Joseph LaMartina’s Journey: A TFCC Clinical Counselor Highlight

Tillamook Family Counseling Center (TFCC) is made up of a team of highly qualified behavioral health professionals. This month, we’d like to highlight Addictions Counselor, Joseph LaMartina, who shares how his personal experience with addiction and recovery shaped his desire to become a counselor. 

A Vision Quest

His compassion and deep understanding for individuals facing addiction stems from his personal struggles while growing up with a mentally ill mother, absent father, and navigating his own recovery. After successfully completing a 30-day residential treatment program for substance use disorders, he extended his stay to 90 days to ensure that he had absorbed everything the program had to offer. He was moved by the support he received from counselors and other staff working at that facility, and he knew that he someday wanted to help others in a similar way. 

Early on in his recovery, Joseph went on what he called a “vision quest.”  He joked that he followed  Horace Greely’s advice, “Go west young man, go west,” though it was not a fortune he was seeking. This search brought him to Oregon where he pursued higher education, gaining practical experience in various substance use treatment modalities, including criminality programs, outpatient, intensive outpatient, and residential treatment programs. Since then, he has worked in various substance abuse treatment settings. He even worked at TFCC about 22 years ago for a brief period, then left and came back again about 8 years ago. Joseph views his role as a counselor and helping others navigate their journey to recovery as his life’s purpose.

Role as Addictions Counselor

In Joseph’s current role at TFCC, he works primarily with adults referred for addiction recovery by courts, probation, child welfare or those voluntarily seeking substance use disorder treatment. He also collaborates with TFCC’s mental health clinicians on treatment planning and provides support to individuals dealing with both mental health and substance use issues. He prioritizes evidence-based approaches so he can provide the best possible care. Joseph made a notable impact when he pushed to switch to a more effective, strength-based cognitive behavioral therapy curriculum for their DUI treatment several years ago. Since then, there has been a notable drop in repeat offenders.

Counseling Approach

When working with clients, Joseph leads with empathy, curiosity and an observation of the client’s strengths. “I communicate with my clients that they are the most important person to me at that given moment,” he explains. He expresses genuine interest in understanding their experiences so he can offer meaningful support. This client-centered foundation and strength-based approach allows trust and openness to grow, and clients to feel valued and understood.

Additionally, Joseph’s spiritual growth is an integral part of his counseling philosophy. From vision quests to living in an Ashram and becoming a Christian minister, he emphasizes the importance of understanding and respecting diverse belief systems. Joseph’s holistic approach combined with evidence-based treatment methods ensures he can support individuals with all different backgrounds and beliefs. 

To bring his best self to clients, Joseph prioritizes morning mindfulness routines and taking meditative breaks throughout his workday. As a remote worker, he also emphasizes going outdoors regularly for fresh air and sunlight.

The Effects of Kindness & Compassion

When asked about a memorable success over the years, Joseph shared a story emphasizing how even small acts of kindness can spur incredible growth. Early in his career at a counseling training, he noticed a woman who seemed to be very quiet, unassuming and looking like she needed uplifting. Joseph briefly embraced her saying, “It looks like you could use a hug.” At the end of the training, she found Joseph again and said, “You are the first person who has ever shown me affection without wanting something in return.” She then asked for Joseph’s address, and that was that. 

One day, several months later, Joseph received an envelope containing 8 different letters that the woman had written but had been too afraid to send previously. The letters showed a progression of her personal growth that included self-confidence and self-empowerment and described how transformed she had become by such a seemingly insignificant gesture. 

A few months after that, Joseph and the woman met for lunch. She shared about how she found confidence to leave an abusive relationship and start fresh in a new job since they had met that day at the training. As Joseph reflects, “We affect people like this all the time, we just don’t know about it.” He aims to encourage his clients to positively affect others as well.

Joseph LaMartina radiates a humble warmth and wisdom that brings transformational support to the many people he has helped over the years. If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health or substance use disorders in Tillamook County, the caring team at TFCC is here to help.