Meet our Samaritans: Jalyn

By Justin Feltman

After completing her Master’s in Social Work at Howard University, Jalyn joined Samaritan Inns as an Addictions Counselor for our Women with Children Program this past March. With a lifelong passion for serving others, Jalyn is a vital part of our Women with Children Program’s success.

What inspired you to get involved with substance use treatment?

I always knew I wanted to be a therapist or in the helping professions. I know that people are made up of the many interactions they’ve had, not just individuals. So I wanted to get to know more about mental health and substance use in my Master’s program. That’s where it sparked my interest and I knew that I wanted to come into this field.

And, some personal reasons as well. My father’s in recovery. So he actually does this line of work as well. Just seeing what he’s been through and what he’s overcome, kind of inspired me, what he did to get out of that predicament.

When did your father begin his recovery? 

It’s still a process. I want to say I was more conscious of it, maybe around 7 or 8th grade. That’s when I noticed that maybe he was struggling with it, or like, trying to get back into therapy.

My cousin passed away, which was his niece, that’s what like triggered it. Then watching him go to therapy, get on his psych meds, kind of helped him. So, addressing the mental health piece. And I think the mental health piece is what led him to substance use.

Now, he’s a substance use counselor. He finds it enjoyable. I mean, there’s always the stresses but that’s his purpose he feels.

Do you work through any job issues with your father?

He helps me, I kind of help him. He has the experience and I have the academia, even though we’re in two different things. It’s nice. Sometimes I have to turn it off. I just don’t want to talk about work. I don’t want to talk about substance use. No. Groups. None of that. I just need you to be my dad.

What values do you try to instill at the Women with Children Program?

I try to emphasize, mainly knowing themselves, self-love. And we focus a lot on relationships, family relationships, romantic relationships, as well as coping skills for their addictions, building new habits, so they’re breaking the old ones. So just kind of like, making sure that were insuring them to be focused on their recovery. Really instilling in them that recovery is possible, as long as they’re doing the work. It’s not easy.

Do you think are some of the additional challenges clients in the Women with Children face that the regular treatment program would not have?

You have a lot of women who are in the program who may have two children with them but they may have other children who elsewhere and maybe other family custody or in the state’s custody, so, dealing with that is a whole other issue that may not arise over there.

Also, while they’re in the house, they’re single parents. And the family relationships they’re coming from may not be the ones they want to be having with their children. So, focusing on parenting skills and developmental milestones. They may not know that stuff. A lot of them don’t. There’s different values they can bring to their children, rather than continuing the cycle of addiction, poverty.

And, I think that our groups are tailored toward the woman aspect and gender specific. We focus a lot on trauma healing, stuff like that.

Experiences unique to being a woman in our society? 

Exactly. Being a sister circle. Being supportive. Be respectful of others and their feelings, their experiences. A lot of them have found themselves in the same experience, just a different variation but they can relate to that.

It’s not always sister circle (Laughs). Sometimes it definitely gets challenging in the house. Personalities may clash. But, we do try to nip things in the bud, holding people accountable, making sure they’re holding themselves accountable, even when clinical staff is not around. Make sure they’re being respectful of the rules of the house at all times. And that way other people aren’t triggered to leave, on their own or end up in a situation that just gets bigger.

Right now we’re at a good place, it does ebb and flow with the different groups in the house. I think it’s healthy when we have a mix of older and younger, there’s different perspectives, experiences, all that stuff.

What’s your experience with the Child Development Center?

I love the children. Sometimes I try to do different stuff. Sometimes, I’ll take them out to water the plants. Or I’ll go to the back and play with them. Just try to create memories, positive memories.

They definitely bring joy to Clark Inn. Mainly because these women have been through so much and just having their children or child with them brings a little bit of light to their lives, knowing that they are doing something right. They have an opportunity to raise this child differently than they were raised.

What’s been your biggest challenge so far and best experience so far?

Biggest challenge thus far has to do with my age, and, I’m still working on myself. I’m still developing. I’m not a parent. So getting them to understand my perspective and the value I can bring to them. And I do understand the value they bring to my learning at Clark Inn as well.

Do you think there’s assumptions made there about you being young and not a parent?

For sure. It may not be said but it’s the elephant in the room. Me being young. When I told them my mental health background, my experience, me just coming into the substance use field. I try to be open about my experiences and what I’ve been through. They know about my father in recovery. I think that helps a little bit but there’s definitely like some…I guess awkwardness I guess since I’m not a parent.

For you or for them? 

I think mainly on my side. I have to develop my skills to be able to tackle those topics if that makes sense. They see me interact with the kids but maybe I’m thinking about it too much.

I get reminded at least once a week why I’m doing this work. It’s rewarding. Just having individual sessions, or I may get that feeling in group and I’m just like, “Okay, this makes all the difference.”

What are those moments?

For instance, we were having a group about forgiveness, specifically when you can’t say sorry, like if they pass away or something like that. And this one woman was saying she has a bad relationship with her mom but really being able to forgive her for not being there, emotionally, and letting that go, and how she can be a better parent to her child.

Seeing them create boundaries with people on the outside they may not have had, like, those are all the little things that count.

What’s your favorite experience? 

When the house is cohesive. That’s always a good time. It makes coming to work more enjoyable. Running the groups are a lot better. Not having that tension. So, when the house is cohesive and everything is running smoothly, that’s a good time to be at work.

You’re a blogger outside of this. What’s kind of your interests and what do you want to do for our blog? 

I did a beauty blog in undergrad. I knew I liked writing. I was a good writer. Then, in my Master’s Program, I was like, “I’m really into this mental health thing. I like reading about it.” So then, at the end of my first year in my Master’s Program, I started doing a mental health blog with Joy Day Movement. They have a website and tell different stories on mental health. I was blogging for them. Then, I joined group therapy associates. I do their marketing and blogging for them. We talk about relationships, dating, couples, family stuff, mental health of course. A range of things.

Hopefully I can get into more storytelling with my blogging for Samaritan Inns.

I like telling other people’s stories. I think words are really powerful. So, I want to tell some of the women’s stories through the blog. I think they’ll be more comfortable. And also, it will let them see how far they’ve come. See how far they’ve progressed. I guess like being an inspiration to others.

Stay tuned for Jalyn’s first blog post for Samaritan Inns! 

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