Meet Malia Birk, LCSW, one of the invaluable Primary Therapists at Next Chapter Treatment. Malia is a licensed Clinical Social Worker; she received her Master’s degree in social work from Florida Atlantic University, where she graduated with honors. Malia has been heavily involved in the recovery field since 2010, and has extensive experience working in both addiction and trauma. Malia brings an thorough knowledge of numerous therapeutic modalities to the clinical program, as well as a unique perspective based on her personal experiences and her deep-seated love of continuous learning.
Malia Birk – Staff Highlight
I am originally from Lexington, Kentucky. I have always been interested in people and their stories; what motivates people and how people act in order to survive their circumstances. I have always been interested in the way that others make sense of the world and perceive the people and things around them. Like most therapists, I have had my own experiences that led me to this field – however, I never realized this fact until I started doing my own work. Recovery (as an occupation) found me… or, perhaps subconsciously, I found it. I took on an internship in the addiction field, and was fascinated by the survival skills and amount of trauma those who suffer from addiction have endured. I also like a challenge. In my experience, those who are struggling with addiction are almost always simultaneously suffering from something else – the drink or the drug is merely a coping mechanism. Helping individuals find the willingness to reveal their wounding and then begin the healing process is often like being an archeologist of someone’s mind, life, pain, and strength. I hold the light; they do the work. I stay curious.
Several personal experiences have helped me to remain dedicated to this specific line of work.
Once, I personally watched a 50-year-old woman, who had previously been extremely successful in overcoming years of pain and shame, go to jail for 90 days and become completely re-traumatized. After this emotionally distressing experience, she regained her sobriety and dignity and went on to graduate at the top of her class in nursing. I have seen wives, mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters cry tears of pain and joy when they see the light come back to their loved one’s life.
I had one client who began to smile after many weeks of treatment. He said that it hurt, realizing that he had not used the muscles in his face that are required to smile for months… maybe years.
I have received letters from previous clients that say something along the lines of, “You really pissed me off but I get it now. Thank you.”
I have had professional mentors tell me that I authentically care, and that feeling genuine concern is not teachable. People may not remember a specific lecture on generational trauma, but they remember how much we care. It in an imprint – a powerful Imprint – that we can leave in the lives of others.
My Next Chapter Experience
Having the support of an AMAZING team at Next Chapter has also propelled me to continue with this line of worth, and has made the realm of addiction recovery all that much richer and more meaningful. I have also continued to experience my own healing, and knowing that continuous healing is possible continues to motivate me to help others.
I have worked in various treatment centers ranging from gender-specific and age-specific to facilities exclusively for veterans or college students. After years of professional experience, I was still not able to find an environment that I felt was completely right for me. I was interested in deep clinical work – specifically healing trauma – with a team of like-minded, caring professionals. I was told that this type of environment simply did not exist. And I was starting to believe it. One day, I received a phone call from an associate who told me about Next Chapter. They invited me to join their meeting and attend a training. I was sold from the very first day that I walked in the door. I could tell that this program was different, and a year later, I am confident in the work that I do, the people around me, and the mission of Next Chapter.
There are several areas of therapeutic expertise that I am happy to bring to the clinical program at Next Chapter. I enjoy experiential therapy – Post Induction Therapy, Brainspotting, AEDP (Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy), Family Sculpting, Imagery work, and Music Therapy. While these methodologies are not unique to Next Chapter, the comprehensive, male-exclusive program is quite unlike anything I have previously been a pert of. I am able to devise strategies and employ techniques that truly help clients get in touch with the missing parts of themselves.
Of course, in order for this to work, I have to take time to get to know each client thoroughly.
What I admire most about Next Chapter is the staff and the mission. We are a cohesive group of people who utilize all of our individual talents to support one another and the clients. We work as a team and focus on deep clinical work. We do what we say we do. There is a profound sense of integrity that seems to be (unfortunately) rather rare in this industry. I love having people drop in and attend our meetings because we are authentic, and I am so, so proud of the work that we do. We don’t have to prepare for someone’s arrival – what you see is who we are and what we do.
In the years to come, I would like to gain more specialized training in up and coming modalities. I think teaching other professionals and new therapists how to do great trauma work would be more than rewarding. Bringing in more specific tracks – like men’s body image and eating disorders – would be a great addition to our current clinical program. We are also currently discussing implementing regular client retreats. After the hurricane evacuation, we realized how powerful that experience of bonding was for the clients. And I would love to do more work with my peers; maybe someday we will even organize a therapist retreat! The more time I get to spend with my colleagues, the better – I have already learned so much from everyone and am looking forward to being an integral part of the Next Chapter team for years to come.