On Thursday, Princess Kate showed her support for students who have been affected by addiction and gone on to become teachers.
She stopped by Centre for Addiction Treatment Studies, a special training center run by Action on Addiction to see its work providing training, education and professional development.
In a green Emilia Wickstead dress, under a Reiss coat, the Duchess of Cambridge first arrived at the Center in Warminster, England, to visit with students and staff members. While meeting with tutors she told degree program leader Derrick Anderson, “It must be so powerful for them to be talking to patients who have been through similar things.
“They must get a huge amount from it.”
Kate, 33, added that the holistic approach for the family was key.
“Getting the whole family involved is so important. It doesn’t affect just one person,” the royal said.
Anderson said, “She has a great interest particularly in the family aspects and the harm it can cause for families. And she recognizes the need for professional courses.”
The royal sat with graduates of a course in addiction counseling – who had received their degrees on Dec. 9 – to hear their stories and congratulate them. “It’s such a positive story for all of you,” Kate said.
Martha Bache, 30, who is in recovery for a prescription pill addiction, tells PEOPLE, “I recognized I had a problem and wanted to do this course. I was interested to learn and help people and support people whatever the problem.”
Bache, who works with hoarders who suffer with mental health issues such as OCD, says she recognized in Kate the same skills that they have been learning as counselors.
“She is so lovely and friendly. That is what we have to do as counselors – we give people a voice and some tools. And the fact is she can talk to us in the same way. She’s incredibly warm – she’s a human being who inspires me. She shows empathy, the same empathy that I am aspiring to have.”
The royal had an especially poignant moment with Anna Elston, 43, a recovering alcoholic who has overcome the trauma of losing her three sons to foster care. She has since regained sole care of her sons and is a recent graduate from a University of Bath degree course run by Action on Addition.
Shaking her hand, Kate, 33, told her, “I’m so happy and pleased that you got your children back.” Elston adds, “She said ‘well done’ and wished me all the best.”
At the end of the brief ceremony, Kate posed for portraits with the graduates. “Let’s do one with your hats,” she said with a smile.
Kate, who has been patron of Action on Addiction since 2012, has previously visited their treatment centers to meet patients and see how they deliver services. This is the first opportunity she has had to see the other side of Action on Addiction’s work, which is their investment in professional development, to raise standards across those delivering these treatments, and ensure the best quality of support.
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“She has been to a number of our treatment services but this is where we train people to work in the addiction field — hopefully to try and raise the standard of the kind of treatment provides. Having seen the others she’s keen to understand what goes on here,” said Nick Barton. “This is where we design and teach degrees awarded by the University of Bath.”
“Our aim is to send out armies of much better trained from the U.K. and abroad.”
And it is something that fits in with the ongoing work Kate has been doing on tackling mental health issues.
“There’s obviously some overlap some addictions result as a response to mental health problems and sometimes mental health problems arise from addiction,” says Barton.
“So it’s a natural interest for her.”
“She’s very keen to learn you can tell from the quality of her questions. She’s hearing from students for a session to hear about why she chose this course and what good it’s been for them and what it’s going to do for them. She’s genuinely interested.”
The center also contributes to the professional development of employees in universal services such as social workers, nurses, probation officers and others who come into contact with people, particularly families, affected by addiction. Over 200 students from the UK and other countries have graduated from the center, and gone on to pursue careers in a variety of ways.
Kate’s latest royal stop came in the middle of a busy royal week. On Wednesday, she had fun playing at being “Wall Street” brokers with husband Prince William in a charity fundraiser in London, and, on Tuesday, she got glammed it up in one of Princess Diana’s signature tiaras at a holiday party for diplomats in London.