By John Bushell, Registered Psychotherapist and Addictions Counsellor, Renascent’s Madison Avenue Centre
I joined Renascent’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee a few years ago because I wanted to help the clients we serve. Renascent’s clientele has always been diverse, and we’ve really continued to strengthen our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion over the years.
The LGBTQ+ community faces many challenges. There are many within it who feel isolated, unsafe and unwelcome in their environment and many who feel that most recovery programs do not apply to them. This is something we’ve worked very hard to address as we work to ensure everyone who seeks treatment feels safe, welcome and a part of our community.
A few years ago for Pride Month, we raised the Pride flag at all of our treatment centres. We initially thought that the flag would be raised every June 1 and lowed at the end of the month. But we decided never to lower it, to send a loud and clear message to everyone who walks through our doors. We want everyone to know they can feel at home here.
I remember when we welcomed our first transgender youth client. I was so impressed by the warm welcome this client immediately received – particularly from the other clients. That warm welcome lasted for the entirety of their stay and I was floored by how supportive everyone was. Since then, we’ve supported the recovery of many trans individuals.
Seeking to embed principles of equity, diversity and inclusion into our work, I started a diversity group session for our inpatient clients. Its focus is to increase each client’s understanding of how feeling excluded has contributed to their addiction and impacted their self-esteem. We also explore how each client can contribute to creating a sense of inclusion within their community.
At Renascent, we’ve have the opportunity to support LGBTQ+ youth through partnerships – most notably, our partnership with Pieces to Pathways, a peer-led substance use support program. Through it, our clients have access to one-on-one counselling, referrals and aftercare, as well as support for housing, if needed.
I am proud to work at Renascent. I’ve seen us work to break down barriers and be supportive. It’s important for our clients. It’s important to us. As a member of both the LGBTQ+ and the recovery community, I know what it feels like to be exactly where many of our clients are.
I remember when I attended my first Pride in the late 80’s. It was nothing like the phenomenal spectacle it is today. As I look back, I see a similar evolution with Renascent, where the size of our own LGBTQ+ community has grown – both clients/alumni and staff. I believe our clients feel more welcome than ever and are more encouraged than ever to celebrate who they are.