Dr. David Burston discusses his journey to becoming a Family and Group Therapist at PCH Treatment Center and why PCH’s unique approach to treating individuals with psychological disorders and dual diagnosis is so effective compared to other programs.
My name is Dr. David Burston and obviously as you can hear I’m English. I first came to America 17 years ago now and I was a writer at that time. I’d been an actor basically out of school and when I came here one thing which I’d always wanted to do was study psychology on an official level. So I did a master’s degree in Los Angeles in clinical psychology, not knowing entirely what that term meant but of course, you soon learn and then I was in training six months after that.
I think the recovery community at PCH is a very distinct and unusual one in a sense that we try to meet everyone as an individual and we don’t tend to have prescribed or schematic or dogmatic ways of approaching people’s illness and how they get into trouble with not just drugs, it could be alcohol of course, but also other habits; sexuality, consumerism, shopping, gambling, all kinds of ways that people could get into trouble in their lives and we try to help them and approach everyone as an individual and begin from there.
What we really want to do here is to foster a community where people feel safe, safe in order to express themselves, but safe in order to express where they are coming from in terms of this subject, what they believe about this subject, what they believe about their own paths for themselves. We want to have a community where people don’t suffer from the kinds of judgments that can happen in the external world. I think judgments could be very very difficult for us, the way that we are judged, or the way that we judge ourselves. And so what we try to do is to work with those sorts of voices if you like, or those sorts of perspectives and create atmospheres where we don’t have much judgment. What we want is people to be able to express themselves, and to be able to speak honestly about their perspectives about themselves but also what is happening in their broader lives, and to try and tackle maybe both sides at once, at the same time.
I think at PCH now over the years, and as I said I’ve been here many years now, we’ve built a body of staff of people who are effective clinicians and able to have a knowledge and understanding and have the experience to be able to approach dual diagnosis issues in a way that we can hold a space for both of those. I think that is very important. We do know that those people who suffer from addiction or compulsive illnesses can be hampered in their own recovery because of other issues in their life or conditions that they have to suffer with. So I think it’s very important at PCH that individuals who suffer from both problems can come to a place where they can meet individuals, meet staff members, meet a community where we can accept and understand that that is the case, because we want to give people the very very best chance that they can have at getting a shot at their lives. And that means looking at the whole picture and not just one picture.
So I think at PCH what’s very important is that clients can come here and be welcomed into a community that understands the condition, understands that life is not always simple and that we’ve got to look at a number of things at the same time in order to really make progress.
David Burston, MFT, PhD, Family and Group Therapist