Donald “Keith” Montgomery knows a thing or two about the path of recovery from substances. Keith is open about his journey from addiction to recovery, and is willing to share with anyone in effort to build strength and hope in others. This June, Keith celebrates 25 years of recovery. Wow! Way to go Keith! This journey has helped him find his way to counseling, and this month Keith also celebrates one year with Therapy Austin. We are so lucky to have Keith on our staff offering our clients his knowledge and wisdom.
Keith has a great respect for those people on the recovery journey. This respect has motivated him to enter the counseling profession where he strives to provide “empathy, humility, gratitude” in his work with others. Keith believes that because he has experienced brokenness and healing through his past struggle with substances, he is now the wounded healer who can help others along their journey. He recognizes that, unfortunately for many people, “recovery is a shame-filled existence. We are dealing with a very resilient and fragile package that is the human soul, and not everyone makes it out.” Through his therapeutic work, Keith shares his understanding that “life is hard” and hopes to instill belief in his clients “that they are worthy, enough, and beautiful” to continue their journey. His own journey in recovery has been a part of his narrative that he shares with clients to help them see “anything is possible.” He also encourages clients to go have their own experiences.
Don’t be mistaken, Keith’s therapy practice is not exclusively focused on individuals who struggle with substances. He sees clients with a variety of concerns and finds “sitting with another human being” and being “fully present with the other in the moment” are the most meaningful aspects of his counseling work. He has also been surprised by “how often folks are willing to be radically honest after we have just met.” This gives him hope for discovering something together during their therapeutic relationship.
Keith attributes his background as oldest of 5 siblings and his experience of frustrating times within a faith system (Catholicism) as influential to the way he practices therapy. Keith explained that growing up he received misinformation from authority figures and those he trusted, and came to understand that the information provided did not fit for him. This experience taught him to question and be curious about the unique way for him to fully be Keith. He takes this approach with his clients. He believes that they have the answers inside of them, and it is his job is to help his clients uncover those answers by asking the right questions. “We sit together moment by moment and share little bits and pieces of our lives crafting together a new narrative.”
What is the toughest part of being a counselor for Keith? He revealed his desire to know “everything about everything” in order to feel as though he “can help everyone.” So, how does he reconcile that dilemma? “Drop the preconceived idea,” he shared, and “be organic in the process of witnessing the client.” He has learned to be comfortable with “being in a cloud of unknowing” by “keeping myself on the tip of the spear and practicing a beginner’s mind.” Keith has a strong desire to want to be of service in easing pain and suffering of those going through life. He recognizes that “there is no one solution, and [therapy] is a unique endeavor with each human being.”
Recovery is TOUGH work. Counseling is TOUGH work. How does Keith stay grounded and connected to himself? He admitted that he is most challenged to do the very things he asks and encourages clients to do, which is to take care of themselves. He often finds himself saying to clients, “you’ve got to take care of yourself first, and you can’t do anything for anyone else if you’re not well.”
What helps Keith to remain well is “meditation, creative activity, and some kind of intellectual processing of me and this work that I do.” He finds wisdom by “turning off my thinker” through meditation, being in the empty spaces, and “listening more and talking less.” He also finds joy in the imagination and lightheartedness of playing with his niece and nephew.
It has been an honor to work alongside Keith, who displays such humility, grace, and compassion for others while doing the job he feels called to do.
Written by Frances Fazzio