Interview: Jenna Jarrold, MS, LAC, NCC

Jenna Jarrold, MS, LAC, NCC


JJ’s Bio

I am a Chicago native who came to the University of Arizona where I completed a Bachelor’s degree in Communications. I went on to earn a Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from University of Phoenix. I am a Nationally Certified Counselor, Licensed Associate Counselor (LAC) and will soon be applying for my professional counseling license (LPC). I found my passion for the helping profession through my experiences working at an early academic program for minority and low-income teens and assisting with adoptions of children removed from their homes by Child Protective Services. For five years I worked at a residential treatment center for eating disorders and am currently at an intensive outpatient program (IOP) for general mental health and substance abuse.  I have experience providing therapy for individuals (adults and teens), families, couples, and conducting group counseling. I am particularly intrigued by family work as so much of who we are is formed in childhood. I advocate for my clients’ well being, in whatever capacity that means, and am extremely open and honest with my clients. Someone once told me that people’s wounds often create the most beautiful parts of who they will become, and that has become a core belief of mine as a therapist.

Question: How you can break through the denial?

JJ’s Answer:

While some people may consciously deny they have a problem, some may be in a pattern of habitual ignorance, being unaware of their denial.  In order to break through the denial, one must come to a place of awareness. Looking for signs of denial is a good first step.

  • Lying (to self or others) about behavior
  • Compare to others
  • Others tell say you have a problem, but you do not see it
  • Rationalizing behavior

Question: How can couples support each other through recovery?

JJ’s Answer:

Having a spouse or partner that struggles with addiction can often cause feelings of anger, resentment, judgment, and blame.  And while all those feelings are understandable and valid, they can also be hugely unhelpful in terms of helping your partner through the recovery process. Thus, it is so important to seek your own support (whether from a close friend, a psychotherapist, or a support group) to process and deal with these feelings.  Once you can work through the negative feelings associated with your partner’s addiction, you will likely feel more open to support your spouse in a helpful, effective way.  One of the best (and most impactful) ways to support your partner in his or her recovery is through listening.  This means being open to hearing about your partner’s struggles, not only with the addiction, but also with the process of recovery. A fundamental part of supportive listening lies in being open-minded and unbiased.  Attending to your partner in a nonjudgmental way can help your loved one be more open to expressing himself or herself in an honest, authentic way.

Question: How does one establish healthy boundaries with their addicted loved one?

JJ’s Answer:

I think it is first crucial to understand why healthy boundaries in a relationship are so important.  Boundaries establish guidelines or expectations for respectful behaviors, interactions, and responsibilities.  If appropriate boundaries are not set, you may find yourself compromising what you are wanting and needing from a relationship.  Essentially, with poor boundaries, one or both parties in a partnership can end up losing themselves fairly quickly.

Establishing boundaries in any relationship, regardless of addiction or not, is one of the most vital parts of a healthy relationship.  Unfortunately, setting (and keeping) boundaries is also one of the most challenging parts of a relationship. Some may not even know they have poor boundaries, so it is important to know the telltale signs.

  • You feel like you are walking on eggshells around your partner (perhaps to avoid conflict)
  • You feel as though you have lost your voice
  • You often feel like the victim
  • You express yourself passive aggressively

While those are just a few signs of poor boundaries in a relationship, there are many.  But if you’ve recognized the boundaries within your relationship are in need of strengthening, there are some things you can do.

  • Communicate with your partner – be open and honest with your feelings, thoughts, and concerns.
  • Don’t make assumptions – about how your partner is feeling, or what he or she is thinking. Instead, just ask!
  • Take responsibility – for your part in things. This means not blaming everything on your partner or your partner’s addiction.
  • Follow through – if you and your partner are working on setting firmer boundaries, it is important you are able to follow through on what you say you will do.

Question: How can couples heal from the impact of addiction?

JJ’s Answer:

Addiction can take a tremendous toll on a relationship.  But if your relationship was able to withstand the impact of addiction, and the difficult road to recovery, there are some areas of focus to help heal and even strengthen the bond between you and your partner.

  • Trust – rebuilding trust after a relationship has withstood addiction is one of the most crucial aspects of healing work for couples. Trust is built one day at a time, through consistency and communication.
  • Self-care – for both partners, self-care during the healing process is essential. Self-care can take many forms, from exercise to nourishing one’s body adequately to using positive self-talk.  Self-care helps promote physical and mental health, contributing to overall well being.
  • Seek support – again, for both partners, seeking outside support, whether through therapy, 12-step meetings (AA, NA, Al-Anon, etc.) or a trusted friend, having a support system outside of your relationship is necessary.
  • Communication – learning to communicate effectively with your partner is one of the most critical aspects of healing a relationship after addiction. Approaching communication in a healthy way can help eliminate unnecessary arguments, and provides an open door for sharing thoughts and feelings.