Our Mission
Q&A with Amy from Project REWARD

Q&A with Amy from Project REWARD

Jan 03, 2024 | Project Reward, Staff

FCA’s Project REWARD has celebrated some incredible successes. Last year, 78% of Project REWARD clients were substance free at discharge from Early Intervention, a huge success compared to the State average of 33%. In addition, 64% of clients were substance free at discharge from the Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), beating the State average of 50%.

Amy Galarza, MFTA, is a Clinician in FCA’s Project REWARD. She double-majored in Psychology and Human Development Family Studies at UConn and earned a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy from Iona University. She is currently leading FCA’s TREM (Trauma Recovery & Empowerment Model) group. Learn more about her work in the interview below.

What made you want to get into social work?

I think my own experience with my family. Just learning how impactful our family systems are to our development, and then how we experience the world, and how the awareness of our experiences impacts how we move forward.

If I can feel empowered in my own life, I would love for other people in spaces that might not feel that way to be reminded that they have that ability to get there. I’ve had positive experiences with therapy and with people in my life that have provided guidance, so I try to prioritize a space where people can feel safe.

Because while it can feel so simple, it really can make such a big impact. It can make all the difference in the world for someone who just might not have had that chance to just be vulnerable and feel safe. To explore themselves and to explore what they want to do and where they want to go.

Have you always wanted to work in addiction recovery?

Honestly, it’s something I fell into, but it was a huge eye-opener for me because what I learned while doing recovery work is that if you break it down, we all are prone to habits, good and bad. And change can be really hard. And change takes time.

As humans we can be pulled into comfort. We can be pulled into things that aren’t always serving us. And if you break it down that way, I think it just minimizes the space between you and the next person. We really are all just connected.

I like working with clients in substance use because I also think they can internalize that message of feeling like an outcast or feeling so different from others or so judged. But the reality is, yes, our problems may look different or present differently, but we all can be prone to making mistakes and wanting to redirect ourselves.

What motivates you to continue this work?

It surprises me just how quickly and how drastically people can grow when they’re set up for success. And I think what they commonly run into is just blocks and challenges.

So whatever we can do to create a path of least resistance, I think we have a lot of clients that are willing to utilize that. So that says a lot about the clients that come in here and about the work that we do here.

When it sticks, it sticks, and it’s really motivating to see. And we have seen clients that really just grow want to stay connected.

It can be hard to say goodbye to clients, but it’s always a bittersweet thing because we’re so happy to see the things that we’ve been able to accomplish together.

What is the benefit for clients to be in an all-women group?

Women benefit from the connections they make here, the topics that we’re able to cover that can sometimes be gender specific and more sensitive. It’s beneficial having the space to be vulnerable about things that have happened or associations they might have with men in their life.

So, while there are definitely times where we have difficult topics, I do notice that in general they’re able to open up and challenge themselves in that way.

What has been your favorite part of being in Project Reward?

I really love my team.

We just have a really close-knit group, we have open communication, there’s so much trust, we just support one another, and I think we can really lean on each other.

And what has  made you want to take on the TREM group and learn about the trauma work?

Trauma is such a significant part of the work that we do and you see how prominent it is in clients that have substance use. I mean, almost all of our clients have experienced some sort of trauma in their past.

So I do think it’s important to incorporate a specific curriculum for TREM that is sensitive to broaching those subjects. And having a space where there’s a focus on trauma is important, because a lot of times it goes unacknowledged and the coping skill for dealing with trauma can be to repress it. It’s really important to not only provide quality care, but also customized care. So taking on the TREM work is part of meeting clients where they are, creating a space for them to feel seen, and work on these larger issues.

In addition, it’s an opportunity for me as a clinician to challenge myself and learn more. I try to continue to have a learner’s mindset in this role, to grow and develop and find little paths that work for me and inform the rest of my job too.

One of the most difficult things we can do in life is to ask for help when we need it. Often times asking for support is associated with feeling weak or deficient, especially when the support we need is related to substance use and/or our mental health. It has been the mission of Project REWARD to create a safe, trauma-informed space for women struggling with substance misuse and mental health symptoms to find comfort and healing.

Project Reward offers two levels of care: Intensive Outpatient and traditional outpatient, with both group and individual therapy options and is actively accepting new clients. If you have any questions about the program or are interested in finding out if this program could be a support for you in your life, please call 203-523-5793.