MOORHEAD — Called "the Blond Tornado" by many of her clients, Cassie Kasowski knows how to get things done.
Her next project will be no small feat. Kasowski, CEO, treatment director and clinical supervisor of Beth's Place, an outpatient addiction and mental health practice in Moorhead, plans to open a residential treatment center for women and children. In fact, she'd eventually like to open a residential treatment center in every city she has a practice.
Tiahna Anderson and others who know her well say they have no doubt she'll accomplish her goal. Anderson, a student pursuing her master's in mental health and addiction counseling at the University of Mary, said she immediately began sending Kasowski links to homes for sale in Grand Forks once she learned of her plan.
"There is such a need, especially for women and children, for a sober house," she said. "If a mother can have a place that is safe where they can focus on recovery while having their children there, I think that is huge."
Like many in her field, Kasowski chose a career in addiction and mental health counseling due to personal tragedy.
In 2017, she lost her mother, Beth Johnson, to addiction. Growing up, Kasowski said she never saw her mother touch a drop of alcohol. That changed after she had gastric bypass in 1999. After trying a number of medications to treat symptoms of menopause, Johnson began self-medicating with a Bacardi Diet before bed.
"After gastric, what we know now is one drink equals six," Kasowski said. "By the time we caught on, she was full blown into addiction."
Kasowski said there is a strong correlation between gastric bypass surgery and addiction.
"They get rid of one addiction to go to another because we never really truly fix that complication of why we were eating that much food, and what we know now is depressive factors and a lack of communication skills are a huge contributing factor in this," Kasowski said.
Her experience helping her mother seek treatment motivated her to open a private practice because of the extreme need in the area for more expertise and to implement a newer model of care into the FM area, which has been primarily AA-focused, Kasowski said.
"The newer generation isn't doing as much AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and NA (Narcotics Anonymous)," she said. "They're kind of getting away from more of that biblical standpoint and leaning on God. They're more spiritual and having a harder time connecting with that AA program."
In just two short years, she's turned Beth's Place into a thriving practice. Part of her success, she believes, is simply treating her clients like human beings.
"A lot of times, we label people who walk into treatment: 'You're highly manipulative' or 'you're a game player' or 'you need to hit rock bottom,'" she said. "If you suffer from alcoholism or suffer from mental health issues, I don't need to treat you any different. You're tortured enough."
Kasowski said she takes a person-centered approach to counseling, which means she tries to understand how the world looks from her client's perspective.
"We don't focus on the substance. I don't focus on the meth. I don't focus on the alcohol. I focus on the trauma," she said. "What has kept you stuck? What has kept you from the ability to live your true purpose?"
Kasowski said the goal is to create a safe environment for people to begin telling the truth without the fear of being punished (being discharged unsuccessfully) for their mental health or continued substance use. Relapse is part of recovery boundaries, compassion and structure.
It's an approach that's worked well. Kasowski said person-centered care has shown a 60% recovery rate, while the national average for recovery is between 7% to 10% and, on average, a person does treatment in five to seven days.
Anderson has sat in on several of Kasowski's group therapy sessions.
"There honestly is nothing like Beth's Place," she said. "Every time I've been there, her clients have been so excited to tell her things. Even if their day didn't go as planned, they're always willing to share things with her, knowing that she's their biggest advocate."
I Love You House
Two days prior to her death, Kasowski's mother mailed her a greeting card from a treatment center in Bismarck.
"She sent me this simple card, and all it said inside was 'I love you,'" Kasowski said.
Those three words spoke volumes to her, and therefore will be the name of her new residential treatment center for women and children.
"It spoke volumes to me with what I hear from my patients. It's all they really want from people, just that acceptance. They already feel bad enough," she said.
She hopes to open the first I Love You House in Moorhead in June. There are still a lot of details to work out, the most difficult being child care.
What she's sure of is what she hopes to do for women.
"We have to confront the issues that impact women's ability to obtain treatment," she said. "Our holistic approach really addresses dependency and mental illness. We work on compacting life factors — poverty, physical and sexual abuse, unemployment, homelessness, poor physical health and the stress of unsupported parenting."
She said many women have difficulty getting treatment because they don't have day care or are homeless.
"So, they can choose to come to treatment for the day and get better or maintain a place at the shelter," she said.
In addition to treatment and day care, Kasowski plans to provide parenting and life skills classes for women. She also hopes to assist clients with obtaining a job and home of their own.
"The goal is to acclimate them into society on their own," she said.
Kasowski is committed to making it happen.
"I feel so incredibly grateful to do the work that I do. The women's house is going to get done. Will it be two months like I hope it to be? No. Will it be in six months? Yes, it will be. I'm very tenacious when I have plans and when I see a need in the community."