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If you’ve spent any time at Beit T’Shuvah this past summer, you may have noticed a warm personality with a radiant smile hanging out in the coffee bar, chatting it up with the residents. Arriving in late May, and now going into her final week here, Jessica Weinstock has graced our presence as a therapy intern, shadowing the staff, sitting in on groups (even leading them), and ultimately engaging the residents to go deeper into processing their addictions. Beit T’Shuvah has been an ideal training ground for her. Jessica will soon be heading into her senior year at the University of Michigan as a Psych Major.

Jessica grew up in Los Angeles, near Westwood. When she was in 8th grade, she interned as a facilitator between group therapists and children. It was at this moment in her life that she got to experience the power of connection. She was barely a teenager, but “it was just meaningful work. It was making a difference in people’s lives, and that’s what spoke to me. Helping people and connecting with people,” she explains. That experience changed her direction and got her hooked on wanting to explore psychology further. Following in the footsteps of her mother, a respected therapist, Jessica says, “I like studying the human brain and social interactions, why we are the way we are and why we handle situations in the way we handle them.”

Jessica got in touch with Harriet and Beit T’Shuvah. Although she is not an addict herself, Jessica has been close with people who are and has seen the toll it takes on them and their families. With all of this in mind, she knew she wanted to work at a rehab. “[Addiction] has always been something I’ve been afraid of, because I didn’t understand it. That fear of not knowing, made me want to approach it and dive into it. I kind of figured the only way to get over that fear was to face it,” she explains.

This quality, of facing one’s fear, of shining a light on what scares us or what we pretend isn’t true, is one of the many lessons we teach at Beit T’Shuvah and it is what motivated Jessica to get her hands dirty; to understand addiction, she had to work with addicts. Jessica landed an interview with Harriet and thus began a deeper dive into the world of therapy.

“When I first got here, after every group, I would go into [Harriet’s] office and tell her what I learned and what I loved. I was making this my own journey… A month ago, I was asked to start running one of the homegroups.” For most 21-year-olds, leading a group of criminals and addicts might be an intimidating prospect, but not for Jessica. “I wasn’t afraid to run the group. I felt very ready to do it because I’ve led many therapy group settings. I had it to myself for a month and it was a great experience and I connected. I mean… the women that come in here… I’ve made relationships with most of them. I loved working with them every morning. I am also running Harriet’s relationships group, which I’ve been doing for a couple of months now,” she says with a sparkle of pride in her eye.

Jessica’s time here has taught her that the similarities between us are greater than our differences. “I wanted to understand addiction and the thought process behind it. Ultimately what I’ve learned here is that we’re all the same. Addicts are not a separate [entity]. We’re all here. We’re all struggling in one way or another. You don’t need to be an addict to understand people. I’ve learned so much from this experience and the people I’ve met and I hope I’ve made an impact in the way that people have made an impact on me. I understand addiction in a way I could have never imagined. Now I feel like I can actually help people with it and maybe go into this field after I graduate.”

Jessica leaves us this week to go back to school and then plans to attend graduate school. She has her heart set on therapy and after our conversation, it is clear she has the empathy, relatability, and presence of mind to become a great listener and healer. “When I first heard ‘the opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety it’s connection’ it spoke volumes to me. It’s guided me. I hope to help people heal their souls,” she explains warmly and sincerely.

Thank you for all your help this summer Jessica.