After overcoming prison and drug addiction, School of Social Work alum now helps others use mindfulness and meditation – School of Social Work

Upon his release from California State Prison, Eric Wilkins returned to his home state of Michigan for a fresh start.

“Although I find the policies of locking up drug users rather than providing treatment totally unproductive, I have used each of my periods of incarceration for introspection and changing life priorities,” Wilkins said.

Wanting to help others struggling with addiction, he made it his goal to earn an associate’s degree from Wayne County Community College.

“I wanted to become a peer mentor at a local drug rehabilitation center. »

One of his instructors reminded him that he would need a bachelor’s degree, if not a master’s degree, in social work if he really wanted to make an impact on clients. He decided to explore his options at Wayne State University’s School of Social Work and met Shantalea Johns, who at the time was serving as an advisor to guide him through the transfer process.

“She has been a tremendous support and resource throughout my time in the Bachelor of Social Work and Masters of Social Work programs.”

Wilkins uses his recovery experience and insight to serve the community

A clinical social work therapist in three local offices, Wilkins also practices Zen Buddhism and is a board member and ordained teacher at the Still Point Zen Buddhist Temple in Detroit.

“My long-term recovery from addiction and my balanced and successful life of service are deeply rooted in my spiritual practices.”

Wilkins introduces mindfulness and meditation to her clients, but not in a forceful way. “To me, the term ‘mindfulness’ denotes that secular separation into which anyone open to trying it can feel invited, rather than coerced.”

Tina Louise, fellow social worker at Intersectional overview at Huntington Woods, calls Wilkins “a valuable colleague and gifted therapist.” He is truly an empathetic listener who beautifully integrates mindfulness strategies with many other modalities in his work with clients.”

Wilkins hopes to help her clients develop their ability to understand themselves so they can be present in their lives, thus more connected to others so they can reach their highest potential. And he, in turn, is always fully present for his clients.

Being fully present for our clients is the greatest element of any treatment that a helping professional can offer. – Eric Wilkins, LSM

CBHJ embraces ‘JEDI’ values

The Center for Behavioral Health and Justice (CBHJ), a Center of Excellence housed within the School of Social Work, strives to improve every intercept across the criminal justice continuum. The CBHJ is committed to the “JEDI” values ​​- justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.

“We want our work to reflect these values ​​more and give a greater voice to those with lived experience. Our work with community partners across the state and with agencies like Nation Outside and Detroit Justice Center are some of the ways we help ensure our work is aligned and inclusive of the needs and perspectives of those involved in the justice. Collaborating with and learning from the experience of Eric Wilkins is inspiring to CBHJ, the School of Social Work, and to those who share similar experiences,” said Liz Tillander, Deputy Director of CBHJ.

“I think it’s an incredible step forward in empowering those who have served their time to become productive members of the community, rather than stigmatizing them as outcasts,” Wilkins said.

“We are not helpless. One person can change things.’

Along with helping others through social work therapy, Wilkins also gives back to her alma mater. He and his wife sponsored the Eric and Margrit Wilkins Annual Dance Scholarship for a few years.

“The scholarship supports undergraduate dance students in the Maggie Allesee Department of Theater and Dance. What a great way to have an impact on the students, we are very grateful for their support! said April Hazamy, Major Gifts Manager for the College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts.

And despite personal setbacks and turmoil in our world, Eric Wilkins remains hopeful for the future.

“I have seen my own life emerge from the gutters and alleys, but I have also seen the dedication to positive change of our young people as they face the challenges of modern life. How can we do better for ourselves and our neighbours? Perhaps by understanding that we need to take responsibility for our own lives, how we live them, and how they impact others. We are not helpless; One person can change things.”

Author: Laura Hipshire, [email protected]

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