A Path to Women’s Wellness and Recovery

*This presentation is no longer eligible for the 1 CE credit*

Women’s treatment is on the precipice of innovative growth if we maintain our focus on the wellness of the entire woman. Using the Biopsychosocial Model of Addiction and Recovery, we will review aspects of addiction, mental health, and trauma, highlighting the nuances that make women and their care unique. The intersection of these concerns makes treatment complicated and acute, yet it leaves room for extraordinary healing. In order to provide a path to wellness, we will provide a clinical framework to engage women in active treatment and their continuum of care. Continue reading “A Path to Women’s Wellness and Recovery”

Launching Your Recovery in Intensive Outpatient Treatment

Addiction is a complex disease, and no two cases are exactly the same. An effective addiction treatment program is based on a careful assessment of the needs of each individual client.

Not every case of substance use disorder (SUD) requires detoxification or residential treatment. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th edition, also known as DSM-5, used by physicians to diagnose SUDs offers three levels of severity—mild, moderate, or severe on the basis of how many of the eleven diagnostic criteria are met by the patient.

The level of care in a treatment program may also depend on what kind of therapy the client is able to do. Carol (not her real name) is a professional woman in her fifties. She developed an alcohol use disorder (AUD) when she was in her forties.

Like many other busy professionals, she was using alcoholic beverages mostly in a reasonably responsible social fashion. “I never had a problem with alcohol until my late forties,” she remembers. Unfortunately, alcohol misuse can creep up on you incrementally.

The first two criteria for AUD are “alcohol is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended” and “there is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control alcohol use.” Carol ignored those warning signs and continued to use alcohol frequently.

“My drinking was entirely in the closet, hidden from my employer and my family,” says Carol. She was so “well-functioning” on the outside that nobody even believed she had a problem. “I went to my doctor loaded, and he still wouldn’t believe it. He told me, ‘you’re not an alcoholic; you don’t have a problem,’ and I said, ‘oh yes, I do.’”

Cravings for alcohol increasingly played a major role, and Carol’s recurrent alcohol use resulted in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work. (DSM-5 criteria 4 and 5).

Carol realized she needed help but being aware of the stigma of addiction, she also didn’t want to jeopardize her career. She tried Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), but it didn’t quite work for her. Carol continued drinking. “It was horrible. I started spreading alcohol purchases across a number of liquor stores to hide my alcohol consumption.

Eventually, she was able to open up to her husband. “I gotta go to rehab,” she told him, and he has shown great support for her recovery ever since.

An acquaintance suggested giving Harmony a try. We had just begun to offer a virtual intensive outpatient program (IOP)—in the middle of the COVID pandemic. It turned out to be the perfect fit for Carol. “They screened me whether I needed outpatient, residential, or another level of care,” she remembers. A 12-week participation in the program is recommended but Carol liked it so much that she stayed a while longer.

Addiction is often referred to as a family disease, meaning addiction affects the family dynamic in multiple ways. Carol’s husband and their adult children have supported her recovery wholeheartedly. Family support can lower the risk of dropping out of treatment and also reduce the chance of renewed substance use, discourage relapse, and promote long-term recovery.

Carol took full ownership of her recovery. The Harmony IOP “was a saving grace for me. The virtual sessions were almost as powerful as going in person. I did my best to discipline myself, not leave the room or look at my phone just as if it were an in-person meeting. I wanted to keep it real and not get distracted.”

Addiction is a progressive disease, and there is no need to wait for “rock bottom” before seeking help. People with substance use issues can start at the level of care that’s right for them anytime, whether that’s residential, partial hospitalization, or intensive outpatient treatment. There is no need to wait; it’s much better to get the help you need before it’s too late.

Carol is now active in Harmony’s alumni program and regards the time spent in the IOP and the launch of her recovery as one of the best years in her life.

If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, or you have questions about our programs and workshops, call us today at (970) 432-8075 to get the help needed as soon as possible. Our experienced staff is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

A Good Intervention Can Be the Launchpad for a Successful Recovery

Active addiction can put even a functional family system into crisis mode. Drug and alcohol addiction is a disease that has a deleterious impact on all members of the family, not just the person using substances. Some families try to deal with the situation by staging an intervention.

“Just as CPR is often the first lifesaving step in helping a heart attack victim, intervention is the most powerful step that a family can take to initiate the recovery process,” wrote Jeff and Debra Jay in Love First.

Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about intervention. It’s not what you see on TV—at least not a good intervention. An effective intervention is not an emotional ambush but a loving, caring experience that need not be confrontational. It should be designed to preserve the person of concern’s dignity—after all, addiction should be treated as a disease, not as a reprehensible moral failure.

A well-planned, expertly guided intervention can avoid pitfalls and thus provide a launchpad for lasting recovery from addiction. Structured Family Recovery® (SFR) helps prevent relapse by creating a “family recovery team.” This team supports the addicted person during treatment, after treatment, and throughout the first year of recovery.

Carver Brown is a certified recovery coach and trainer with the Connecticut Community of Addiction Recovery (CCAR) and an SFR counselor. He is also a grief recovery specialist certified by the Grief Recovery Institute. Lauren Kirschberg graduated from the University of Alabama, where she studied adult development, family systems, and addiction. She began working in the addiction recovery field in 2010 alongside Brown. Kirschberg is a Love First clinical interventionist. Continue reading “A Good Intervention Can Be the Launchpad for a Successful Recovery”

Addiction Interactions: Identifying and Treating the Neuropathways of Addiction

*This presentation is no longer eligible for the 1 CE credit*

In this presentation, we will explore the 4 types of Addictions (substance, process, feeling, and compulsive attachments), along with the 4 Addiction Neuropathways (arousal, numbing, fantasy, deprivation) and how these various types of additions and pathways don’t just co-occur but actually interact with each other in powerful ways to form the black hole of Addiction Interaction Disorders. We will explore several of the overall 11 forms of Addiction Interactions and why identifying these is crucial for the overall treatment of these addictions and for long-term success in relapse-free sobriety and recovery. Continue reading “Addiction Interactions: Identifying and Treating the Neuropathways of Addiction”

Alumni Return for Days of Harmony

Alumni programs should be an integral part of the transition from addiction treatment back to everyday life because they can play an important role in supporting lifelong sobriety. Since alumni programs can help prevent relapse they are associated with better long-term outcomes.

To emphasize the importance of alumni programs, Harmony Foundation CEO James Geckler recently joined the national board of Treatment Professionals in Alumni Services (TPAS), an organization dedicated to the development of long-term recovery support for individuals following their acute treatment period.

Harmony Foundation has a very active alumni program and offers a multitude of ways to stay connected including the Harmony Hub, a digital recovery tool designed to increase accountability and build a social network of support for those navigating their recovery journey.

Days of Harmony is another powerful vehicle to support people in recovery. “It’s a two-day revisit program for alumni who have at least six months of sobriety or are working with a solid recovery plan,” explains Harmony’s director of alumni and recovery support services Tabitha Miller. In addition, all participants must be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The program is a valuable experience for alumni who are welcomed back to campus to re-engage in programming. “They participate in small groups, they eat meals in the cafeteria, they go to recovery education groups, they share their recovery stories and their background with current clients, how they got to Harmony, their experience here, and what life has been like since their discharge,” says Miller.  

Days of Harmony is also an extremely valuable opportunity for people currently in treatment at Harmony. “The current clients get to ask the visiting alumni questions. We found this to be super beneficial for both the alumni and the clients,” says Miller. “The clients in early recovery get an idea where they may be headed. They get insights into what might be in store for them. In the early days of treatment, many of them are not even sure recovery is possible, so it’s an important glimpse of hope for them. They meet with people who went through treatment and managed to stay sober—that gives them the belief that they can do it as well.”

Typical questions asked by clients are: “Have you been able to repair relationships? How did you disclose to your employer that you were in treatment? How did you explain that you’re in recovery and need Fridays off to go to a meeting? What do you do for fun?”

“They get first-hand knowledge of what life in recovery can look like outside of treatment,” explains Miller. “The fantastic thing is that both current clients and alumni benefit from Days of Harmony. I’ve heard amazing things from alumni, they say that the encounters really reinvigorate their own recovery journey. By coming back to Harmony, they get to see how much they have grown. They meet people still in treatment and realize how much they have improved themselves.”

“Everybody benefits, clients, alumni, and even our staff—they get to see what their hard work achieved, they get to see people they have helped doing well.”

If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, or you have questions about our programs, call us today at (970) 432-8075 to get the help needed as soon as possible. Our experienced staff is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

How a Book Club Can Fortify Recovery

Alumni can play a crucial role in the recovery process. Once their own recovery has been stabilized, alumni of treatment programs can help others achieve the same goal.

Harmony Foundation has a very active alumni program and offers multiple ways to stay connected including the Harmony Hub, a digital recovery tool designed to build a social network of support for those navigating their recovery journey.

Days of Harmony is another vehicle to support people in recovery. “It’s a two-day revisit program for alumni who have at least six months of sobriety or are working with a solid recovery plan,” explains Harmony’s director of alumni and recovery support services Tabitha Miller.

Miller also runs a popular weekly book club for alumni. “It’s one of the highlights of my week,” she says. “We’ve been running our book club for over a year now and so far we covered more than ten books. The cool thing is, we’re not just reading recovery books, we’re reading all kinds of books.”

So far books the club read and discussed included: 

“The goal is to expose our alumni to multiple pathways of finding inspiration,” says Miller. “In early recovery, some people may think they can only do Recovery Dharma, they can only do 12-Step meetings, or they can only do SMART Recovery when it comes to support groups. What I really love about the book club is that it shows people that inspiration and ideas can come from anywhere and they can incorporate those ideas into their recovery journey.”

It’s also an opportunity for participants to spark different kinds of conversations. “We talk about everything from the food we eat to emotions we experience, or new hobbies.”

The latest book the club is looking at is Jay Shetty’s Think Like a Monk. “This book was recommended by one of our alumni who has been attending the group consistently. He actually re-engaged with alumni programming through our book club. He was sober for about a year after treatment and then relapsed. He wanted to relaunch his recovery and wanted to re-engage with Harmony and he found the book club to do just that!”

He also reconnected with the Harmony Hub and rejoined Harmony’s alumni meetings but it was the book club that really got him back on track. “Shetty has a podcast called ‘On Purpose’ where he talks about all kinds of health, wellness, and spiritual matters. The cool thing is, that everything Shetty talks about in the book is parallel to what we experience in sobriety and recovery,” explains Miller. “He provides easy-to-do steps and he asks great questions. Every chapter we read, there is some nugget – all the books we’ve read so far can be read and re-read. Take it back down from the bookshelf and something new can be learned.”

Books can be great sources of inspiration and information when read on your own. But the experience is enhanced when you discuss the book with like-minded readers. “There is something that solidifies the information coming from a book when you talk about it and get another person’s take. That way, it tends to stick with you a little bit longer,” says Miller.

If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, or you have questions about our programs, call us today at (970) 432-8075 to get the help needed as soon as possible. Our experienced staff is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Can You See Us? Treating the BIPOC Community Through the Lens of Humility

In a recent webinar for Harmony Foundation, behavioral healthcare specialist Zina Rodriguez talked about providing culturally responsive treatment to the BIPOC community. The acronym BIPOC stands for black, indigenous, and people of color. Rodriguez is CEO and co-founder of Z&D Consulting whose mission is to create inviting and inclusive healing spaces for individuals to achieve mental wellness while creating pathways for success for people from underrepresented communities.

“Why the title ‘Can you see us?’” Rodriquez asked at the beginning of her presentation. Members of the BIPOC community and their culture are often invisible and overlooked in research, she explained.

Culture may be defined as the behaviors, values, and beliefs shared by a group of people such as an ethnic, racial, geographical, religious, gender, class, or age group. Everyone belongs to multiple cultural groups so each individual is a blend of many influences.

Many white people have tried to counter discrimination of other cultures and racism with expressions such as “I don’t see color,” erroneously assuming that would be a helpful approach. But what really happens when you tell someone you don’t see color? “It can feel like ‘I’m choosing to ignore this part of you because that makes me more comfortable,’ it can feel like a casual dismissal,” said Rodriguez. “It’s not only okay to see color, but it’s necessary. And it’s necessary to see it through an anti-racist lens.”

In order to be able to provide culturally responsive treatment to the BIPOC community, therapists need cultural humility—being prepared to learn and not assume to know other cultures. We live in a multicultural society with an increasing demand for care. That means, there is a need for safe spaces and cultural responsiveness in workplaces and clinical environments.

By 2044, more than half of all Americans are projected to belong to a “minority” group. Gen Z (people born after 1996) is on track to become the most diverse generation in US history.

The Impact of Culture on Substance Misuse and Mental Health

Unfortunately, there is a conservative backlash underway that is impeding the efforts to mitigate racism and discrimination. The nonprofit education news organization Chalkbeat tracked efforts in 36 states to restrict education on racism, bias, the contributions of specific racial or ethnic groups to US history, or related topics. Ten states have signed anti-LGBTQ+ bills into law.

“Culture affects every aspect of an individual’s life, including how they experience, understand, express, and address emotional and mental distress,” Rodriquez told the webinar participants. Due to discrimination, mental health and substance misuse issues have had a disproportionate impact on BIPOC communities. Members of these communities experience stressors such as racism, discrimination, poverty, and violence, “all of which take a toll on mental health,” according to the US Surgeon General.

“Blacks and Latinos have only limited access to prevention, treatment, and recovery services for substance use disorders,” Rodriguez said. “While they have similar rates opioid misuse as the general population, in recent years, blacks have experienced the greatest increase in rate for overdose deaths from non-methadone synthetic opioids” such as fentanyl.

Although the Native American population of the United States remains relatively small compared to other ethnic groups, indigenous people also struggle disproportionately with a vast range of health and social issues—including substance misuse. Native Americans are far more likely to die of alcohol-related causes than any other ethnic group.

In addition to the aforementioned stressors, there exists also a certain lack of cultural competence—effective and appropriate communication with people of other cultures—by treatment providers. As Rodriquez explained, “fifty percent of racially and ethnically diverse clients end treatment after just one visit.” The therapeutic alliance—the therapist’s and client’s mutual engagement in the work of therapy—is critical for successful outcomes in treatment but BIPOC therapists are seriously underrepresented in the field. The demographics are very lopsided here: 76 percent of therapists are white, about 11 percent Asian, and only 4 percent African American.

Rodriguez offered the formula “cultural humility plus cultural competence equals cultural responsiveness” in therapy. It’s not an easy endeavor as the parameters change frequently. “Cultural competence is not static,” said Rodriguez. “Our level of cultural competence changes in response to new situations, experiences, and relationships.”

And those relationships require work from everybody. “Relationship building is fundamental to cultural responsiveness,” explained Rodriguez. “It is based on the foundations of understanding each other’s expectations and attitudes, and subsequently building on the strength of each other’s knowledge.”

Best to avoid generalizations: each person has a unique history that warrants an understanding of how culture is practiced and has evolved for that individual and their family.

Everyone harbors implicit biases and should work on recognizing what they are. People unaware of their biases may engage in micro-aggressions and inadvertent insults. A 2007 study examined the experiences of 40 African Americans in counseling with white therapists. The black clients in this study identified “color-blind” statements as the most common type of micro-aggression used by their white therapists.

This situation has to be countered with “courageous conversations” and being prepared to be uncomfortable. Courageous conversations engage through personal racial experiences, beliefs, and perspectives while demonstrating understanding. White therapists should deepen their understanding of whiteness and interrogate their beliefs about their own relationship to racial privilege and power.

In response to the growing diversity of the United States population and concerns with health disparities, formal training in cross-cultural care has been mandatory for a while for all medical specialties. Clearly, there is still room for improvement when it comes to implementation.

Understanding Intervention and Structured Family Recovery®

*This presentation is no longer eligible for a CEU*

Intervention is not what you see on tv. At least not a good intervention. Intervention is a loving, caring experience that doesn’t have to be confrontational. It should be designed to preserve the client’s dignity at all costs. Structured Family Recovery® is the culmination of good intervention and good treatment. It is about creating a recovery support team out of a family to improve outcomes and bring a family together in ways they never imagined. Continue reading “Understanding Intervention and Structured Family Recovery®”

Harmony Alumna Shares Inspiration Behind New Treatment Scholarship for Dads

Danielle C. started her recovery journey at Harmony Foundation more than nine years ago. She had struggled with severe drug and alcohol addiction for more than eight years and had been to several other treatment centers before.

“When I hit yet another bottom, my dad Richard helped secure me a bed at Harmony where I finally began my path to lasting sobriety,” she remembers. “My dad, however, was not so lucky. He struggled with alcoholism my entire life, and in February 2016, he died from the disease. It was heartbreaking that my dad could not find the freedom he helped me find at Harmony.”

While working the 9th Step of Alcoholics Anonymous last year, Danielle realized there were large financial amends she had never made to her father for money she had wasted during her drug addiction. “Wondering how to make amends, I could not think of a more profound way than to help someone else’s dad find the recovery my dad never did,” she says.

In honor of Richard’s memory and gratitude for her own life in sobriety, Danielle established a new scholarship fund at Harmony for fathers seeking recovery. “I hope these funds will help some dads find healing from addiction and become the loving fathers they’ve always wanted to be.”

Danielle’s parents divorced when she was only five and she split her time between two homes after that. As in many cases of alcohol use disorder (AUD), Richard’s disease was progressive.

“Drinking after work was seemingly a normal behavior for businessmen like him, but as the years went on, I watched his drinking get worse,” Danielle wrote on the Guardian Recovery Network. “He started passing out on the couch nightly, his arms folded, head slumped over his chest. I had trouble waking him sometimes and would fear he wasn’t breathing. When he would rouse from his slumber, he would often stumble, falling over onto the coffee table or worse, staggering directly back into the kitchen for another drink.”

Watching her dad deteriorate before her own eyes was extremely painful for Danielle who had started to misuse alcohol herself at an early age. Richard drank as soon as he got home and his daughter became somewhat of a caretaker for him.

“There were many times I tried to broach the topic of his drinking with him, tried to get him to admit his problem and get some help but these discussions were almost always met with defensiveness and red-hot rage,” Danielle remembered. “He disowned many friends and family who had confronted him about his drinking. In my young adulthood, I became skilled at biting my tongue, staying silent, and pretending like last night didn’t happen.”

Alcohol use disorder is a devastating disease that often runs in families. Research shows that genes are responsible for about half of the AUD risk. Genes alone, however, do not determine whether someone will develop an AUD. Environmental factors and life events—especially trauma—play an important role as well.

However, Danielle has become the living proof that genes and family history do not necessarily determine your fate. Although her addiction was really bad, she managed to turn her life around.

If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, or you have questions about our programs, call us today at (970) 432-8075 to get the help needed as soon as possible. Our experienced staff is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If you would like to donate to Harmony Foundation visit our website to see the many ways to give.