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Stephanie Woodson (Transfer)

Stephanie came to see us in December of her sophomore year in college. She had just been dismissed for breaking the college's policy on drugs and alcohol. She appeared very defeated. It was difficult to get sense of what she was really like, given that she had just been through such a traumatic experience. She remained very guarded and our meeting was short. With her mother, we determined that Stephanie needed to be at home and that she would enroll part-time at the local community college to give herself room to start picking up the pieces. She would also begin to see a therapist. When the time was appropriate, she and I would start the process of re-enrolling in a four-year institution where she could complete a bachelor's degree. Throughout the winter, Stephanie came in every other week. At first, the meetings were brief. We talked about how her courses were going and how she was doing in general. She kept her answers short and did not volunteer much information. She would sit quietly and listen as I suggested ideas for programs for the following year. Eventually, however, she appeared to feel less threatened and began to open up. Soon, she was ready to share her story. One weekend that fall, Stephanie bought a bag of psychedelic mushrooms in New York City. When she returned to campus, a group of friends, who knew she was planning to buy the drugs, showed up at her door. They were eager start to the party, and soon enough, they were sitting around her room, passing the bag. Forty-five minutes later, she recalled, objects started to move around and she started laughing uncontrollably. For a while, they were having a great time. Then she saw the empty bag on her bed and realized how much she had ingested. All of a sudden, the amusing hallucinations became morbid and scary. When she tried closing her eyes, they became even more frightening. Things began to spiral further out of countrol as paranoia set in. Her friends, who tried unsuccessfully to calm her down, no longer looked like human beings. Soon she was screaming, curled up in a ball in the corner of her bed. Then there was a knock at the door. The Resident Advisor asked if everything was alright. Her friends, fearing for Stephanie's safety, admitted what they had done. She was taken by ambulance to the hospital where she immediately sedated so that she could sleep through the affects of the mushrooms.

Stephanie's university had a strict anti-drug policy: the possession and distribution of illegal subtances was grounds for immediate dismissal. The following day, Stephanie was sent home where she was greeted by her parents who were much more concerned than angry at her.

Stephanie's sense of defeat was understandable. She had made a mistake and was paying dearly for it. Stephanie had been a very social person who made friends easily. But she admitted that she often made poor decisions. She was always a main participator in the party scene in high school and college. This had not been the first time she had tried mushrooms. But it was the first time that she realized the potential severity of her actions. Previously, she rationalized her behavior by telling herself that everyone was doing the same thing. But she now saw a difference. Her friends had somehow assumed that she would return from a weekend away with drugs. That's how people had come to see her. Stephanie's therapist and I kept in contact as he sought to get to the bottom of why she was making these worrisome choices. I, on my side, started looking for programs that would address her needs and eventually lead her to finish college.

Throughout the winter and spring, Stephanie continued to attend her community college and going to therapy. We began to work on a list of colleges for her to consider. These were places that were considered "safe" for students with substances issues. They were smaller and had active support centers which students could make use of without feeling judged by their peers. I also talked to Stephanie about enrolling in a specialized summer program designed for students who were struggling with the pressures of college. The goal was to help them realize that they were not alone. The program, which ends with a three-day retreat, emphasizes group therapy and clean living.

In the early spring, Stephanie applied to colleges. I made some calls on her behalf to discuss her situation with admissions representatives and answer any questions they may have. Stephanie was admitted to a small liberal-arts college in central New York. Before enrolling, she attended the summer program. Stephanie decided to major in psychology. As a result of her experience, she thought that she had a lot to contribute to the field and was eager to do so.

Her senior year, Stephanie was honored to assist one of her Psychology professors in a study on peer pressure. The objective was to determine who is more likely to succumb to peer pressure. After the results of the study were analyzed, Stephanie, assisted the campus health center in implementing some key programs for students found to be more susceptible.