Elizabeth Stolt

"You know what?” Elizabeth Stolt thought to herself.  “I don't think I want to do this anymore."

The division in Kraft Foods where she had been working for the last 12 ½ years had just been sold to Nestlé, and the corporate life was quickly losing its appeal. “I didn’t intend to go into business,” she says with a smile. “It just happened. It wasn’t a conscious decision.”

Elizabeth Stolt

So this single mom in her 40s quit to become a full-time student. “I wanted to put my efforts into working to make a difference, to make things better for people who are trying to heal. I've always known about the U of M being a good university, so when I started thinking about a change, this is where I wanted to go. I had been working while raising two kids. I thought, ‘I can do this.’”

Addressing Change

Stolt had a “finally, somebody out there gets it” moment when she found the Master of Professional Studies in Integrated Behavioral Health (IBH), which synthesizes substance abuse and mental health education and training into one degree. She was admitted to the program in 2012 and never looked back.

Within the last few years the health care industry began recognizing that substance abuse and mental health issues are often co-occurring disorders, and therefore addressing them simultaneously requires a unique approach.

"Treatment should be patient driven, not practitioner driven.”

For example, someone with anxiety or depression may self-medicate by abusing alcohol or drugs. They then enter a treatment program and are “cured” of the addiction. However, when they leave treatment, they have no coping device for the anxiety or depression that is still there. That’s why treating the whole person is so critical.

Elizabeth Stolt

“In business, you want to promote and provide what the customer wants,” Stolt says. “But the field of substance use disorder counseling hasn't historically been that way. In the past, you take clients into your program and treat them all the same way, using a very cookie-cutter approach. But there are many other evidence-based practices available, like cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing. Treatment can be tailored to meet each individual client’s unique needs.”

“I'm going to work with you to get you where you want to be, not where I say you need to be,” she adds. “The pushback will be there if you tell someone what to do. It's just counter-intuitive to work that way.”

From Input to Output

Stolt interned at Community Foundations, a residential facility for those with severe and persistent mental illness. She also interned at Minnesota Alternatives, a mental illness and substance abuse outpatient treatment center.

After graduation in spring 2016, she began working as a full-time therapist at Alltyr, the groundbreaking clinic in St. Paul. She also has certification in prolonged exposure therapy, so she can serve individuals suffering from PTSD.

“I love the IBH program. I think it’s amazing. I knew I could come here, unlike anywhere else, and when I graduate be able to be licensed as an LADC, LPC, and an LPCC.”

Stolt has gone from being a corporate employee to a student (essentially “being a sponge”), to an intern, to a clinical practitioner where she visits several clients a day.

“Career changing is scary,” she says. “But the program contains all types of people, of all different ages and careers, as well as traditional-aged grad students. The program does a wonderful job of preparing you academically and clinically. You get to work with groups and in hospitals and use the latest research, so you can find work even if you don’t have any background in the field.”

“Change is possible, and the IBH program can help people take the plunge.”

Tips for Future Students

  • “When you’re at a desk crunching numbers and giving presentations all day, it’s a very different energy than just sitting, being present with somebody. You have to build up those skills.”
  • “Self-care is very important and easy to lose track of. Make sure you have a good balance between meeting your needs and the needs of others.”