Meet Mark Langton

Putting past experiences to work in helping others recover

Mark Langton, Certificate Program in Alcohol and Drug Abuse Studies student
Mark Langton's years as a journalist left him with many great memories. It also led to an addiction problem.

Mark Langton's years as a journalist left him with many great memories, both as an entertainment columnist for the San Francisco Examiner and as a theater critic for the Marin Independent Journal. It also led to an addiction problem.

A check-in to rehab later led to the realization that what he did for a living should not make him sick. It was a light-bulb moment: time for a career change.

"The rehab facility was a place where if you had an aptitude for the work, they'd put you on as 'half-staff,'" Langton recalls. "So I stumbled on not just an aptitude, but a passion for counseling. We also did outreach work to the homeless population that surrounded the facility. That got me right-sized in some way. We used to go out in our yellow vests and red shields with sandwiches and hygiene kits and blankets. There was this one guy who, whenever he saw me, would run over, hug me and cry himself out in my arms. If that doesn't make you humble, nothing will. It made me long for meaningful work. So I decided to go back to school."

What brought you to UC Berkeley Extension?
Of all the programs that are available in this field, the Certificate Program in Alcohol and Drug Abuse Studies just made sense. I'm convinced that the words "UC Berkeley Extension" opened doors for me. I'm in the second year of the program, and already I have a paid staff counseling position, thanks in part to the kind of training I've received here.

How would you describe your work?
It's the only field where you can combine psychology, social science and chemistry ... and ballet. It's kind of a dance, kind of a minuet. You learn when to step up, and when to step back. It's more of an art than a science.

I work for Ohlhoff Recovery Programs in their intensive outpatient clinic. I had been a resident in the Henry Ohlhoff House, on the other side of the equation, back in the '80s, so it?s like coming full circle. My past has become my greatest asset. I'm a registered alcohol and drug trainee now, working as a staff counselor under clinical supervision. I'm already where I thought I would get in three years—in only two. I love where I am and it keeps getting better. I get to do individual counseling, psychoeducation classes, case management and group process. My favorite part? Facilitating group process. It's like conducting a small orchestra. And you come to realize that it's an honor, just to bear witness to the process. I've found my job is not to tell anybody what to do. My job is to empower other people to make healthy decisions for themselves.