Alumni Spotlight: Marcy Nichols
Frustrated by the lack of resources for treating gambling addiction, Marcy Nichols wrote “NO-DICE”, a self-help workbook for problem gamblers. Her website includes the workbook’s table of contents, a sample of 3 chapters, 3 questionnaires to assess whether or not gambling is a problem for the reader, and poignant & powerful comments from people whose lives have been impacted by gambling addiction. http://www.no-dice.com
Career Plans, Goals and Personal Ambitions
As I reflect on my history, I think people must have always felt comfortable speaking with me. I can remember people coming to me and telling me things about their worries and problems, when I was in grade school. By age 18, I had a career as a hairdresser, and I became very good at reading people. Something happens when you’re in a person’s space and touching their hair that causes a sense of trust and comfort. Hairdressing taught me how to read people within just a couple of minutes, so I could fit my language and approach to each person. I became a chameleon of sorts, being how I needed to be, to make each client feel comfortable with me. I mastered my advice giving, and I really thought I had heard it all.
When I became 40 years old, I knew by the time I was 50 my body wouldn’t allow me to continue to stand behind a chair and do hair. I began to think of jobs or careers I would be interested in. Many friends and family suggested I check into counseling because I had helped them with my advice. Looking into local community college programs, I saw a two-year certification course for chemical dependency. Having dealt with drug and alcohol issues personally in my life, I thought this would be a good career choice for me, and I could be working in the field in only 2 years.
Having been involved with drugs and alcohol in the past, and seeing the negative consequences of addiction, helped me in this endeavor. One of the most intense experiences that I could reflect on was when I was involved in an intervention with a family member. I learned facts and theories of addiction, and also how emotions and family could support or ostracize the addict. While attending classes, I realized my cigarette addiction of 26 years, was going to be a problem when facilitating 2-hour groups and 1-hour individual appointments. So, I quit. Talk about understanding the power of addiction and the battle it takes to quit!
At the same time one of my hair clients confided in me that her brother had committed suicide the previous year because of his gambling addiction. She said her family had no idea that gambling could be a problem or addiction. At that moment, a passion awoke in me. That passion was gambling addiction. At school I’d heard a second-year student speaking about gambling addiction, and I was determined to do my yearlong internship under her in the alcohol and drug treatment agency she worked for. During that year, I learned and practiced as both a drug and alcohol counselor and a gambling addiction counselor. I found both to be intriguing and difficult, but my passion focused on gambling addiction.
Having already accomplished so much in such a short time, I wanted to further myself both professionally and personally. I decided to continue my education at Lewis and Clark College in the graduate Counseling Psychology program. This step in my life does pose a challenge to me at times. While working full time in Albany and Corvallis, I drive over 400 miles weekly for my work and education in Portland.
I have always tried to approach life with honesty, hard work and a sense of determination, in whatever goals that I may set up for myself. When I think of my future professional and personal goals/ambitions, I see myself happy and successful in my endeavors. I approach my future with courage and with pride in helping others with their personal issues and life decisions, and in teaching professionals about gambling addiction.
I plan to continue working with Linn and Benton counties in their gambling program. My initial goal was to build the two programs from an average of 3-5 clients to 30 or more, and I’ve done that successfully. Initially, I used my professional counseling skills and outreach skills to build the programs. I use my integrity and determination to help these voluntary clients maintain their addiction treatment. I find this last part to be very challenging, and enjoy it immensely.
Currently I’m supervising an addictions counselor to take over as gambling counselor for the Benton County site. I’m also supervising a second intern. Both supervisees are finding the gambling population as fascinating to work with as I do.
I’ve written a workbook addressing problem gambling. No Dice: Safety Net to Recovery is being sold internationally. I’ve traveled the nation promoting the book, and now use it in trainings entitled Problem Gambling and Money Disorders. I’m very excited about this next phase of my career, because I love teaching others about gambling addiction. This clinical training teaches professionals how to use actual tools and techniques with their clients. I offered this workshop at the 2007 NWIAS Annual Conference (Northwest Institute of Addiction Studies) held at Lewis & Clark, and am confident it was successful, both in terms of my goals and in terms of participant satisfaction. Such feedback gives me joy, along with helping addicts find hope and a better purpose in their lives.
The two most fascinating changes that have occurred to me in recent years, are that I never thought I’d go to college, let alone write a book and go to graduate school. The other is the daily challenge to learn to help others find their own answers, rather than giving them advice on what they should or should not do. Since I had mastered advice giving early in my life and have been thanked for the advice I gave, to this day it is a hard habit to break. But I’ve broken more ingrained habits before, so I know it’ll get easier with practice.
My life is very full right now with a full time job, the book, website, professional trainings, and graduate school. I’ll complete my Masters degree and become a Licensed Professional Counselor, but I have no idea if I’ll ever start a private practice as a therapist. If I choose to stay a gambling counselor, then I’ll follow the funding sources (as the lottery allows). I will make those decisions when I get there. Right now, I know I’m doing what’s right for me.