‘where did you come from, what have you been through?’ I remind myself of that when I find myself running into personal biases. What else is there? What am I missing?"
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Motivational Interviewing with Jennifer Weigelt
Pro Tips for Students
"If you can, work less. Do part-time work if possible. Split your internship up in between coursework; do 440 hours at two different places."