This is the first of an upcoming interview series with our certified Forward-Facing® coaches. In this series, we’ll take some time to get to know our coaches, how they found Forward-Facing® and how they’re using it in both the professional and personal lives. This post contains highlights from the interview. Find the whole thing here.
John Hall is a Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner, Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor, Certified Clinical Trauma Professional, and Certified Health and Wellness Coach who believes in the power of walking beside someone to understand their journey. Through this journey, we together form a safe space in a world of chaos. John has been through childhood trauma, alcoholism, and addiction, leading to his current choices to help others.
I was excited to interview John because of this great line he introduced us to when we were in Forward-Facing® ME together: “I’d rather have Forward-Facing® Trauma Therapy than backward-facing drama therapy.”
Needless to say, I wanted to know more. Here’s the interview:
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me today, John. Could you introduce yourself?
I’m the owner of Complete Family Treatment Services. I’m a licensed independent mental health therapist, licensed drug and alcohol counselor, Certified Clinical Trauma Professional (CCTP) and certified Forward-Facing Health and Wellness Coach.
How did you find Forward-Facing?
When I initially went to get my CCTP, I found Eric to be very relatable and we bonded even though it was a PESI course. I just thought, “well if I could get a hold of this guy, he seems to know a lot about trauma.” And that’s what I was interested in.
A lot of what we do as clinicians is not only mental health. It used to be just mental health, then substance abuse creeped in, and substance abuse was more than mental health at times. Now we have trauma.
Trauma throws a big monkey wrench into anything we do. Now we’ve become trauma-focused moreso than probably substance use even though we deal with addiction.
So I took the Forward-Facing Trauma Therapy workshop from Eric back in 2020 and asked him some questions after class and he said, “hey, why don’t you and I get together?” That’s how it started. I’ve been doing Forward-Facing Trauma Therapy both professionally and personally since November 2020.
Tell me more about how trauma throws a monkey wrench into mental health and substance use treatment.
Generally speaking, I ask clinicians, “I have a patient that’s anxious and depressed and drinks a bottle of vodka a day. What’s the problem?”
Well, to an alcoholic addict like me, the initial problem is the alcohol because without stopping the alcohol or at least slowing it down considerably, you don’t know what you are. If you’re in an altered mind, you don’t know if you’re anxious or depressed. If you’re drinking alcohol, it’s a sedative and you’ll probably be more depressed, but if you throw trauma into the middle of that, depending on the degree of trauma, it can make things go sideways very quickly.
Typically I see veterans or people in the military after they’ve had their second DUI when they’re about ready to be discharged out of the military because they’re stuck in sympathetic dominant mode and they can’t get out, and they don’t know how to make it go away. And that’s why we have a lot of veterans suicides.
So when we start talking about the different variables between mental health and substance use and trauma, trauma trumps everything. And you have to really understand what you’re doing and slow that train down enough that you can work on substance use.
It’s been my experience that if you tackle substance use or mental health first and you ignore the trauma, you’re not going to get any kind of result that you want because they just can’t undo it.
What have you found particularly helpful about Forward-Facing®?
The ability to understand what your body’s telling you, that’s the key. Being able to self-regulate, looking back at past painful experiences.
I think for me it’s really about what the body is telling me. We’re getting into a lot of attachment trauma: getting into a relationship but not being able to regulate once you’re there. Self-regulation is amazing for that.
Everybody has a coping mechanism, I call it their “go-to” move that’s going to remain present as long as they don’t know how to cope.
I have a client that’s hugely anxious and as we walk back through his stuff, we find that he has significant attachment issues and so he hasn’t been able to regulate anything and so when he goes into his fear response, then he uses his go-to move which is drinking and gambling.
The true gift of Forward-Facing is to be able to understand what your body is telling you. And then to have the choices once you become regulated of whether you want to react to the situation in front of you or not. The choice we have today is an incredible gift.
What has been the most helpful concept for you from Forward-Facing?
The sense of choice.
I believe that you have the choice – as an addict, I could go up to the store any time I want and buy a bottle of whatever. And that wouldn’t make my life better at all, so there’s no reason to.
Rather than teach “I can’t drink anymore or I can’t use anymore.” It’s more “I have a choice today and I choose not to.”
I’ve heard you say, “I would rather have Forward-Facing Trauma Therapy than backward-facing drama therapy.” Tell me more about what that means for you.
The problem is if I look back in the past, I start to dig up all my drama. I had an old AA sponsor said, “You can pick it up, but you’re going to wring every drop of misery out of it before you put it back down.”
I’ve experienced that in my own life, so I don’t look at things I’m not capable of fixing. I could say, “Why did my parent abuse me when I was a kid?” and try to wrestle with that and wring every drop of misery out of that and I’m not ever gonna get an answer. Or “Why didn’t my dad spend time with me as a kid?” and I’ll never get that answer.
I have to be able to adjust and accept the fact that the people that got put into my life, my parents, didn’t do so good and so I had to learn survival mechanisms to be successful.
What advice do you have for people new to Forward-Facing?
Lean into it. Don’t make it something that it isn’t. It’s very simple. As I know in my own life: simple things are probably the hardest things we do in life. It’s like people come up and say, “stop drinking” well that’s great, but how do I do that?
And I think Forward-Facing® is understanding that you have the power of choice. That’s the true lynch pin of the whole thing. I have that power of choice and I can choose to be a victim or I can choose not to be a victim, get on with my life, and make my life better, being intentional and having purpose through my Documents of Intention.
I think a lot of people struggle with their purpose and Forward-Facing® gives you that through Documents of Intention. I’ve seen people’s lives transform.
Even a half-assed attempt at this is better than trying to wade through the world’s minutiae and try to figure out what’s real and what’s not real.
100% of the people that fail in recovery don’t surrender. If you want to be successful in Forward Facing®, you have to be able to surrender. You have to take a look at your life and say “my way doesn’t work. What can I do better? What direction can I take?”
That’s the great thing with Forward-Facing® ME. It helps them to understand that as we slog through this thing called life, we’re not going to always get it right or even get it close, but the moral of the story is that it’s the tests and the perseverance that gets you what you want.
Emily Hedrick is Director of Operations and Innovation at Forward-Facing® Institute. One of her favorite things about Forward-Facing® is the people she has met through FFME, training programs, and other Forward-Facing interactions. She’s excited to bring this series to life and knows it won’t be much work because Forward-Facing® draws in amazing humans.
If you’re a certified Forward-Facing® coach and want to have a conversation, she’d love to hear from you. Send her an email: firstname.lastname@example.org