It is generally much easier to condemn someone struggling with addiction and mental health issues. We usually take the approach that their condition is a moral flaw rather than the result of the occasionally tragic human experience; nevertheless, we can only attain enlightenment through compassion and empathy – this effectively encapsulates Shirley Wantland’s philosophy.
The Co-Founder and Principal of Recovery Consultants, LLC, Shirley Wantland is a mental health counselor. Her company provides a full spectrum of recovery services to people and their families battling with substance misuse and cognitive and behavioral health challenges. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Psychology from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.
With prior experience in pharmaceutical and behavioral health, Wantland has worked in the healthcare industry for the past 18 years. Moreover, she worked as a Regional Outreach Specialist in Northern California for a large national behavioral health organization prior to co-founding her current company, which sparked her interest in dealing with people in crisis.
Wantland’s parents were Vietnamese refugees from Vietnam who came to the United States after sponsorship from a local church. Growing up Vietnamese in Oklahoma City in the 1980s and 1990s was a challenging experience. Wantland stood out significantly from all her classmates during adolescence when everyone wanted to blend in. Her parents were, in a sense, deserted in Oklahoma, forced to fend for themselves without knowledge of the locals or the language. To support her and her younger brother, they each worked four jobs.
Like most Asian parents, Wantland’s parents insisted that education and hard work were the keys to success. Her father worked as a janitor at a prestigious private school in Oklahoma City and hoped that one day his children would be able to attend. After seeing her father’s hard work and Wantland’s good grades, the Headmaster consented to let her start in the 5th grade at a reduced tuition fee.
Despite having a very fortunate academic experience, she remembers feeling immensely different from and inferior to all the other students at that time who hailed from wealthy households, had successful parents, had large homes, lovely clothes, and all the luxury holidays. This period greatly influenced Recovery Consultants’ development and Wantland’s persona.
Rather than being ashamed of who she was, Wantland learned to embrace her differences – which became a source of strength rather than weakness (or shame). She desperately wanted to be accepted by others; as a response, she became very good at making others feel accepted. It has continued with her, making her excel at working with Recovery Consultants.
The philosophy at Recovery Consultants is significantly different. Instead of forcing people into narrowly defined boxes of “success,” Wantland assists people in creating their own boxes in order to rehabilitate and heal in an approachable and sustainable manner. She favors a welcoming, non-judgmental attitude to healing and recovery, and the company’s catchphrase is “if there’s a will, we’ll find a way.”
Shirley Wantland is now concentrating on building a bridge between traditional mental health and addiction treatment and some more spiritual/shamanic healing techniques. She believes this is the missing component in conventional therapy. She aspires to be a part of the ongoing push to de-stigmatize addiction and mental health for those struggling and the general public.