Harmony Joins the Voices of Recovery

September is Recovery Month and this year the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) celebrates the 30th anniversary of this addiction awareness campaign. The 2019 theme, “Join the Voices for Recovery: Together We Are Stronger,” emphasizes the need to share resources and build networks to support the many paths to recovery. It reminds us that mental health and substance use disorders affect all of us and that we can all be part of the solution. Recovery Month highlights inspiring stories to help many people from all walks of life find the path to hope, health, and overall well-being.

One of those inspiring stories is Michael Arnold’s recovery from alcohol addiction. Michael’s alcohol use disorder almost killed her but she turned her life around and now works as an alumni relations manager at the Harmony Foundation. “Every day is a day of recovery, of course, but Recovery Month is that much more focused and there is more intention behind the message of hope that we are all trying to put forward, emphasizing that you can recover,” says Arnold.

Recovery Month began in 1989 as “Treatment Works! Month,” which honored the work of substance use treatment professionals in the field. A lot has changed in 30 years of fighting the stigma of addiction. “Every single year it’s getting better—especially now that alcohol and drug addiction is recognized as a disease of the brain,” says Arnold. “More and more people are starting to show more compassion and desire to understand instead of judging.”

Harmony is celebrating Recovery Month with a 50th-anniversary alumni reunion and a special workshop. “It will look at vulnerability, communication, and owning your sobriety,” explains Arnold. “Behind the ‘stronger together’ motto there is a lot of vulnerability for people in recovery and the workshop will discuss that.” Michael’s own motto is “recover out loud!” Her way of dealing with the disease is to help others, sharing the story of her addiction and recovery instead of hiding her past.

“Our addiction wants us in isolation—completely alone,” she says. “Our addiction wants us in the dark. How do we combat this? Together. Together, we can recover. In order to live a healthy life in sobriety, it is imperative to have a community. When we recover together, we become part of each other’s solutions.”

To spread the message that the door to recovery is always open, she has co-authored a book about recovery. “Our book is all about the fact that addiction doesn’t discriminate, and so recovery doesn’t, either. We work together, no matter what your pathway to recovery may be.”

You can be part of Recovery Month, too

One way to help your community rally around treatment and recovery is to encourage
social media user-generated content. Urge participants to use hashtags like #RecoveryMonth, #RisforRecovery, or #Recovery. Encourage them to share their personal stories about recovery and to tag their friends, family, and other members of their community. A local social media campaign is something easy for people to participate in and can foster a positive, collaborative spirit among community members.

SAMHSA’s Recovery Month toolkit provides a lot more information, resources, and ideas on how to get involved. With your help, the millions of Americans affected by mental and substance use disorders, including co-occurring disorders, will be lifted up into a life in recovery, filled with hope, health, and personal growth.

Harmony Foundation Upgrades Mental Health Services

Mental Health Team

by Michael Rass

Harmony has provided addiction treatment at its Estes Park center in Colorado for half a century. In the beginning, Harmony was a place where alcoholic men could “dry out,” attend AA meetings, and then return home. Over the years, this first treatment approach was expanded to include group therapy sessions, the expertise of a physician, and a treatment protocol based on the Minnesota Model.

Beginning in 2008, Harmony expanded its detoxification facilities and revised its protocol to include Subutex detox methods for opioid addicts. More recently, Harmony added the HOPE Program which offers medication-assisted therapy using buprenorphine to clients with opioid use disorder.

Led by chief clinical officer Annie Peters, Harmony has now upgraded its dual diagnosis capabilities. Dr. Peters developed a roadmap for Harmony to become a dual-diagnosis capable facility serving clients with SUD and co-occurring mental health disorders. Dual diagnosis (also referred to as co-occurring disorders) is a term used for patients who experience a mental illness and a substance use disorder simultaneously. Harmony is now fully dual diagnosis capable.

This modern, evidence-based approach to addiction treatment acknowledges the important role mental health conditions play as drivers of substance use disorders. People may misuse drugs and alcohol because of mental health issues like trauma, depression, and anxiety. “If co-occurring conditions aren’t addressed, clients are more likely to relapse because they may be drawn to substance use to self-medicate those issues,” says Dr. Peters.

People with addiction may also have traumatic experiences as a result of their substance use. “When people are using substances, they may find themselves in dangerous, potentially traumatizing situations that cause further emotional pain, which then leads to more substance use,” says Peters. “This is a difficult cycle for people to pull themselves out of without help.”

Traumatic life experiences are extremely common among patients with substance use disorder. Many suffered adverse childhood experiences. “Studies of drug addicts repeatedly find extraordinarily high percentages of childhood trauma of various sorts, including physical, sexual, and emotional abuse,” writes Canadian physician Gabor Maté in his seminal addiction study In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts.

Because of this strong correlation, trauma-informed care is an important part of addiction treatment. All staff at Harmony have been trained in trauma-informed care. “When people come to treatment, they often have few coping skills to deal with traumatic memories and emotional pain,” says Peters. “Our primary goals are to help them feel safe in the world, manage emotions and situations without substances, and improve their self-esteem and quality of life.”

Trauma-informed dual-diagnosis care begins with a careful assessment. “Every client gets screened for mental health disorders,” says Harmony therapist Gretchen Leezer. “We identify the needs of the patient and establish which ones we can start working on immediately while they are at Harmony and what follow-up treatment they should get once they have been discharged.”

It’s important to address mental health issues as soon as possible, even if the main focus of treatment is the addiction. “When someone comes into addiction treatment with a long history of depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, or trauma, we want them to leave here with a roadmap for recovery from all of these difficulties,” says Peters.

Harmony mental health professional Uric Geer likens Harmony’s dual diagnosis approach to a Möbius strip which can be created by taking a paper strip, giving it a half-twist, and then joining the ends of the strip to form a loop. If one side reveals the SUD and the other the mental health disorder, then the twist makes both sides visible whereas a normal paper ring would keep the condition on the inside hidden from view. “If you only treat what’s visible on the outside—the substance use disorder—then an important part of the problem remains hidden and untreated,” says Geer.

The treatment team at Harmony works hard every day to address all relevant needs a client might have. “The culture at Harmony is simply amazing,” says Harmony psychologist Rob Leach. “The leadership has a great vision and the team as a whole is extremely dedicated. They put in great effort to meet clients where they are and develop individual treatment plans. There is great coordination of care. Really listening and meeting clients where they are, creates an atmosphere of trust and that’s crucial for their recovery.”

Beware the Early Signs of Alcoholism

Early Signs of Alcoholism

by Michael Rass

Addiction can sneak up on you. You may be unaware of it, but you might be genetically predisposed to develop a substance use disorder (SUD) more easily than other people. The alcohol-related SUD listed in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is termed alcohol use disorder (AUD), featuring eleven diagnostic criteria. The presence of six of those criteria indicates a severe AUD or an alcohol addiction.

Early Warning Signs

Several of the DSM-5 criteria can be regarded as early warning signs. Is alcohol taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended? And has there been a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control alcohol use?

Many alcoholics remember periods early on when they tried to slow down their drinking, only to find that it didn’t actually happen. According to the DSM-5, the presence of these two criteria already indicates a mild alcohol use disorder. If these early warning signs are ignored, the AUD is likely to escalate. More and more time could be spent on obtaining alcohol, drinking alcohol, or recovering from its effects, and “continued alcohol use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of alcohol” may ensue.

The Drinking Escalates

Continued, excessive alcohol use despite negative consequences is a serious red flag that should not be ignored. Take a step back and honestly ask yourself, why is this happening? Why are you drinking more than you should? For many recovering alcoholics the answer is that they were self-medicating emotional pain or intense stress.

Do you drink to reduce social anxiety? Are you suffering from an anxiety disorder or depression? Then you should not drink alcohol in an attempt to reduce the symptoms of those conditions. While drinking may initially suppress symptoms of mental health disorders, it will eventually make them worse. If you suffer from too much stress, you need to address the cause of that stress instead of fleeing into alcohol misuse.

Unfortunately, many users start to rationalize their excessive alcohol consumption at this point and deny any warning signs to themselves and to others. They keep on drinking even though it is beginning to cause serious problems in their relationships, for their professional career, and physical health. They start to experience craving, or a strong urge to use alcohol, as their alcohol use has begun to hijack the reward cycle of the brain. They need alcohol just to feel normal.

Recognize the Real Drivers

Stress (especially if caused by a traumatic experience) or any mood disorder, combined with frequent alcohol use and a possible genetic predisposition may now unleash a severe alcohol use disorder or alcohol addiction. Individuals may experience blackouts after heavy alcohol use. Uncontrolled, persistent drinking will eventually lead to tolerance—more and more alcohol is needed to achieve the same effect—and withdrawal symptoms will increase if alcohol consumption is discontinued.

Don’t let it get that far. Heed the warning signs. Be mindful of the real reasons you’re drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. Seek professional therapy for any mental health condition you might have and counseling for any trauma you may have suffered. Be aware of people with alcohol use disorder in your family and be extra-cautious if close relatives have an AUD. Engage in activities that relieve stress but don’t involve using addictive substances.

If you are unsure if you have developed a substance use disorder, seek an evaluation to assess your drinking behavior. Don’t despair and don’t drown in your addiction. Help is available and recovery is possible!

The Nectar Group

The Nectar Group

I’m excited today to be joined with Andrea Pitman, executive director and owner of the Nectar Group out of Denver, Colorado. Welcome Andrea. It’s really great to have you and your team here on campus. We’re excited to talk with you a little bit more about the Nectar Group. What I learned about Nectar, it’s a cognitive training and tutoring company. You work to overcome challenges with individuals in thinking and learning. And you have this concept around the four brain pillars. And so, I’m just curious to hear more about what that’s about, and you know, even your motivation as to what helped you prompt starting the Nectar Group. Continue reading “The Nectar Group”

Nutrition and Recovery: Nourish your Body and Feed your Brain

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

Creating a healthy, balanced, sober life involves a holistic approach.  It doesn’t matter what vice or coping behavior you’ve used – sugar, alcohol or something else.
Learn how to create a foundation of success and suitability with practical tips and techniques from nutritional science.

Presenter: Jolene Park, Certified Nutritionist
Founder, Healthy Discoveries

Jolene Park is the founder of Healthy Discoveries – a corporate wellness company that provides coaching and training programs for high achieving business professionals who struggle with anxiety, stress and use alcohol as a way to cope on a regular basis. She provides inspirational and empowering approaches for purpose-driven companies and business professionals to create a healthy body, mind and spirit in order to build a deeper internal zone of resilience and well-being. Jolene is a functional nutritionist, health coach and trauma-informed yoga instructor.
She is the co-host of “Editing Our Drinking & Our Lives” podcast – an honest conversation about breaking the stigma and shame around quitting drinking. In 2017 she gave a TEDx talk in Denver, Colorado about gray area drinking and how to nourish your nervous system in a consistent and comprehensive way. Jolene is a Colorado native. She is the fifth generation raised on her family’s Centennial farm in Northeast Colorado and currently lives in Denver.

Continue reading “Nutrition and Recovery: Nourish your Body and Feed your Brain”

A New View for a New Year: Recovery and Buddhism

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

Using  45 minutes, you can experience a reflection practice that allows a new view to arise with gratitude. The reflection practice is useful even in the most difficult times. This webinar will be an additional resource for those in recovery from addiction, helping them to move through the early stages, particularly when cravings start to emerge. Continue reading “A New View for a New Year: Recovery and Buddhism”

Women and Weed: Trends for the 21st Century

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

This presentation will outline the rapidly changing culture of cannabis use, perception of risk, and common exchanges regarding substance use and women’s issues. We will also review public health concerns, influence on self and family, and how to have an intelligent “cannabis conversation.”

Presenters: LaTisha Bader, Ph.D.

Dr. Bader has worked in the field of mental health and addiction for more than 16 years. She graduated from the University of North Texas in 2007 with a PhD in counseling psychology and specialization in sport psychology, and completed her postdoctoral fellowship in Chemical Dependency at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. She is a Licensed Psychologist and Licensed Addiction Counselor, in addition she is also a Certified Mental Performance Consultant. Her areas of expertise include Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT), Trauma Focused – CBT (TF-CBT), Trauma Recovery Protocol (TRP), Biofeedback, and the treatment of dually diagnosed clients.
Dr. Bader joined Denver Women’s Recovery in October 2017 as Clinical Director.

Creating a New Normal: A Transgenerational Approach to Helping Families Heal

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

This presentation defines secondary trauma and identifies immediate and long-term systemic changes seen within traumatized families. It will present a transgenerational view of how addiction and trauma can be transferred between generations and how these factors impact family functioning. Finally, attendees will learn simple engagement strategies and techniques to better assess and treat secondary trauma within families. Continue reading “Creating a New Normal: A Transgenerational Approach to Helping Families Heal”

Integrative Medicine and Adolescent Addiction Treatment

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



  1. Define Integrative Medicine and its role in treating adolescent addiction and mental health issues.
  2. Identify the nutritional deficiencies in adolescents that can contribute to addiction and mental health issues.
  3. Learn how addiction and mental health issues can compromise the physiological process of digestion.
  4. List various food sensitivities and how this can heighten symptoms of addictive and mental health behaviors.

Continue reading “Integrative Medicine and Adolescent Addiction Treatment”

Teachable Moments From the 12 Step Trenches

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

The proven, workable methods of Recovery TOTS (Tools of Twelve Step) serve as valuable resources for addressing addictions issues in clinical treatment, and are applicable to all types of clients as well, in terms of deepening and strengthening the overall clinical experience. In this interactive, hands-on, experiential presentation, participants will be trained to incorporate all aspects of Recovery TOTS in their work with clients. In utilizing Recovery TOTS resources, clinicians access a powerful adjunct to the therapeutic process not only to assist addictions clients in relapse prevention, but also in striving towards positive and successful treatment outcomes for all clients. Continue reading “Teachable Moments From the 12 Step Trenches”