Podcast: Gretchen Stecher – Soul Shine

Gina: Hi everyone. Welcome to the Harmony Foundation podcast series, and it’s my pleasure today to be joined with Gretchen Stecher, Heart of the Matter private practice clinician in Boulder, Colorado. Nice to meet you.

Gretchen: Thank you, great to be here.

Gina: I’m so glad you took some time to visit us here at Harmony Foundation. We’re really excited to learn a little bit more about your services, but before we do that, we want to learn a little bit about you. I got a chance to check out your website, and looked a little bit at some of the things that you are focused on, and you talk a little bit about how you attribute much of your journey to the work of Clarissa Pinkola Estes, the Women who Run with Wolves. What was it about this book that helped you on your path to working in addiction treatment?

Gretchen: That’s actually a really good question. Through that book, Women who Run with the Wolves, Dr. Estes gave me a whole different lens through which to view my life, and really to understand my suffering. I felt like I finally had permission to have a relationship with myself, something I never even thought about before. I love the metaphors in her stories, because they reach into the depths of my soul, and speak in a way that words alone cannot.

Gina: Can you tell me a little bit, for those that are listening, because they may not be familiar with her work, what the book was about?

Gretchen: Dr. Estes is a, among other things, is a storyteller, and so a lot of the book is a bunch of different stories that she then interprets through Jungian psychology. They’re stories that she’s collected all over the world throughout her lifetime.

Gina: Stories that were done by different cultures, and different tribes, and-

Gretchen: Yes.

Gina: I see, so it’s not stories she’s created per se, but those that resonate.

Gretchen: No. They’re cultural stories.

Gina: Cultural stories, okay.

Gretchen: Yeah. Primarily for women, but also the divine feminine, I would say, so it can be appropriate for both men and women.

Gina: What was it that prompted you to get into the field of addiction treatment?

Gretchen: Well, I think that when we’re caught up in the throes of addictive behaviors, we don’t even know that we keep telling ourselves that we don’t matter. I think that’s a common theme, and we’re so used to listening to the lies that emanate from the voice of our addiction that even after we stop using, we still believe those lies, and we don’t treat ourselves well. Women who Run with the Wolves helped me remember to listen to that wise voice deep inside that I could trust. We get so used to dismissing or overriding what we know is best for us, and I found that to be particularly true for those of us in recovery from addictions. I love helping people in recovery learn to hear and trust those parts that help them be true to themselves, and feel really good about who they are.

Gina: Your focus is really not to work with the person in early recovery. I mean, you would rather work with someone who might be having a little bit more recovery under their belt, if you will.

Gretchen: Absolutely.

Gina: Couple years, maybe?

Gretchen: Yes.

Gina: Why is that?

Gretchen: Well, I like to go to the places that … where people … to help people actually understand what caused the addiction in the first place. Go to the underlying symptoms, of the stinking thinking, the traumas that might be present, which actually are often present, including developmental trauma, which a lot of times people don’t even recognize or understand that they have.

Gina: Can you just explain what that means when you say developmental trauma?

Gretchen: Yeah, for sure. Although developmental trauma is sort of a broad term, but a lot of times, when our needs aren’t met as young ones, we’re not aware that they’re not met. If we have the need to be loved, and our parents aren’t quite capable of giving us everything that we need in that area, we think that are parents are being loving, because we don’t have another frame of reference. We don’t know that there’s something different that could be happening for us, and we don’t get what we need from them. We don’t get the attention, or we don’t get the validation, or we don’t get the encouragement, or the type of attention that we do need, our parents might not know how to give that to us. It’s not a matter of blaming our parents for anything, it’s just that that’s how it happened for us. We can wind up then self-soothing in ways that eventually become harmful to us.
To sort of unpack that, and understand what that’s about, we also can start blaming ourselves for things that actually really are not our fault. Again, it’s not about going back and blaming our parents, it’s about understanding where these things started from, so that we stop blaming ourselves, and again, learn to treat ourselves like we do matter, because that’s how we start to recover. Because treating ourselves with compassion, and as though we do matter, actually begins to reverse the stinking thinking and the negative thought patterns that we develop when we treat ourselves, have addictive behaviors, and treat ourselves poorly.

Gina: Your approach is to use somatic experiencing. How do you blend the two with the work that you do?

Gretchen: It’s not specifically somatic experiencing.

Gina: Okay.

Gretchen: It’s using the body as part of the treatment process.

Gina: What would that look like?

Gretchen: There’s a lot of different ways that I use body-based techniques when I help clients heal, and specifically when I help them heal from trauma, so I want to kind of focus on the trauma piece itself. I want to begin by just saying that it’s my understanding that trauma is stored in the body. That’s why it’s so uncomfortable for us, why we try to do all these things to keep us from feeling it, because we feel it in our bodies, and it’s really uncomfortable. When we have these uncomfortable sensations in our bodies, we also have these thoughts that connect with the uncomfortable feelings in our bodies, and so we have this kind of cycle that makes us feel pretty awful. How safe a person feels in their body greatly influences the choice of techniques that I use. I might begin by having a client tell me about a place in their body that feels good or neutral, because we want to establish, first of all, a resource that feels good to them.

Gina: Like a baseline.

Gretchen: A baseline, right, a positive baseline. Yeah, because sometimes baselines feel pretty uncomfortable, and dysregulating, and distressing. I would want to keep the focus there, whether it could be the soles of their feet, it could be the baby fingernail, it doesn’t really matter where it is. Then I have the person describe the sensations that they’re feeling. It’s important when using describing in this context to stick with words that are specific to the sensation. First, I would go over with them what I mean by sensation words, and even give them a list. I have a handout of sensation words. Then, describe other features about that location in the body, things like texture, color, temperature, things like that, so we really get to know what that area feels like. Once we do that, then I’d have them identify where in their body they would feel some tension or a painful sensation, and have them describe that to me in the same way that they just did the place that feels good, or the place of tension or pain.

Then we go back again, once they’ve described the place of the tension or pain, we’d go then back to the place that feels good or neutral. Again, we would go through these processes slowly, mindfully, so that they really get to spend time there, and be with both of those places, letting the whole nervous system get the sense of each of those places, and we would go back and forth, touching back into each one of those. This is a process that we call, in the trauma world a lot of times it is called pendulation. It’s a pendulation technique, and it’s actually a natural way that the body and the nervous system use to regulate.
What happens is, when there’s trauma present, the system goes into overwhelm or overload. It’s outside the window of tolerance, so we forget, the system forgets that it actually knows how to really regulate itself. By doing this, by specifically guiding a person to how to actually do this pendulation technique, it helps the nervous system remember that it actually does know how to regulate itself. We do this in places that are not really trigger places, or places of activation, to begin with, so they have practiced it and know that they can do it to start with.

Gina: That’s great. Go ahead.

Gretchen: That’s one way that the body can be used in working with trauma.

Gina: Wonderful, wonderful. Sounds like you have a really strong basis for working with clients who have, whether it’s really significant trauma, or even if it’s … I guess people don’t like using big T and little t trauma very much, because people would argue that trauma is trauma, and so do you work across a spectrum?

Gretchen: I do.

Gina: You do.

Gretchen: I do. Trauma really is, there’s a continuum. Really, you can tell the degree of trauma for each individual is different, and each situation will be different, and you can just tell by how much the system is activated. We tell that by just putting a number to it. Just like a pain level, when you go into a hospital, they ask you if it’s a zero or a 10, we can do the same thing using it that way.

Gina: Good. That’s good to know. Well, we always like to learn a little bit about the individual behind the services that you’re offering, and so I’m going to ask you a couple of questions that are a little bit more personal. What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?

Gretchen: Well, I think you can probably tell that just by looking at me.

Gina: I think you like color.

Gretchen: As you can see today, yes. I love bright color clothing. I love interesting clothing. Yeah. Because to me, part of the whole piece, especially around recovery, is, if I’m going to be abstinent and I can’t have fun, or can’t express myself authentically, what’s the point? I like to be able to express my joy and excitement about being in recovery, and one of the ways that I like to do that is by wearing interesting clothes.

Gina: Well, it suits you. It definitely suits you, which is great. If I were to play off the idea of the word harmony, what do you think it means to live a life in harmony?

Gretchen: Well, it’s interesting. I mean, it’s actually one of the things that drew me to this place, because I actually prefer the word harmony to balance, because balance sort of draws me back to my old … I’m sort of a person in recovery from perfectionism, so with balance, I’m always concerned that I’m not doing it perfectly. When there’s harmony, it feels like, “Oh, you know, this part of my life can be a little bit messy, and another part can be in order, and it’s okay, because that way there’s harmony.” It feels much more like it’s in the flow, and things can move gently and well together. It doesn’t have to have some sort of perfect exact way that everything has to be. I really prefer harmony, and I love harmonious things. I love the sound of harmonious music. I just like the sound of that word a lot better than I do balance.

Gina: Yeah. Thank you for sharing that, I like that. If someone wanted to access services at Soul Shine ( previously) Heart of the Matter how could they connect with you?

Gretchen: Well, they could email me from my website, which is www.boulderwomenstherapy.com, or they could call me at 720-500-5474.

Gina: Wonderful. Thank you so much, Gretchen, for taking the time to visit us here. It was great to meet you.

Gretchen: Totally my pleasure. Thanks so much for having me.

Podcast: Dr. Michael Zona – Forensic Psychiatrist

Gina: Hi everyone, welcome to the Harmony Foundation podcast series, and I’m pleased today to be joined with Dr. Michael Zona, who is a forensic psychiatrist out of Boulder, Colorado.
Welcome, Dr. Zona.

Dr. Zona: Thank you.

Gina: Nice to have you here.

Dr. Zona: Thank you.

Gina: Well, first of all, we appreciate you taking the time to come up and visit us here at Harmony. Obviously we’ve been working hard to get you up here, so it’s great that we’ve had a chance to meet you and learn more about your practice.

Before we get into some of the specifics about your practice, we’d like to talk with you a little bit more about who you are, and what kind of prompted you to get into the field of working in psychiatry, but specifically forensic psychiatry and some of the specialty areas you focus on.

Dr. Zona: Okay. Well, when I was a lad, I was more interested in biology, fishing, wildlife biology. And that led into medicine. I became interested in medicine maybe my senior year of high school and then through college.
I’m not from a medical family, so I wasn’t exposed early. As I went through undergrad, University of Massachusetts, I then went to St. Louis University, medical school, it’s a Jesuit school in Missouri.
You go through your first two years and it’s mostly lectures and so on. I remember going to the psychiatry lectures, and there’d be a psychiatrist there, somebody Einstein-like here, talking about things. They basically would read from the DSM, that’s a manual that talks about different diagnoses.  And I think it was the DSM-3 at the time maybe, I’m not sure. And I thought, boy, I love all aspects of medicine, but I know for sure I won’t be doing psychiatry.

Gina: Interesting.

Dr. Zona: And then in your third year, you start doing eight weeks OB/GYN, eight weeks peds, eight weeks psych. And everything I did, I was like, “This is what I’m gonna do.”
I did the psychiatry rotation, and I was hit like a ton of bricks. I just knew right then and there, that’s what I had to do the rest of my life.

Gina: So what was specifically about that particular rotation that made you say, this is the one?

Dr. Zona: An excellent mentor, firstly, which is critical in career development. And then secondly, what I found out was that it wasn’t this dry stuff, and it wasn’t Freudian. Which back in the day, it was all psychodynamic.
Actually, this was the time when psychiatric medications were coming out, where you could actually make diagnoses and you could use a medication for the diagnosis. And it was so dynamic, and so lively, that I was just smitten with the whole issue.  In retrospect, I think if it was all say, Freudian, and a lot of theory, which is not in my opinion scientific, I would not be in psychiatry. But over the last 40 years, 4-0, 40 years, it’s really lent itself to a medical model.

Gina: Yeah.

Dr. Zona: And the dynamic aspects of it, the fact that so many people are in need for a cure, and it was largely ignored, I think those are the kinds of things. Maybe my countertransference, which is the therapists’ feeling toward the patient, and it could be good or bad, but I’ve always been the kind of person who’s for the underdog. And I think that lent itself to that as well.

Gina: That’s great. Well, and there is so much more science behind the brain and how it functions, and I heard statistically that we know only maybe 10 percent or 20 percent of what the brain’s capacity really is.
So it’s almost like uncharted territory as far as what we’re learning about brain science and working with human capacity, which is really interesting.

Dr. Zona: Yeah. I think there’s like three frontiers: space, under sea, and psychology that exist out there and are still largely unexplored. And I like that aspect as well.

Gina: Yes. It really is a great opportunity for us. And one of the things you do also, and obviously this is going hand in hand with our conversation about moving into the world of psychiatry, is this issue of addiction medicine.
Addiction medicine is probably on par with that timeframe of, we’re looking at maybe a 30 year window of when addiction medicine really became such a significant part in treating addiction. And yet, that’s one of your specialty areas is looking at an addiction, specifically around medically assisted treatment.

Can you talk to us a little bit about why you decided to infuse the concept of medically assisted treatment, or MAT, into your practice? And also, what are your approaches in working with people who have issues with addiction?

Dr. Zona: Great question. I think that about 60 percent of my patients have substance use disorder. And I think as a psychiatrist, if you do not focus on looking at addiction related issues, and it doesn’t have to be a substance. It could be porn. It could be computer gaming, which I see in a ton of adolescents and youths these days. If you miss that, you’re not doing your patient proper service, because that part is, if you’re looking at a piece of pie, that could be 60, 70 percent of it. So you could hit somebody with the best medication and be the best therapist, but if you miss the addiction part, you lose and you do a disservice to the patient.

Gina: Which I think in many cases, what we’ve struggled with over the years, between this push/pull between mental health and addiction, is that there’s always this idea of isolation, you only treat the mental health, you only treat the addiction, but you never look at both together. And I think that once we start to blend those two together, you’re gonna start to see greater success. So I’m glad to hear that you address the addiction piece, because it is, like you said, such a pervasive part of what people are coming to the table with.

Dr. Zona: When I listen to patient stories, and you know, being in the field, that relapse is part of the disease, unfortunately. Guess what? Relapse is part of the disease in psychiatry too.
So we’re used to working with the concept of relapse. What I have found, when you listen between the lines to a story, a lot of relapses occur because the underlying psychiatric condition hasn’t been tucked in or went awry. And if you can get the underlying psychiatric condition stable, your success rate at treating addiction is much higher.

Gina: That makes sense. So as a medical professional, and working with people with addiction treatment, obviously we’re seeing this crisis of opioid addiction and the pervasiveness of it.
What do you think we need to be doing more of in addressing the opioid crisis in our communities?

Dr. Zona: That is the $64,000 question.
I think that doctor education is critical, and dentists by the way, because I’ve had many patients who have gone in and had two wisdom teeth taken out, and they leave with 60 Percocets, with a refill, for a month later. This kind of thing.  So I think doctor education is critical. And a lot has been done already. You cannot pick up a medical journal these days and not see tons of things on opiates.
I think in-services, training doctors is critical. I think public awareness is critical. I think programs like the needle exchange program is very helpful. And I think that I would like to see more doctors using MAT, not fewer doctors seeing more MAT patients. Because you’ve heard of these pill mills in Florida. They open up a strip mall, and have some doc there, and it’s like, script pad, script pad, they might process 40, 50 patients in a day.
That’s assembly line medicine, minus the word medicine. Because that’s not fair to real doctors to say that.

Gina: Sure.

Dr. Zona: Nowadays there are people out doing Suboxone, but I call it reverse pill mills, where all they’re doing is providing prescriptions for Suboxone, but they’re not looking at the underlying issues, they’re not helping a patient find AA or NA grounds, and they’re talking about, “Wow, I can cram in five patients in an hour.” All they’re doing is, in my opinion, a reverse pill mill type of thing. So I would like to see more docs doing it, if I was king of the world. I would mandate medical school training in addiction, medical school training in- nobody graduates from medical school without their XDEA, and training, so they’re ready to help their patients.
Because all too often, docs don’t want to do that part. And they make referrals, and there’s simply not enough addiction psychiatrists around to see people in the proper way.

Gina: Right. And it’s interesting, because when you talk to some primary care doctors, they struggle with even having the conversation with their patient, because they don’t know where to refer them to. So sometimes the conversation doesn’t even come up at all. So now you’ve got both sides of it.  You’ve got somebody who thinks the solution is just to provide a pill, and then you’ve got the others that are not willing even to have a conversation because they’re afraid of opening Pandora’s box, and they just don’t know what to do with the patient or the client if that happens.

So great strategies, and certainly think that we need to have more education in our medical schools. Even our pharmacy schools, around this issue of addiction and what the role is of the provider in addressing the issue, which is important.

So we like to always get to know the people behind the practice, so I’m gonna ask you a couple questions that may not necessarily pertain to the practice per se.
So what do you think you have become better at saying no to, and what approaches have worked for you in doing that?

Dr. Zona: I think that over time, you develop a sense of who you are as a professional, and a sense of right and wrong. As you become more comfortable with that, you become more comfortable with saying no.
An example not related to addiction, but somebody came in last week, and wanted me to sign a form to get him out of jury duty. And we talked about that, and I said, “Look, there’s no reason why you can’t. Of course it’s inconvenient, but I can’t do this professionally.” So there are some things that even though you have a good rapport with the patient, there are some things you can say no to.

When you believe in patient autonomy, part and parcel with that is exploring risks and benefits of decisions. But I feel very uncomfortable telling people what to do.
I don’t think being a psychiatrist gives somebody any special knowledge about life advice. I have lots of special knowledge in the medical realm, psychiatric realm.
But I have an ability now to explore something without necessarily having a patient do A or B. If I tell them no, and they do something against my advice, that, I think is distancing in terms of working with somebody.
If I tell them yes and then they do that, then they’re coming back the me saying, “Okay, you gave me good advice before, what’s the advice now?”
And I don’t think that’s appropriate. I think a physician-patient relationship should be about teaching, taking care of them and encouraging them to develop their own decision making.

Gina: Empowering them to do that. That makes sense. Being a facilitator, if you will, of decision-making.

Dr. Zona: I like that. I could’ve said that, and not answered the whole paragraph way.

Gina: We got there, which is great.
So if we’re playing off the idea of the word Harmony, what do you think it means when I say “to live a life in harmony”?

Dr. Zona: I believe that harmony is about inner conflict and attachment, and a life of harmony is a life where you’re at peace with yourself, and you make efforts to detach from psychic or financial connections with things, and you’re more in touch with your spirit, or the things that help others on the planet.

Gina: Very nice. Thank you for that. And if someone wanted to access your services, how could they get in touch with you?

Dr. Zona: In our office, anybody who wants to speak with somebody, to inquire, they just call me directly on my cell phone. So that telephone number is 310-261-0035…310-261-0035.
I have a website, it is www.michaelzonamd.com, like Mary David, .com.
That’s the best way. If someone calls me on my cell phone, I answer the phone. If I’m with a patient, I never answer my phone. And I encourage people to call me up til 9 o’clock at night. I’d say about 90 percent of my calls, I can get back to within 24 hours.

Gina: Very nice. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to visit with us today, we’re excited about working with you, and wish you best of luck in all your future endeavors, including your fly fishing.

Dr. Zona: Thank you. Bye.

Podcast: Anchored Tides Recovery

Gina: Hi everyone, welcome to the Harmony Foundation Podcast Series, and it’s my pleasure today to be joined with Becca Edge, co-founder of Anchored Tides Recovery, and Kelsey Huberty, clinical director. It’s nice to have you both here.

Becca Edge: Thanks for having us, nice to be here.

Kelsey Huberty: Nice to be here, thank you.

Gina: Really excited to learn more about Anchor Tides. But before we do that, let’s learn a little bit more about you both. So let’s start with you first, Becca. You’re the co-founder of Anchored Tides. How did you find yourself working in the field of addiction treatment?

Becca Edge: Well, it started as a passion project. I was in a totally different career, and it just felt like I wasn’t fulfilling a purpose. So I decided to just open a little sober living on the side, and keep it very small with women only, and that would be my heart project. And as time went on, the community responded really positively to it, there was definitely a need to it. And I found myself getting pulled away from my “career,” and just spending more time with the women. So that’s kind of how it started, and then it just kind of grew organically from there and turned into something really cool.

Gina: And you’re in southern California, Huntington Beach area, correct?

Becca Edge: Yeah, Huntington Beach and Costa Mesa, yeah.

Gina: Oh, very nice. And so how about you, Kelsey?

Kelsey Huberty: Yeah, so without knowing it, addiction has been part of my life from as long as I can remember, and honestly I had no intention of working in this field. I kind of knew it existed, growing up next door, basically, to Hazelden, but in college I took an elective course in, they called it chemical dependency counseling at the time. And I just had that feeling of “This is what I’m supposed to be doing.” And then during college I got into my own recovery process, and it really helped me to get kind of a different understanding, obviously, of the field and recovery and being a woman, the issues that women tend to face. So is it accident, is it divine intervention? I don’t really know.

Gina: I think it’s a lot of both, yeah.

Kelsey Huberty: But that’s where I ended up, and I absolutely love it.

Gina: Great. Well, yeah, and I agree with you, it’s like nobody wakes up and says “I really want to work in the field of addiction treatment.” I think a lot of us found ourselves being called to it, which is what I found as well.

Kelsey Huberty: Yes.

Becca Edge: Yes.

Gina: So Anchored Tides is a women’s only treatment program. It’s in Huntington Beach. Becca, take a couple minutes and describe for us some of the specific programming that you offer for women that often are more tailored to women, because we know that treatment isn’t just across the board something that you can do for everybody. It really has to be unique, and sometimes gender plays a part in that. So what does that look like for your folks?

Becca Edge: So a lot of the times women come in and they identify just as an addict or an alcoholic, and then the more time they get sober, they realize “Oh, I have all of these other issues that played into my addiction.” So that’s really what we want to focus on treating, ’cause if that goes untreated, that’s when they tend to go back out and relapse, and they have trouble achieving long-term sobriety. So a lot of issues for women come up around co-dependency and relationships, whether that’s romantic relationship, friend relationships, family relationships. You know, all the relationships tend to be really sick when one of the people in it is sick. We also focus on disordered eating. And that can be someone who has a history of an eating disorder or someone that just has never really grocery shopped, doesn’t know what nutrition looks like and doesn’t know how to eat like an adult.

I know for me, I thought cupcakes were an appropriate dinner for the first few months/years of my recovery. And so yeah, so disordered eating, relationships and codependency, and then we focus on a lot of trauma as well. And we always say that can be a little T, big T. But trauma is trauma, and that affects us in how we live our life and perceive the world around us. So we really like to focus on that. We provide, we try to integrate 12-step with a lot of holistic approaches as well. So we do breath works, meditation, reiki, yoga, art therapy, music therapy, in addition to a lot of process groups, she resilience, etc. So we try to just give our clients all of the tools they need to have a long-term successful recovery.

Gina: Yeah, that’s great.

Kelsey Huberty:And then I think another important piece of what we do is really helping women to define or meet an authentic sense of self in recovery. Because both men and women and everybody in between, we get socialized that we “should” be a certain type of way. If you’re a woman, you should do X, Y, Z. If you’re a man, you should do X, Y, and Z. And so we really take a look at the socialization process, what people are raised with individually, what we’re raised with collectively, and kind of unpack what fits for you, what doesn’t fit for you. And who do you really want to be, versus who have you been told to be or not to be?

Gina: A lot of times when you’re coming out of addiction, you have that arrested development, so especially if you started really young, you’ve never really had that ability to self-actualize.

Kelsey Huberty: Right.

Gina: And so it’s great that you all are creating that space for that, which is good. So we always like to learn about the people behind the program. So we can talk all day long about your services, but if I were to ask you, Kelsey, in the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life, what would you say?

Kelsey Huberty: You know, I think for me it’s really been getting into the practice of meditation, which has then opened a lot of doors for me. And I am not a tattoo person, but I always say if I ever got a tattoo, I would probably get something like “Let your faith be bigger than your fear.” I know for a lot of my life I lived in fear and let that run my life, and so now to be able to have faith even during uncomfortable times, it’s really reassuring. And for me that looks different than what it might look like for you or for Becca. And so just getting really in touch with that and that practice. And also stopping to appreciate the beauty in life.

Gina: Mm-hmm (affirmative), really being present. I can completely relate with what you’re talking about. I’ve started my meditation practice in the last year as well, and it’s definitely been like a whole new world opening up for you when you have the opportunity to do that, which is really great. How about you, Becca?

Becca Edge: Well, mine’s kind of along the same similar lines. I am in a 12-step program, and that is the basis for my spirituality. But that, like I said, that kind of keeps me maintaining. So in the past few years I’ve really looked at how I can grow that. And it is meditation, yoga, reiki, just getting in touch with myself and my spirit and honoring that and figuring out who I am. Again, I think that’s an ever-changing process. So we teach our clients, you know, figure out who you are and who you want to be, and that’s gonna be different today than it is tomorrow and the next day. So it’s just kind of constantly figuring out who you want to be and being true to your authentic self.

Gina: That’s so true.

Becca Edge: Yeah.

Gina: So true, especially since we always think that once we feel like we get there, we don’t have to do any more work.

Becca Edge: Right.

Gina: And we know that it’s like surf school, we’re always working.

Becca Edge: Right. It’d be nice if it was that way.

Gina: [crosstalk 00:07:21].

Kelsey Huberty: I’m done.

Becca Edge: I’m done, check.

Gina: Yes, we’re finally here. So Kelsey, playing off the idea of the word harmony, what do you think it means to live a life in harmony?

Kelsey Huberty: So I don’t know if this makes sense to other people, but it’s like that feeling of being in the flow. So for me, my heart feels warm, my spirit feels warm, and for me, when I’m in harmony, it feels like the universe is conspiring for me. I think a lot of people tend to look at the negatives in life, “This isn’t happening for me, this isn’t happening for me,” but every day there’s so much happening for us. And so looking for that evidence of the good and the ways in which the universe or your higher power or whatever that looks like for you is really helping to carry you along the journey. And I think it is, it’s this ever-growing process of, I have to keep doing my work, I have to keep being a good student of the craft, for me in this field and just in life, and contributing positively to society. And then I get this feeling that life is great, life’s beautiful. And that’s what it feels like when things are in harmony for me.

Gina: I love that. That’s a great response.

Kelsey Huberty: Thank you.

Gina: How about you, Becca?

Becca Edge: Yeah, for harmony, I feel like it’s, you know when you’re in harmony, it’s the feeling inside yourself. And it’s when you’re not fighting, I feel like. When you stop fighting, you’re in acceptance. And it’s kind of this reprogramming of your brain so that, you know, life happens. There’s always gonna be issues and things that come up, but it’s how you perceive it and how you can learn from it. And so instead of being like “Oh, this terrible thing happened,” kind of like you touched on, this is an obstacle, but it’s a chance for growth and self-improvement, because the reality is we don’t usually grow from happy, good times. We usually sit in them. So pain is a chance for growth and betterment, and I feel like when you’re in the mindset to do that, it doesn’t really matter what’s going on in the world around you, because the inside’s harmonious and you’re at peace with the world around you and your environment and the people around you, and that’s harmony.

Kelsey Huberty: I heard it, or read it that somebody said everything in life is either a blessing or a lesson. And for me …

Becca Edge: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Gina: That’s true, yeah. I like that.

Kelsey Huberty: Because I think … and part of this has come from meditation, but it’s really easy to grab onto negative things in life and to attach our identity to them. But when you look at it as “Okay, what can I learn from this,” you don’t get so attached to an event and you just see it all as part of your process.

Gina: Right, yeah. I think we all need to do a better job of that. It’s hard when we’re focused in on it and pain, the struggle is so hard.

Kelsey Huberty: Yes.

Gina: But you’re right, when you can look at the silver lining and see what the value is from it, there’s always something to be learned.

Kelsey Huberty: Yes.

Gina: So Becca, if someone wanted to get in touch with Anchored Tides Recovery, how could they get in touch with you?

Becca Edge: Well, you can go to our website, which is www.anchoredtidesrecovery.com, or you can call our admissions line, which is area code 714-377-7706, or just email at admissions@anchoredtidesrecovery.com as well.

Gina: Wonderful.

Becca Edge: Lots of information there.

Gina: That’s all right, that’s great.

Kelsey Huberty: It’s a long name.

Gina: No, it’s good, thank you both so much for taking the time to come out and visit with us. We really enjoyed getting to know you, and we look forward to working with you.

Becca Edge: thank you, yeah, it was great hearing you.

Kelsey Huberty: Thanks for sharing this impressive program and this beautiful location with us.

Gina: Thank you.

Podcast Series: Denver Recovery Center

Gina: Hey, Jason. Nice to have you here.

Jason: Hi, Gina. Thanks for having me.

 It’s good to have you a part of the Harmony Foundation podcast series today and for taking the time to come up and visit us here in Estes Park. You’re with Denver Recovery Center, you’re the Executive Director.

Jason: That’s right.

Gina: But you actually live in Arizona and you commute back and forth, that’s quite a long commute but it sounds like you don’t have a problem with that.

Jason: That’s right, yeah. I live in Arizona most of the time and I live in Colorado part of the time. I’m here a couple times a month, so probably 30% of the time in Colorado and about 70% of the time in Scottsdale, where I grew up.

Gina: We were talking offline, you have a bit of a love affair with Colorado, as I do. So it was a good call for you to move out this way and open up Denver Recovery Center.

Jason: Yes. Yeah, I spent about half my life in northern Arizona so when I came up to Colorado for the first time it reminded me so much of northern Arizona that I just fell in love with it and decided-

Gina: Yeah, it’s hard not to.

Jason: Yeah. Yes, absolutely.

Gina: That’s great. Well, we’re going to talk a little bit about your program, which isn’t been open but maybe, what, a year? A little over a year, here in Colorado?

Jason: Denver Recovery Center, we opened the beginning of 2018.

Gina: So, very young.

Jason: Yes, yes.

Gina: Okay, yep. So great. Well, we’re excited to have you guys here.

Jason: Thank you.

Gina: And before we talk specifically about the services that you all offer, I want to learn a little bit about your background so that people can get to know you a little bit better.

Jason: Okay.

Gina: Tell us what got you into the field of addiction treatment.

Jason: Well, I’m a person in longterm recovery. So I’ve been sober for 16 years, and I’m passionate about recovery. Along with addiction recovery, I’m also passionate about yoga, healthy eating, outdoor experiences, and it was really my dream and passion to be able to bring all of this together into one program so I can share with others my journey of recovery and all of the other splendors of life that I’ve been able to enjoy. So that was really my idea when creating Denver Recovery Center, is to-

Gina: That’s great.

Jason: Yeah, thank you.

Gina: Paying it forward and sharing the strength, hope, and experience that we all need to do, right?

Jason: Yes.

Gina: So that’s great.

Jason: Exactly.

Gina: So you opened at the beginning of 2018 and you all are in Arvada? Or in Broomfield?

Jason: We’re in Broomfield.

Gina: Broomfield.

Jason: On Interlocken Boulevard in Broomfield.

Gina: Great. Which is fairly close, for people who are listening. It’s almost in between Denver and Boulder.

Jason: It is, yeah. We’re about 25 minutes outside of Denver and about 20 minutes outside of Boulder. So located right in between the two and-

Gina: Two very different communities.

Jason: Absolutely.

Gina:Two very different communities.

Jason:I’ve learned that, yeah. They’re almost like two different worlds.

Gina: They really are.

Jason: But it’s great because we can offer services to people that are living in both communities.

Gina: Let’s go into that, let’s talk a little bit about the services that you all offer.

Jason: Sure, so we’re an extended care program for people that are looking for more of a longterm program, where they can get integrated into the larger recovery community in the area, while also working with licensed Master’s-level clinicians to resolve some of the past traumas, look at some of the underlying issues that are going on, work on family issues, professional issues, really do some personal development work, and then also learn some life skills issues, that many people leave behind in their addictions. Basic things like waking up, making your bed, learning how to cook, learning how to live in a community. And overall, really boosting people’s self-esteem and allowing our clients to thrive while they’re at Denver Recovery Center, but also building the habits of recovery so they can thrive and really succeed in life when they leave our program.

Gina: Mm-hmm (affirmative). It’s interesting because so many of the people that I’ve spoken with who are in early recovery say that it’s not just the area, people, places, and things that can trip you up in early recovery, but in fact the basic things that we all take for granted, like just learning how to grocery shop and the stress that can be involved with grocery shopping for the first time in recovery or paying your bills and learning how to balance a checkbook. That some of those stressors, the things that you’re talking about that you all teach, can be the foundation of what successful recovery can look like.

Jason: That’s right. Yes, yes. We want to allow our clients to have some, I want to say, real life experiences, while they’re with us. So they can learn how to walk through some of these situations, like going out to a restaurant, or going for a hike, or going to a museum while they’re with us so they know that they can successfully manage these aspects of life when they leave our program and get integrated back in with their families and their work life.

Gina: Which is again another necessary part of how people stay sober.

Jason: Yes.

Gina: So you’ve got a concept, you do a gender-responsive program. So your program is men and women specific, is that correct?

Jason: Yes. Our program, the structure of it is, is that we have a PHP, IOP, OP program, where our clients are in group and individual therapy during the day and then they return to our housing in the evening time. The houses are gender-responsive, so they’re gender specific. And then while they’re in our clinical program during the day most of the groups are integrated together, co-ed, but then we also have separate gender groups as well. I think the importance of that is … There’s a lot of things. There’s many benefits to having co-ed groups, but there’s a lot of benefits to being separated as well. And sometimes males and females feel more comfortable when they’re just separated than together, and there’s issues that they can talk about that they don’t feel comfortable talking about in mixed company.

Gina: Right, right.

Jason: There are some issues that are just gender-specific issues. And there’s also a lot to learn from working together as well.

Gina: Learning how to communicate with the opposite sex.

Jason: That’s right.

Gina:And learning about how to have relationships without having relationships, for those of you that don’t see, I’m talking air quote relationships.

Jason: That’s right, yes.

Gina: Yeah. So there’s definitely that too. Well, that’s good.

Jason: Yes.

Gina: We’re onboard with being gender responsive for that very reason, in that we believe that women may come into treatment for very different reasons than men do and it’s okay for them to be able to address those issues with other women. Like men, who might be dealing with stressors and struggles in a different way.

Jason: Yes.

Gina: So that totally makes sense. Well, we always like to talk a little bit about the individual themselves, so not just your program but the person behind the program. So I’m going to ask you a couple questions that hopefully we’ll get to know you a little bit better.

Jason: Sure.

Gina: How is failure, or apparent failure because some people might not see it that way, set you up for success later in life? And do you have a favorite failure of yours that you’d like to share?

Jason: I was thinking about this question and it’s interesting that you say apparent failure, a play on words. So the one that came to mind right away is my relationship with my parents.

Gina: Ah, interesting.

Jason: I’ve noticed that I can be very judgmental and sometimes condescending to my parents, when they’re just trying to do their best. And they’re doing the best that they can with the tools that they have. And I think that’s been one of my biggest failures, is being kind of that condescending person to my parents sometimes. And more recently I’ve been realizing that it makes me feel better, ti makes the relationship better, and it makes them feel better when I practice more love and tolerance and kindness with them. So that has been a failure that’s led to a success, of me looking at my own actions and saying, okay, I need to change my actions. It’s not my parent’s actions that are annoying me, it’s how I’m being in my life. So I can change myself, I can’t change somebody else.

Gina: Right, that’s a really great, introspective way to look at things.

Jason: Yeah.

Gina: I do, admittedly, have to say I don’t think you’re alone in having that same kind of a parent failure.

Jason: Okay, yes.

Gina: A lot of people feel that way.

Jason: Right.

Gina: Until I guess we all grow up and realize, when we have our own kids, “Oh, now I get it.”

Jason: Right, yeah.

Gina: Now I understand.

Jason: Yeah.

Gina: Playing off the idea of the word harmony, if I were to throw out the word harmony, what does that mean to you?

Jason: The word harmony, to me, means that many different pieces and aspects of life are operating with ease and grace, together, and all flowing together rather than flowing in different directions. It’s everything having a common purpose and everyone … Kind of all ships sailing in the same direction.

Gina: Yeah, I like that.

Jason: Yes.

Gina: I like that a lot. That’s really great.

Jason: I love the word, and i love that you guys named your program Harmony.

Gina: Yep, we feel it.

Jason: Yes.

Gina: I mean, we definitely feel it here on campus and so … Well, if someone were wanting to access services at Denver Recovery Center and wanted to reach out to you after listening today, how could they get in touch with you?

Jason: You can reach Denver Recovery Center by phone at 888-853-5585. You can also go to our website, which is denverrecoverycenter.com. And there’s a lot of information there, a lot of great information about our program but also addition in general. We are a program that we know what we’re good at and we also know when to refer people to other programs. So you can use us as a resource to get a general idea of whether you may need our services or you may need services at another program. And we’re happy to be that type of resource, where we can say, “Yeah, you’d be a great fit for us,” or, “No, we actually feel like you’d be a better fit for this program that we’re familiar with and let’s get you in contact with them.”

Gina: Great.

Jason: So we’re happy to be of service. We love helping people and find it a really big honor to be a part of people’s recovery.

Gina: Wonderful.

Jason: Yeah.

Gina: Well, we’re really glad to have you in Colorado. Thanks so much, welcome. And thanks for coming up to Harmony today.

Jason: Yeah, thank you, Gina. Appreciate it.

Podcast Series: RecoverMe Counseling

Gina Thorne: Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Harmony Foundation podcast series, and I’m pleased today to be joined with Melissa Barbash with RecoverMe Counseling, out of Denver.

Melissa Barbash: Yes. Thank you for having me.

Gina Thorne: So good to have you here today. We’re gonna learn a little bit about you and a little bit about your practice today. So some of our questions might seem a little unorthodox, so … But I think you’ll be able to handle them pretty well.

So my first question is … So I noticed that you’re a big animal lover. I saw on your website that you have a picture of your dog, and is it one cat or two cats?

Melissa Barbash: Two cats.

Gina Thorne: Two cats. Yep.

Melissa Barbash: Yes.

Gina Thorne: You highlight them on your website. They clearly are important to you. Why do your animals bring you so much joy?

Melissa Barbash: I think it’s very funny that you ask that, actually, because, initially, I put them there because I thought that you were supposed to put something there with your animals. That would help people kind of know a little bit more about you.

Gina Thorne: Yes. Uh-huh.

Melissa Barbash:But I was going back and forth. “Should I put them? Should I not put them?”

So they’re my cats that I brought into the relationship. So I’ve had them for 16 years.
So why do my cats bring me so much joy? So they’re like my children, and I don’t have children. So I love that they’re independent. So I love that about cats. I specifically got cats because they can do what they need to do, they love you when they need to love you, and they’re very curious and fun-natured. But they … I just love their independence.

That sounds bad, like that I got animals so that they’ll stay away from me. But I did not do that. That’s what I appreciate about animals, is that they have their own personalities, and they don’t necessarily need all the time, but they love all the time at the same time.

Gina Thorne: So, secretly, is that describing a little bit about your personality, do you think?

Melissa Barbash: Yes, I thought that might be …

Gina Thorne: Yes.

Melissa Barbash: … something that you might see.

Gina Thorne: I think there’s something to that. There are probably some people that are leaning more towards that, so …

Melissa Barbash:Yeah.

Gina Thorne: I totally get it …

Melissa Barbash:Yeah.

Gina Thorne: … ’cause I have one, too, and she’s opinionated and independent and … but comes to you only when she wants to come to you, and I think there’s a lot of truth to that.

Melissa Barbash: Yeah.

Gina Thorne: So that’s interesting.

Melissa Barbash: It’s just like they need their own space. They need their own time. They’re individuals. They’re not the same. They’re two different cats.
The dog is wonderful. The dog was brought in by my partner. So I’ve never owned a dog. So that was a little different for me, because he’s completely attached.

Gina Thorne: Yes.

Melissa Barbash:So …

Gina Thorne: And very needy.

Melissa Barbash: And very needy, and very … His tongue is gigantic. He’s a Rottweiler.

Gina Thorne: Uh-huh.

Melissa Barbash:So he’s gigantic, too. So he has no boundaries. So I have to …

Gina Thorne: There’s so much that can be done in this conversation …

Melissa Barbash: Yes, right?

Gina Thorne: … around personalities.

Melissa Barbash: Yes.

Gina Thorne: That’s funny.

Melissa Barbash: Yes.

Gina Thorne: A lot of metaphors going on right now.

Melissa Barbash: I know. He has some boundaries …

Gina Thorne: Uh-huh.

Melissa Barbash: … but then he’s just always so lovely. He is … You can really count on them for that, and he’s also independent. I didn’t know that dogs slept as much as they do. I thought there was something wrong and he was depressed. But he’s not.

Gina Thorne:Yeah.

Melissa Barbash: He’s fine.

Gina Thorne: That’s good.

Melissa Barbash: So …

Gina Thorne: They get along, too, I’m sure?

Melissa Barbash:The cats … He’s afraid of the cats.

Gina Thorne: Oh, okay.

Melissa Barbash: So maybe that’s why I like the cats better, too. They put a little fear in the attached …

Gina Thorne: Yes.

Melissa Barbash: … the dog.

Gina Thorne: Yeah.

Melissa Barbash: But I guess I highlighted them because I want people to know a little bit about me. I don’t know if it’ll resonate, but I’m a person, and I’m a person that has just a regular life.

Gina Thorne: Which helps when working with clients.

Melissa Barbash: Yeah.

Gina Thorne: They don’t wanna think about people being, “Well, she’s got it all together.”

Melissa Barbash: Yeah.

Gina Thorne: “She knows everything.” That makes a huge difference.

Melissa Barbash: Yeah.

Gina Thorne: Well, that’s a great segue into talking about recoverme Counseling.

Melissa Barbash: Okay.

Gina Thorne: So it’s a private practice that focuses specifically on addressing addiction and codependency. So why did you decide to pursue this career in addiction treatment, and specifically around issues around codependency?

Melissa Barbash: So this is a vulnerable issue for me, ’cause I don’t usually talk about this too much. I talk about it a little bit in educational moments with people or in groups or in my practice. It’s not mostly about me, but I give a little bit of information to people.

But I actually think most people that got into this field have some sort of affiliation with addiction or somebody that’s been involved with addiction. But, for me, I was involved with a partner that was an alcoholic.
So that’s not why I got into counseling, though. But that’s why I did the specialization, because I could just see so much pain in people and so much help that was needed.
Then I started … I never wanted to be a person that focused on what I had needed out of that experience, which was the codependency and my own personal therapy. But, as it turns out, I really love working with that population, because they’re a forgotten population, I think.
When someone comes to treatment, the partners are encouraged to seek their own help. But they’re also used to doing everything on their own, so they don’t often take that help.
So I saw this population as people that really need someone to be there for them. So …

Gina Thorne: It’s so important, because I think you’re right, as far as the issue around codependency can often be a precursor to addiction continuing, in many cases.

Melissa Barbash: Yeah.

Gina Thorne: They have to be looked at.

Melissa Barbash:Yeah. Yeah, and it’s a lonely process. When your partner starts getting better after treatment, too, or starts in recovery, people don’t really know how to deal with that, the spouses that are watching their partner kind of continue in recovery, because it’s …

We think that that’s what we wanted, that our partner go to treatment and get better, but when that actually starts happening, it’s a rough change. So I think that I help people to be prepared for that change that’s coming and how they can change alongside that person, to help themselves and help their relationship, too.

Gina Thorne: That’s great. In the last five years, what have you become better at saying no to?

Melissa Barbash: Let’s see. That’s a work in progress, all the time. I’ve become a lot better at saying no to always having to be the person who does everything. I think that’s …
A lot of people are saying that now, that women are do-it-all, and it’s a very kind of new niche, I guess, for people, and it’s transcended time. It’s kind of just true all the time. But I’ve become better at just knowing that I don’t have to be there all the time for everybody else.
What else have I said no to? I’ve said no to, specifically, even with my own partner, taking on what they need to do for themself. I’ve also become better at saying no to kind of a life that I thought that I should have, where it’s filled with all these things that I’m doing all the time and all these friends that I’m hanging out with all the time, and just really looking at who makes me feel whole and concentrating on those people.
I got out of the shoulds, like I should be helping everybody, or I want to be … I wanna look like this as a success, and I just started, I guess, maybe saying yes to myself instead of saying yes to everything else.

Gina Thorne:That’s great.

Melissa Barbash: Yeah.

Gina Thorne: Thank you for that. That’s a great response.

Melissa Barbash: Yeah.

Gina Thorne:I really like that.

Melissa Barbash: Thank you.

Gina Thorne: So playing up the idea of the word “harmony,” what do you think it means to live a life in harmony?

Melissa Barbash: So it’s really funny. I thought about harmony yesterday, and I think, maybe, the response most people think of is balance. So I think that’s probably where most people go. But I used to play the violin, and then I looked up the exact definition of harmony, and it said “simultaneously playing two notes.”
I think of it as kind of two personalities sharing as one, like it’s okay for you to be this way, and it’s okay for you to be this way. It’s just how do they coexist together? What do you say yes to? What do you say no to?
So I liked the idea of the two notes simultaneously, so it wasn’t … I do like the word “balance,” but I just, more so, liked the, “How do I live in conjunction with my different sides and be okay with that?”

Gina Thorne: Harmoniously.

Melissa Barbash: Yeah, exactly.

Gina Thorne: I like that.

Melissa Barbash: Yeah.

Gina Thorne: I’ve not heard that response before.

Melissa Barbash: Oh.

Gina Thorne:That’s great, and that’s great that you play the violin.

Melissa Barbash: Yeah.

Gina Thorne: Secretly, I’ve wanted to learn how to play the fiddle.

Melissa Barbash: Oh.

Gina Thorne: I have.

Melissa Barbash:I love the fiddle.

Gina Thorne: But I just think I would sound so terrible that I would hate the fiddle. So I decided I wasn’t gonna do it.

Melissa Barbash: Well, I have a dream of sounding like the Dixie Chicks.

Gina Thorne: Oh, that would be great.

Melissa Barbash: But that’s not gonna happen.

Gina Thorne: Yes. That would be so great.
If someone wanted to access services at recoverme Counseling, how could they get in touch with you?

Melissa Barbash: So the best way is to email me, quite honestly, because if I’m in session and my phone goes off, I’ll miss the call. I have a great app, though, that sends a text message back to ask if it’s okay to call them back. So that actually works pretty well. So phone or email.

Gina Thorne: What’s the email address?

Melissa Barbash: Yeah.

Gina Thorne: Okay.

Melissa Barbash:It’s melissa@recovermecounseling.com.

Gina Thorne: Great.

Melissa Barbash: The phone number’s on my website, which is just recovermecounseling.com, also.

Gina Thorne: That’s great.

Melissa Barbash: Yeah.

Gina Thorne: Thank you so much for taking the time to visit …

Melissa Barbash: Yeah.

Gina Thorne: … with us here at Harmony, and we look forward to partnering with you more frequently.

Melissa Barbash: So do I. Thank you so much. I can’t say enough.

Podcast Series: Wild and Wonderful Life Counseling

Gina Thorne: Hi everyone. Welcome to the Harmony Foundation Podcast Series and I’m pleased today to be joined with Aleya Littleton with Wild Wonderful Life out of Golden, Colorado. Welcome.

Aleya Littleton: Hi Gina. It’s nice to meet you.

Gina Thorne: I’m so glad that you came up to visit us here at Harmony. I mean we’re just really excited to share our program with you but, more importantly, we want to learn more about your resources and how you can be of service to not just Harmony clients but to those that are listening as well. Before we get into the specifics about your practice, let’s talk a little bit about you and what got you into the field of working in therapy and, particularly, adventure therapy.

Aleya Littleton: Well, that’s a great question. I actually invented adventure therapy, or at least I thought I did. I used to be a middle school science teacher and felt very overwhelmed in the classroom. I wasn’t really prepared to deal with all of the problems that these kids were bringing it in. And after taking a little bit of time off at that, I became involved in the climbing community. And as I was climbing, I found myself becoming more self-reliant, more confident, just that knowledge that I could take care of myself in spaces that we’re really not meant for humans. And then finding the support in the community. It changed my life. It helped me out of a very dark time, personally, and so I started thinking maybe I could use that to help others as well. And that’s when I started Googling. I was like, “Yeah, I could do this to help people,” and then it turns out there are actually master’s degree programs in adventure therapy. So I was a little bit bummed I wasn’t the originator but really glad to find that there was a supportive community already established for me.

Gina Thorne: Well, and it sounds like you were able to take the best of both worlds. A love of climbing and also giving back to the world and doing both of those together. I mean, it doesn’t feel like a job, Does it?

Aleya Littleton: It doesn’t. No, this is the most fun I’ve ever had.

Gina Thorne: That’s great. And you’ve come to the right place ’cause you’re not even from Colorado, right? So you came from Pennsylvania?

Aleya Littleton: Right. I’ve been here for seven years now. It’s just better.

Gina Thorne: Great climbing community here.

Aleya Littleton: Yes.

Gina Thorne: And I like your statement. It’s just better.

Aleya Littleton: Yeah. Colorado is just better.

Gina Thorne: Yeah, I have to agree with you about that. So you talked little bit about the adventure therapy piece of what you do but one of the things that I was intrigued by when I was doing some research about you is that you did a paper on rock climbing and treating PTSD in women. And so, tell me a little bit about that. What does that mean and what did you learn from that?

Aleya Littleton: Yeah. Well, the rock climbing and PTSD program, you know, again, it stemmed from my own personal experience and how much climbing helped. I think it’s important to maybe just take a step back and say that adventure therapy doesn’t have to be every extreme sport. Really, it’s the application of experience in therapy so a picture’s worth 1,000 words and experience is worth 1,000 pictures. So we make progress really quickly when you’re actually living out the things that you’re working on. And so, in that way, rock climbing becomes a metaphor for facing your fears, for empowerment, for reestablishing choice and control. For speaking up, just being able to say like, “Hey today’s not my day but I’m here.”

So in my research, what I really tried to do was pair trauma informed principles with adventure therapy principles. Taking rock climbing and making it something that is very friendly to people who are just beginning, all the way up to experts. And really working on techniques to manage anxiety in the body. To notice your perspective and how that affects your performance and what you’re able to do. Strategies for creating community. Yeah, I like working with the bio psycho social piece of like when you’re climbing, it’s very real. You need a partner. You need to make good decisions. So, in that way, it is so not hypothetical. It’s like we are here in the moment doing the absolute best that we can and we deal with things as they come. Yeah, I’ve been running that trauma informed women’s PTSD rock climbing program for the last three summers. This summer is going to start in July and have got a few spaces open still so if anybody’s listening–

Gina Thorne: How long is it?

Aleya Littleton: It’s eight weeks.

Gina Thorne: OK. OK.

Aleya Littleton: Yeah, it’s a closed group. We move through all together and it’s very skill-based because part of reclaiming your life after a traumatic event or years of trauma is like having confidence in yourself that you can keep yourself safe. You can make those good decisions. You can problem solve. So I end up teaching a lot of skills. We even get into some self rescue stuff.

Gina Thorne: And so, what does it look like then? So you do an exercise in a climbing technique and then after a period of time, you sit down and process it with them?

Aleya Littleton: Yeah. It’s a little bit of both. So we always start out with a mindfulness and group building exercise and then there’s climbing technique that is the theme. Before the group meets, I send out a quote as a thing to think about and kind of come and bring your own insights. That’s how we meet each other. So like what does this quote mean to you and how does that represent your life? And then we kind of view the entire session through that lens then. You know, be it a self rescue or like gear and anchors skill that they’re learning or particular climbing technique. They’re able to participate in it and then we kind of debrief as we go. And then, of course, there’s always a nice closing ceremony where we all say goodbye to each other and make plans to meet up again the next week.

Gina Thorne: Is it a cohort that continues to meet on a regular basis?

Aleya Littleton: Yes. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Gina Thorne: That’s great. So it sounds like a really amazing opportunity that allows people to not feel as uncomfortable in being in just a traditional group setting, but actually using their bodies as a way to be responsive to the situations that come up for them around their trauma, which is, I think, a lot of people are very uncomfortable in their bodies with trauma.

Aleya Littleton: It’s amazing. Just the simple prompt when somebody’s climbing, I’ll make the suggestion, “Why don’t you stand like a confident person would stand.” Like, “How do you adjust use your body to be like a confident person?” And just to see that transformation from being very unsure and uncertain on the rock to shifting their body and noticing how that changes their mindset as well. And then they’re able to go farther and do more or have the self-confidence to be like, “I think I’m done. I would actually like to come down now.” They can make an authentic choice then.

Gina Thorne: That’s fantastic. Well, so we’ve learned a little bit about your scope as far as what you do and I’m sure there’s probably so much more we could be discussing and we’re going to actually direct people to your website later so that if they want to learn more about the specific services, they can. But we always like to talk a little bit with individuals about who they are because it’s not just about the services, it’s about the person behind them. So I’m going to throw out a couple of questions to you, just to see what your thoughts are. So what book or books have you read or given as a gift why?

Aleya Littleton: Oh, goodness. I was thinking about this question since you gave it to me ahead of time. And I was a little reluctant to share my true answer because it is so nerdy.

Gina Thorne: That’s the best kind.

Aleya Littleton: This is where it totally comes out. So, my top three books. The first one is The Mindful Therapist by Dan Siegel. Actually, anything by him. He’s written a lot having to do with interpersonal neurobiology, which again, I think is very relevant to creating therapeutic experiences–

Gina Thorne: Is he the same one that’s done Positive Psychology, as well?

Aleya Littleton: I think he’s done a little bit with that as well. His interpersonal neurobiology, I think, is a term that he helped coin. So his books, The Whole Brain Child is amazing for parenting. Interpersonal Neurobiology and then The Mindful Therapist. And then for the more soulful side, I love The Four Agreements. That is absolutely one of my favorites and one that I give as a gift most often.

Gina Thorne: Yeah, and that actually … we use The Four Agreements pretty regularly at Harmony with our spiritual team.

Aleya Littleton: They are wonderful. And so tough.

Gina Thorne: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And it’s non-threatening in many ways too because you’re not looking at just the religious nature of what you might’ve grown up with but really looking at a global scope of how to live your life spiritually, which is beautiful. Well I think those are great and not nerdy at all. So, that’s fantastic. If we were to play off the idea of harmony or the word harmony, what would you say if I asked you what it means to live a life in harmony?

Aleya Littleton: Well, my first inclination is to think about peace and happiness and, really, my own perspective has been shifting lately around the word happy in general. Shifting it to content. ‘Cause like the fastest way to become unhappy is to have somebody ask you if you are happy and then you start thinking about all the things that you’re missing. So, for me, harmony is really finding a place of just being content with what you have, with balance and gratitude. And, again, getting into a little bit more of the nerdy stuff. Like gratitude is such a powerful emotion to cultivate. It releases oxytocin in your system and that’s the feel-good generous hormone that we all need. But then also–

Gina Thorne: It puts new groves in the brain.

Aleya Littleton: It does. And your neuro pathways. Yeah. And then one of my favorite approaches to therapy is dialectical behavioral therapy or DBT. And that really focuses on that mindful finding of the middle path. So having harmony and contentedness between all aspects of your life through mindfulness and acceptance in that middle way.

Gina Thorne: Yeah, and just being present. Being present, wholly present. That’s wonderful. Well, thank you. That’s great, Aleya. So, if someone were listening today and they wanted to access services at Wonderful Life Services, how could they get in touch with you?

Aleya Littleton: Well, my web address, it’s got a ton of W’s so you kind of have to listen closely. It’s the three standard W’s at the beginning and then www.wwlcounseling.com. You can also just type in wild and wonderful life counseling all together and it’ll get you there. And my phone number is 708-740-0136. I suggest going to my website or leaving a voicemail and I’m pretty quick to get back, if not I’m not completely out of service, on top of the mountain somewhere.

Gina Thorne: Right, if you’re not climbing somewhere.

Aleya Littleton: Yes.

Gina Thorne: That’s great. Well thank you so much for taking the time, Aleya, it was a privilege to meet you and we look forward to working with you.

Aleya Littleton: Yeah, thank you so much, Gina.

Podcast Series: Recovery Ways

Gina: Hi everyone. Welcome to the Harmony Foundation Podcast series. I’m pleased today to be joined with Ryan Sturdevant with Recovery Ways out of Murray, Utah. Welcome, Ryan.

Ryan:Thanks, Gina.

Gina: Really glad to have you here today.

Ryan: I’m excited to be at Harmony and check out the facility. And yeah, beautiful setting up here.

Gina: Well, we think so too. It’s a little windy today. But I’m really glad that it didn’t snow because you never know what’s going to happen here in the mountains. So, we’re going to talk a little bit today about Recovery Ways. But before we do that, we want to get to know you a little bit better. So, let’s talk a little bit about your background and what got you into the field of working in addiction treatment.

Ryan: Sure. Like many people that I feel end up working in this field, my history started with my own struggle with addiction. I had such a profound experience back in 2009 going to treatment and the clinician that was my primary therapist, had such a profound effect on me and where I was at in my stage of life. I just had been searching all this time leading up to that, I had been searching for something in life that gave me purpose.
So, when I went to treatment and had this experience, I was just like, this is what I’m supposed to be doing. This is what I want to do. I want to help people, I want to counsel people and fast forward nine years, and now I can say that I’m a clinician, I’ve worked in the field nine years and have done a bunch of different aspects of the field.
But the most exciting thing that I get to do today is I get to help other people find the experience that they’re looking for. And hopefully, the transformation of actually getting their life back or starting a whole new life for themselves.

Gina: It’s true. The work that we do in our field, especially working on the front side of treatment is ushering people in and helping them find the right resources.

Ryan: Absolutely.

Gina: So, it’s very rewarding. I don’t know if I could do the treatment side of things, but I certainly can do the business development and marketing side of things.

Ryan: Yes. I’ve done the treatment side of things for a long time. And it’s nice to have some balance in between that, and you’re just switching gears. You’re not necessarily in the trenches anymore, but you’re out there on the front lines. So, either way you do it, you’re still having a profound effect on somebody’s life.

Gina: I completely agree. So, let’s shift gears a little bit and talk about Recovery Ways. Recovery Ways is inpatient. It’s in Murray, Utah, you might want to tell us a little bit where in relationship to, is there a big landmark in Utah that people would know where Murray is? I have a feeling that Murray is not a very big town.

Ryan: No. Murray is just one of the little towns right outside of Salt Lake. I can’t think of the different parts. It’s like the simplest word. Anyway, it’s 10 minutes outside of Salt Lake.

Gina: Perfect, okay.

Ryan: I could just said that from the beginning.

Gina: That’s okay. That’s all right.

Ryan: But I’m like, what are the small towns that make up Denver?

Gina: The suburbs.

Ryan: Suburbs. Oh my gosh, I could get that word.

Gina: That’s okay.

Ryan: Murray, Utah’s a suburb of Salt Lake City. So, we’re about 10 minutes from downtown Salt Lake and a 15 minute drive from the Salt Lake International Airport. Super easy to get to, easy access to all the wonderful things that make up Utah and salt lake. We do a lot of rec therapy with our program. So, access to the mountains is 15, 20 minutes away.
Clients are flying in, they choose to come to Recovery Ways, and it’s the best fit for their clinical needs. That’s a 15 minute drive from the airport. Just so much access. Utah is like a miniature Denver, where we still have all the great access to all the great outdoors. We just have about, 4 million people less, which we’re okay with.

Gina: So, you don’t have the many traffic issues that we have.

Ryan: Yes, we’re okay with that. People in Utah think traffic is ridiculous. They obviously haven’t been outside of Utah any time soon.

Gina: No. Well, so Recovery Ways, I talked about it being inpatient, but it’s really not just in patient.

Ryan: No.

Gina: So, what is it?

Ryan:We have all levels of care. So we have detox, residential treatment, partial hospitalization or day treatment, and then a standalone IOP. So, we have the full level of care. We’re licensed for both mental health and substance abuse. We can treat co-occurring disorders as well. The unique things of Recovery Ways and how we stand out in Utah and in our region especially, is just the level of psychiatric care that we offer.
We have two board certified addiction psychiatrists on staff. We have an addictionologist MD on staff, 24 hour nursing. And then we also have some APRNs. All of our clinicians that are working as primary therapists are masters level clinicians. Yeah. We try to stay at the forefront of what people are doing and what’s cutting edge in the industry. We try to incorporate as many different aspects and really throw as many different opportunities at someone that is trying to get sober and trying to get their life back on track.
We want to give them as many opportunities to experience all the different tools that they can use, whether that be outdoors, rec therapy, the sensory integration rooms, occupational therapy, the different aspects of treatment or the community treatment that we incorporate. Whether that be 12 steps, rational recovery, smart recovery or refuge recovery. We try to give them a lot of the different options.
And then we have an amazing kind of alumni program that we follow that up with. So, really, we offer our clients a lot. Now, what I always tell people though, is we are not unique in the sense that people need to find what really works for them, and what they feel comfortable with. So, we’re not the best fit for everyone. We have our limitations. I think we do treat them very well. But we aren’t the end all be all. That’s why we are working on creating great relationships with people like Harmony Foundation, because people need options and people need to find their fit, and what’s going to be a good match for them.

Gina: No, I think you’re spot on as far as recognizing that treatment is not one size fits all, and you all are making a very concerted effort to be responsive to individual needs. One of the things that I thought that stood out, you mentioned this plethora of resources you also offer occupational therapy. Well, one of the things that stands out is the sensory integration therapy that you all do. Can you talk a little bit more about this approach?

Ryan: Yes, I’d be happy to. So, Dr. Stormy actually would give me a look if she heard me calling it sensory integration, because she wants me to call it sensory modulation. But sensory integration kind of rolls off the tongue as well. Anyway, yes. We actually employ five full-time occupational therapists in our sensory integration room.
Now, it’s so hard to describe our sensory integration room. It’s this room that has lighting, sound, smell, touch. It encapsulates all the different senses and then plus three other ones that never get talked about. Really, we utilize these rooms for a couple different reasons. One is Dr. Stormy develops … So, sensory integration and sensory modulation rooms have been used for the last 40 or 50 years. But nobody had been using them when it comes to addiction treatment.
So, about seven years ago, Dr. Stormy went to her mother that used to be our old executive clinical director at Recovery Ways and said, “I think you guys are missing the boat here.” What she did was she developed this room, these beautiful rooms that really work on a patient’s emotional regulation and self-regulation piece. Because a lot of times what we see in therapy or in residential treatment or any level of care is the focus on the cognitive behavioral therapy, the talk therapy. Processing through things and things like that.
Well, the reality is a lot of patients that are coming to us for treatment, their cognitive abilities might be not up to snuff or they might have done some damage to their cognitive abilities and the processing piece due to their alcohol, drug use and maybe mental health diagnosis have played a part in that. So, people forget to focus on what’s happening in the body.
We have the primary therapists that is going to do the cognitive behavioral therapy. But what we do in these rooms is we really work on what’s going on from the neck down. So, that means … Because anybody will tell you that when they’re feeling depressed, and they’re feeling anxious, there’s just telling you that they’re feeling that way because it’s not necessarily in the head, but they’re feeling that somewhere in their body.
So, we’ve developed these rooms to look at a few different things. We actually track data from agitation, depression, anxiety, pain scale, and we monitor that and we’ve been collecting data on that for the last seven years. Since collecting that data, we’ve seen a 60% decrease in these symptoms from the start of treatment using these rooms.
Now, I haven’t really got into what these rooms do. So, our focus on this is the emotional regulation piece. What you have there is … The example I always tell people is, when you get out of treatment, you’re on cloud nine, right? You’re feeling good, you’re ready to tackle the world. And then, for example, you walk out to your car and you get a parking ticket. Right there, your emotions go from zero to 60 in 2.0 seconds, whatever.
From that, there’s this emotional regulation piece that comes in. So, if you don’t have some skills and tools to figure like, emotionally regulate yourself, your first go to is, “Oh, I know how I used to fix this.” Your mind immediately goes to, I know what I used to do to care of this quickly. So, they want to turn to the drugs and alcohol, whatever.
What we really focus on in these rooms are giving them some skills and tools to regulate that emotional piece. We do that through guided imagery. We do that through bringing in all these different aspects and creating a treatment plan, and creating a safe space around the tools that they can take with them. Whether that be a smell of lavender or something like that, that helps them take them back to a place. It’s all about creating new neural pathways to healthy coping skills.
So, we do that. Then we do a myriad of other different things in the rooms where it can be something like putting together a budget because they’re working with our occupational therapist, or job resumes. Just a ton of different things we utilize in that room. Then, there was one other thing that I was going to talk about. Oh, and then the other piece is, all of our staff are trained in mind, body bridging. Which, we have a philosophy kind of at … Not kind of. We have a philosophy at Recovery Ways that we don’t feel like opening up a can of worms when it comes to trauma is appropriate in a residential level of care.
So, we don’t do any MDR in a residential level of care. We may look at it, may look at it in the PHP level of care, and depending on what their living situation is, how long they’re going to be with us and things like that, we might start MDR in IOP. But that’s if they are completely stable, they have a stable living environment, all those different things, all those boxes have to be checked off.
In turn, what we do is we also use the sensory room for trauma based therapy, but more working with the body. That’s why all of our clinicians are trained in mind, body bridging. So, a form to work with the trauma without opening up the trauma that early on.

Gina: It’s wonderful. No, I mean, just hearing the nature of what you all are doing has a very strong, holistic approach to it because you’re not looking at just addressing the behaviors itself, you’re looking at figuring out how to create the life skills necessary for them to, like you said, self-regulate.


Gina: I don’t know any other program that offers a resource like that at this point. There probably are a lot of them, but you guys are the only ones that I’m aware of that have actually created an actual safe space for people to have that kind of experience. And like you said, create new patterns of behavior to be responsive to issues of anxiety, or depression or fear or whatever else might come up.
This program is open to all of your clients. So, all your clients that go through Recovery Ways have access to this?

Ryan: Yes, I would say…The last time, I used to tell people, 95% of our clientele went through the sensory integration. But I heard one of our OTs say about a week ago that it’s like 99% of our clients go through occupational therapy. They could, depending on severity, they could have anywhere from one to three sessions a week in those rooms. These are on top of their individual therapy they’re getting. It just all completely depends on what their treatment plan looks like. And all these sensory integration sessions are individualized, or individual and they’re 60 minute sessions.

Gina: Wonderful. That’s great.

Ryan: Just another.

Gina: It was part of their treatment plan.

Ryan: Yes, absolutely.

Gina: Wonderful. Well, obviously, those people who are listening are going to get a lot of great information from you today about Recovery Ways, which is exciting. I’m going to shift back to learning a little bit about you, Ryan Because obviously, organizations are built on good people. So, it’s important to know who the people are.
So, I’m going to ask you a couple questions just to get into learning a little bit more about who you are. If you could have a giant billboard anywhere with anything on it, metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions of people, what would you want it to say?

Ryan: Oh, gosh. What would I wanted to say? I would want it to say, Do You! With an exclamation point. Because I think as a society, we tend to get wrapped up so much in what everybody else is constantly doing. My billboard would just say, Do You! Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what anybody else is doing. As long as you go out, you give it your best. And you put your best foot forward every day, and you do it with honesty and integrity. What everybody else thinks doesn’t matter. So, Do You! is what I want on my billboard.

Gina: As it should be, that’s wonderful. I love it. Then playing off the idea of the word harmony. What does it mean to you when I say, to live your life in harmony?

Ryan: I have to tell you this. When I saw this question, the first thing that popped into my head was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, when she’s like, I don’t know if she’s cleaning the house or getting a dress put on, but the birds helped her and everything come in.

Gina: That was great at that moment. I remember that.

Ryan:: Yes. So, when I thought of harmony, I was like living in harmony with everything around you. But what it means to live my life in harmony is just being cohesive with everything around me, whether that be nature, whether that be other human beings. I’m not necessarily a religious person, but I believe in energy, and I believe in doing the right thing. Just being a good human. I think that means picking up the piece of trash that you see next to the garbage can, or that means opening up the door for somebody when they’re walking in.
It just means just being of service to people, and also being kind to everything. You can obviously tell I’m not a hunter in this. Anyway, that’s what living in harmony means to me. It’s just everything has a purpose from the smallest thing to the biggest thing.

Gina: Thank you for that. That’s really nicely said. If someone wanted to access services at Recovery Ways, how could they get in touch with you?

Ryan: Yeah. The best, probably way to access services is to check us out online www.recoveryways.com. They can also call our admissions number at 844-334-0804. So, reach out to us if you have any questions about Recovery Ways, you want to see if we might be a good fit for you, or if you just want to know more about our sensory integration, or all the different aspects we have at Recovery Ways.

Gina: Outstanding. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to visit with us today.

Ryan: This is fun Gina. Thank you.

Gina: Yeah, have a good one.

Ryan: You too.

Podcast Series: The Refuge

Gina:         Hi, everyone, welcome to the Harmony Foundation Podcast Series. I’m pleased today to be joined with Jennifer Drapeaux, with The Refuge out of Ocala, Florida. Welcome, Jennifer.
Jennifer: Thank you, thank you for having me.
Gina:         It’s really good to have you here. We’re gonna get into learning more about The Refuge in a second, but before we do, let’s talk a little bit about you and what got you into the field of working in addiction treatment.
Jennifer: Sure. So I have been in behavioral health for about 12 years. I started when I was in college, and I was working at an acute in patient psychiatric facility, which is where I cut my teeth and found a love for working with behavioral health.
Jennifer: Over the years, I’ve stuck with it in different capacities. I worked in a group home for children and then I went to work for the government as a suicide prevention specialist on reservations. Lots of different kinds of experiences have brought me to The Refuge.
Gina:         That’s great. It’s so good to have you here and to hear more about the refuge, which is a very well-respected trauma program out of Florida that addresses both addiction and co-occurring disorders. Can you describe how The Refuge addresses the trauma in addiction? Because I’ve been in the field for 10 years, and I’m always so impressed when people come back from The Refuge and they talk about the work that they do there.
Jennifer: Sure. So The Refuge, the approach that we take is we work under the belief that everything is rooted in trauma, and that any addiction or substance use, process addiction, that’s all a symptom of the trauma. Being that we’re a longer term program, they really have found a way to give clients the time and space and resources necessary to start unraveling that trauma story. It’s almost like an onion, it takes a long time to peel back the layers. And so, by looking at the trauma, we can start to address, “Why are we using? Or why are we struggling with certain process addictions?” And in going back to the idea that it’s trauma based, it’s our way of coping and it’s our way of survival.
Gina:         And you guys are located where in Ocala?
Jennifer: It’s at Ocklawaha, actually.
Gina:         Ocklawaha. That’s right.
Jennifer: Ocklawaha, Florida.
Gina:         Okay.
Jennifer: It’s a very small town, about an hour and a half north of Orlando. And 20 minutes away from Ocala, Florida. And we are in the middle of the forest, the Ocklawaha National Forest.
Gina:         How many acres do you all have?
Jennifer: 100 acres.
Gina:         100 acres.
Jennifer: Yes.
Gina:         I’ve been there, and it’s really impressive.
Jennifer: It’s an old YMCA camp.
Gina:         Oh I didn’t know that.
Jennifer: Yeah.
Gina:         Oh, no kidding?
Jennifer: That’s how it started.
Gina:         Oh really?
Jennifer: Yeah.
Gina:         Okay, well it’s a beautiful campus. You guys, and I was around, took the big bus that they take around, it looks like the big-
Jennifer: The marsh mama.
Gina:         That’s it. So I drove all over with that, too, which was great. And you treat both men and women, correct?
Jennifer: Yes, ma’am.
Gina:         Okay. That’s great.
Gina:         So we’re gonna get to know you a little bit more on a different level.
Jennifer: Okay.
Gina:         So let’s talk for a second about if you could have a giant billboard anywhere with anything on it, metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions, what would it say? And why?
Jennifer: This is hard. Even being prepped for this, this one is really hard. I think one of my favorites quotes is, I see it a lot but, “Be kind because everyone is facing some sort of battle we know nothing about.” I think that that is so true, I know there’s been plenty of times in my life where I’ve been dealing with stuff and you don’t always present that to the outside world. And when I’m sitting and talking, I have no idea what’s going on for that person, so just treating people with respect and kindness and showing compassion, that’s [inaudible 00:03:25]. Very cliché, but-
Gina:         No.
Jennifer: [inaudible 00:03:28] retweet it.
Gina:         But not said enough, and certainly not done enough, so I like that very much.
Gina:        And then again, playing off the idea of the word “Harmony”, what do you think it means to live a life in harmony?
Jennifer: I think to live a life in Harmony, it’s really about being at peace with yourself, where you’re at. Giving yourself a lot of grace. We’re our own worst critics. We bring a lot of our, I know I am. So when I feel most peaceful is when I’m forgiving myself. I know you make mistakes and you carry on and you’re doing the best you can.
Gina:        Well, and I will say this, that getting to know you and hearing what you have to say obviously speaks to the quality of The Refuge, and the kind of talent that they hire, so thank you so much for taking the time to visit with us today.
Gina:          If folks wanted to access services at The Refuge, how could they get in touch with you?
Jennifer: There’s a couple ways. If they are more comfortable calling into admissions directly, they can go to our website, the number is posted. There’s also an internet chat, sometimes that is a little more, less intimidating to people. I encourage people to just give me a call there. If you have any questions, I’d love to talk to you about it, and I really believe in getting people the right help, so if we’re not a good fit for whatever reason or what not, I would love to help connect you with other resources.
Gina:         Wonderful. Thank you so much. And what’s the best, is there a website?
Jennifer: Yep. The website for The Refuge is www.therefuge-ahealingplace.com.
Gina:         Okay, and what about a telephone number? Is there a dedicated number that they can call?
Jennifer: They can get my number call, it is 605-290-5356.
Gina:         Wonderful. Well thanks so much, Jennifer, it’s good to have you here.
Jennifer: Thank you.

Equinox Counseling & Wellness Center

Gina Thorne:   Hi everyone, welcome to the Harmony Foundation video podcast series. I’m pleased today to be joined with Jordan Leffel with Equinox Counseling. It’s good to have you here today.

Jordan Leffel:  Thank you for having me.

Gina Thorne:   I’m looking forward to talking with you a little bit about Equinox Counseling and Wellness. But before we do that, let’s learn a little bit more about your background and how you got into the field.

Jordan Leffel:   Absolutely. My background is actually in advertising, consulting, as well as restaurant ownership and management. About eight years ago I moved to Denver, and was looking for a lifestyle change, change of pace, change of careers, and I found myself serendipitously working at Denver Health in a therapy capacity. I assisted physical therapists and occupational therapists primarily in the surgical ICU at Denver Health. I worked with a lot of spinal cord injuries, a lot of trauma, a lot of TBIs, helping mobilize patients after a severe trauma. I fell in love with it, and it inspired me to go back to school to get a degree in healthcare. I attended Metropolitan State University in Denver and discovered their integrative healthcare program. Their degree in integrative therapeutic practices, which is a Bachelor’s of Science, is what I finished my degree in. Upon graduation, I was looking for firms that we’re delivering healthcare in a progressive integrative type of model, and I came across Equinox. Fell in love with what they were doing, their kind of hybrid model of therapy, including wilderness, adventure and experiential components with more traditional didactic and processing pieces of therapy as well. So I bothered them enough to get an interview, and here I am as their outreach coordinator today.

Gina Thorne:   That’s great. Well, so I’m interested in hearing more about Equinox. Here’s what I pulled from your website. Be extraordinary, take risks, don’t be reckless. Make your life a masterpiece. These are motives and beliefs and values from the Equinox manifesto that’s on your site. Can you describe how this approach works with teens and families when they’re treating your clients?

Jordan Leffel:   Absolutely. I think those components of our program really speak to how we promote personal agency with our clients and their families, and really help them understand that life is not about the things that happened to you, it’s about what you do with those things, and the choices that you make. So really empowering people to make better decisions and take charge of their own lives, and providing them with the tools and the models and support to make those better choices, and to make mistakes and have a team of support around you to help overcome those obstacles. I think personal agency is a really important key piece of the healthcare that we’re delivering.

Gina Thorne:   You have an integrated model, so tell me a little bit more about what that means when you say that?

Jordan Leffel:   Yeah, absolutely. Our approach is more of a hybrid approach. Our founders have backgrounds in wilderness therapy programs, as well as residential therapy programs or residential treatment centers. They saw a lot of great work that was being done there and they wanted to create a center that was delivering similar work in an outpatient environment in order to keep a family system together. What we did was we drew some components of wilderness therapy, some components from residential treatment centers, and brought those all under one roof, and so we do wilderness intensives with our clients when it’s clinically indicated.

We also run a milieu in an outpatient setting, which is something unique that I haven’t seen at another treatment center. During that milieu time in an outpatient setting, we’re working on one of four activities, and that’s a very structured social environment for our clients, and they’re either working on homework or vocational work. They might be working on treatment work or assignments that they’ve gotten from their therapists. They might be doing some type of social activity with our therapeutic care specialists, that could look like scrabble, that could look like Frisbee, or they might be working on some type of health and wellness initiative.

Part of our milieu programming is really designed to help our clients answer the question, how do I take care of my whole self? We are participating in workouts together daily, we cook meals, we prepare meals together, and really help build those life skills while we’re also working in conjunction on some mental health components as well.

Gina Thorne:   A very unique model, I love it. Sounds great.

Jordan Leffel:   Thanks.

Gina Thorne:   Learning a little bit more about you specifically, in the last five years, what have you become better at saying no to, whether it’s distractions or invitations?

Jordan Leffel:   Personally, I think I’ve been able to say no to more social situations that I can already judge the outcome of, and I know that they are going to lead down a path of probably poor decisions that I’ve made in the past. So I have a much easier time since really gaining a broader perspective of health and wellness with the degree that I got. I think saying no to certain social situations that I used to think were fun, which are no longer fun, and they probably weren’t fun in the beginning anyway, so it was more fooling myself. I think I spend a lot more time with myself and doing personal development, than I do socializing anymore, and I’m okay saying no to that.

Gina Thorne:   That’s great. You’re always going to find new opportunities from doing that too.

Jordan Leffel:   Yes.

Gina Thorne:    That’s great.

Jordan Leffel:   Absolutely.

Gina Thorne:   Playing off the idea of the word harmony, what do you think it means to live a life in harmony?

Jordan Leffel:   I think to live a life in harmony, it really means recognizing duality in life, in nature, in relationships, and recognizing that there’s good and bad. There’s light and there’s dark, and you can’t have all light without dark, you can’t have all good without some bad or there’s no frame of reference. I think living in harmony means to recognize that, and recognize that spectrum, that duality, and operate within it and make the choices that are going to keep you balanced instead of … Life isn’t black and white, and we have to look at situations on an individualized basis, and we have to make the best choices for ourselves, and I think living in harmony means making those best choices for ourselves, our environment, our relationships, and our whole sphere of influence, I think.

Gina Thorne:   That’s wonderful. Great answer. We’re really looking forward to connecting with Equinox Counseling and Wellness with our clients. If others who are listening today and watching today would want to get more involved, how could they get in touch with you?

Jordan Leffel:   The best place to check out is our website, that’s equinoxcounseling.com. It is currently being retooled a little bit, but all the information about our programming is on there, and it describes what our assessment process looks like, what our programming looks like, and who we do our best work with as well.

Gina Thorne:   That’s great. Well, thank you so much, Jordan, it was great having you on campus.

Jordan Leffel:   Thank you.

For more information about Equinox Counseling and Wellness Center:


Queer Asterisk

Gina Thorne: Hi everyone, welcome to the Harmony Foundation podcast series. I’m pleased today to be joined with Luca Pax and Sorin Thomas with Queer Asterisk, out of Boulder, Colorado. Welcome.

Sorin Thomas: Thank you.

Luca Pax: Welcome, thanks for having us.

Gina Thorne: It’s really good to have you here. Before we get into specifics around Queer Asterisk, lets talk a little bit about what got you into the field of addiction treatment, Sorin?

Sorin Thomas: So let’s see, I grew up in Europe where there was a very different culture around drinking, and started drinking young. So, before I had come to the States I was already sober at 17 years old. It was just I think right time, right place so that played into it for sure. But I got to the University of Notre Dame, and the first person I met and really felt a mentorship vibe with was the Director of Alcohol and Drug Treatment Center. So I became a peer mentor, and just got more and more involved, and did that for years. So I started at the University of Notre Dame and I continued to peer mentorship program at Naropa University. Then I went on to do my [kak 00:01:12] classes and get my LAC.

Gina Thorne: Is there something that you feel pulled to in working with people with addiction, and helping them with their recovery?

Sorin Thomas: You know I think that what draws me the most, and now I’m realizing this more as I understand my queer and trans identity. I think the pull is the misunderstood community. I really resonant with the stigma of what addicts have to deal with, it’s similar to mental health and it’s similar to prejudice that marginalized groups deal with.

Gina Thorne: That seems very appropriate. Seems very appropriate.

Sorin Thomas: Yeah.

Gina Thorne: So Luca, Queer Asterisk is a therapeutic program and it provides services to LGBTQPIA, can you describe the type of services you offer and what a client would expect when they come to your program?

Luca Pax: Yeah, so … Yeah you know we have a lot of different ways to get involved with Queer Asterisk, so one thing we’re most known for is our team of, right now it’s six, queer and trans identified therapists who work with individuals or couples, or families. Also, run group sometimes. So that’s the clinical side of things, and with that we have also added a peer mentorship program. So that’s more affordable, either supplement or alternative to folks who are looking for therapy. Our peer mentors have all sorts of different specialties and interests, so it can be really tailored for folks who are looking for a companion or a buddy to go into the world with, or to talk through things with in a more friendly and supportive way.

Luca Pax: Then we have our programming, so it’s all either low cost or donation based groups that happen every week, or twice a month. We have a group called The Queer Conversation, where folks are able to talk about anything related to queerness, or their experience with that. We have a writing group, we have different workshops that happen periodically, everything from an herbalism workshop, to acupuncture. We have folks who are working with … We had a creating style group where folks were doing fashion design. So it’s really broad and open to what members of the community are wanting to see happen, and how they’re wanting to share their skill sets, or passions. We have lots of different community partnerships. So a lot of our events are in relation with other organizations.

Luca Pax: We do queer nights, we had one at Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance, we had one at Buffalo Exchange Clothing store. So again, really focusing on therapeutic ways that we can be in community with each other and really they tend to have like a pretty celebratory theme of not just the sort of resilience. But really what does it look like to thrive as queer and trans people, and do that in community with each other, and supporting each other. Yeah, so those are some of the main avenues of getting connected.

Luca Pax: As far as what people would expect by seeing from our staff, Sorin can speak more to the clinical side. But a lot of our facilitators have a mindfulness approach to holding spaces. So sometimes that looks like being comfortable with discomfort. Holding some pauses, there’s a slightly different feel than a lot of support groups. We don’t segregate based on gender identity or expression. So we get a lot of people in spaces who may have really different experiences of what it means to be queer and or trans. But it ends up being a really unique space where we’re able to connect in a lot of, sometimes, unexpected ways. To acknowledge how many tensions and differences there are within our community. But to be more yeah, more committed to leaning into that instead of just parceling ourselves into smaller and smaller groups.

Gina Thorne: Also, you know going back to what you said Sorin, is also looking at how do you help people understand? How do you help create a safe space? How do you address the stigma that often comes along with that? So it sounds like you all are creating something that’s responding to those issues.

Sorin Thomas: Yeah we do that and we also do it with our community partnerships. That’s why the educational branch of what we do is so important, when we look at the whole of all the aspects of what we do. So that’s going into there, so many organizations who are realizing that they would benefit from a little bit more comfortability with inclusivity and diversity. So then they reach out to organizations like ours and say, hey could you give an all staff training? Or could you look at our materials and make sure that our languaging is inclusive? We really want to have our whole organization behind this, and be able to hold queer and trans clients the way that we hold our other clients. We’re missing some skills.

Gina Thorne: You all are definitely creating a very unique service that is much needed for sure. So I’m going to ask both of you this question because it’s not just about learning about Queer Asterisk, it’s about learning about the people behind it. So we’re going to ask a little bit about your thoughts around this idea, and I’ll start with you first Luca. If you could have a giant billboard anywhere, with anything on it, metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions, what would it say? And why?

Luca Pax: First thing that comes is just a simple statement for anyone, ’cause I believe it applies to anyone. You are valid and you are worthy. I think that for so many people, with so many different identities, within and without of queer communities, that is something that’s incredibly lost in many societies. But I’m speaking specifically to a dominant society here in the US. Like really that’s seems like kind of about the core of a lot of what I care about is this like, sometimes radical notion that we are actually all worthy of love and respect. In light of all of our different experiences of the world and ourselves. Yeah.

Gina Thorne: I really like that, a lot. Let me steal that, I really like that.

Luca Pax: It’s free.

Gina Thorne: It’s true. How about you Sorin?

Sorin Thomas: Yeah, I would say to go off of that I think I would probably say something along the lines of, claim your gifts please, the world needs you. I truly believe, and it’s a value at our organization that everyone has inherent, innate gifts. Sometimes we can get so distracted, especially marginalized people by surviving in this world and fitting in. Proving our worth and our value, that we forget that we also have something to give. So that’s part of, like that’s a huge reason why this organization started with queer and trans folks. Looking around there are enough of us who are professionals, who are capable and competent to bring our gifts to the world. We don’t need to rely on allies. Allies are wonderful, but there was so much gate keeping that was happening and it just perpetuates the sense that queer and trans people are less than. We need to go SIS straight people for our psycho therapy, for our medical examines, yeah.

Gina Thorne: It’s great, I love the messages. Those are significant, I think they’re the best ones I’ve heard so far. Best ones I’ve heard so far. So Sorin playing off the idea of word harmony, what do you think it means to live in harmony?

Sorin Thomas: Yeah, for me when I think of harmony I think of balance and alignment of course. I also think immediately, I mean in this environment that we’re in right now, balance in ourselves, in our relationships, and also our relationships with the non human world. What is it like for humans to truly live, tread lightly and live in harmony with the rest of the beings around us. Then intra personally I think of having a balance of these are things that I’m working on. Things that I can always do better, and then also saying at a certain point, it’s good enough. I also have these gifts, yeah.

Gina Thorne: Like it.

Sorin Thomas: So not going too far into the light, or too far into the dark.

Gina Thorne: Yeah.

Luca Pax: It really makes me think of integrity too, and when we’re looking at the journey of a queer and trans person like, really what does it mean to live in integrity with who you are? What does it mean to have that alignment seen as valid and real? Like have that be reflected in your communities and in your families. Just so much possibility is grown from that place of getting to be in harmony with one’s self, and with one’s purpose and gifts. Yeah, and to have that be supported.

Gina Thorne: Having that tribe of people.

Luca Pax: Yeah true.

Gina Thorne: I agree, makes sense. Makes a lot of sense.

Luca Pax: Yeah community.

Gina Thorne: Yup, so Luca if someone wanted to access services at Queer Asterisk how could they get in touch with you?

Luca Pax: Yeah, so have a website, which is www.queerasterisk.com and that’s A-S-T-E-R-I-S-K, like the punctuation. We have Facebook, which is Facebook.com/queerasterisk. You can also follow us on Instagram, but to reach our clinical director who’s Sorin, you can email info I-N-F-O @queerasterisk.com to get in touch with a therapist. With whom you can do a free 20 minute consultation. Or you can call us anytime at 720-507-6161

Gina Thorne: Outstanding. Well it was a pleasure to have both of you here today at Harmony.

Luca Pax: Thanks so much Gina.

Gina Thorne: Really great.

Sorin Thomas: Yeah, thank you.

Visit them at: www.queerasterisk.com