How Brainspotting Can Positively Impact a Person’s Recovery

This presentation is no longer eligible for a CEU.

In this special two-hour webinar, Dr. Joanne Baum will share the benefits of using Brainspotting therapeutically with people in their recovery journey. The idea that emotional pain from traumatic events and unresolved trauma often triggers a person to use or escalate their usage is widely accepted in our field. We often bemoan the idea that we don’t have enough tools to help us help others in their healing work, especially in their trauma healing work. The subcortical area of the brain is where “trauma capsules” are housed and where the amygdala often keeps you in flight, fight, or fear so you can’t think straight. Healing on that level allows people newfound freedom to heal old wounds and develop different, healthier ways of being. We are finding that Brainspotting works on the subcortical area of the brain, and it’s very effective in healing trauma, helping people break through “being stuck,” and changing automatic, unwanted reactions into thoughtful responses title. All of these processes enhance a person’s recovery and work to prevent relapse.

Presented By:
Joanne Baum, Ph.D., LCSW, CAS
Support 4 Families

Joanne Baum, Ph.D., LCSW, CAS, has been in private practice since 1981. She is licensed in Colorado, Florida, and Indiana as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Her Ph.D. is in Social Welfare, a multidisciplinary approach to Social Work. In addition to clinical work, Dr. Baum has taught at Central Michigan University and two community colleges in California. Joanne was a co-clinical director at the Haight Ashbury Free Medical Clinic Detox Project from 1981 to 1983. Joanne has written four books on Cocaine, Marijuana and two Parenting books based on her theory, “Respectful Parenting.” Dr. Baum has spoken at conferences and done training for professionals and paraprofessionals throughout the country on various subjects. She believes that all people can heal from the inside out.

Dr. Baum has been trained as a Family Mediator, a Divorce Coach, and a Certified Brainspotting Therapist.

Dr. Baum has been doing Telehealth since 2014 and finds it’s very effective in allowing people to engage in therapy from the comfort of their homes or offices. She works with individuals and couples. During her 40+ years of working, Joanne, who likes variety and learning new things, has developed a range of specialties, including 1) all aspects of Alcohol and Substance Use Disorder, including Assessments/Evaluations, Outpatient Treatment, Aftercare/Continuing Care, and Codependency, 2) Healing Trauma, 3) Brainspotting, 4) Being “Stuck” in life, in relationships, and figuring out what’s next, 5) Stress and Anxiety, 6) Working with young adults who are having trouble making the transition into “adulting” while in college and beyond college, 7) Women’s issues, 8) Various life transition, 9) LGBTQIA+ issues, and 10) Divorce Coaching. Basically, Joanne likes to work with people who want to make meaningful changes in their lives.

Women Face Gender-Specific Challenges in Recovery

When women battle with substance use disorder (SUD), they face relatively different challenges than men. Modern treatment programs are designed to help women meet those gender-specific challenges rather than treating female clients with the same approach they have traditionally utilized with males.

LaTisha L. Bader, Ph.D., LP, LAC, CMPC, has worked in the field of mental health and addiction for more than 18 years. Dr. Bader is a licensed psychologist and a licensed addiction counselor. She is the chief clinical officer at Women’s Recovery.

In a recent webinar for Harmony Foundation, Dr. Bader talked about the specific challenges women with addiction face in recovery. Bader noted gender differences such as using for shorter periods of time, SUDs progressing more quickly after the first use, and more intense withdrawal symptoms.

Gender-specific treatment has been associated with better outcomes and retention in treatment. Programs providing gender-specific treatment for women should include the following components:

  • Emotional and physical safety for female clients (many of whom were physically attacked and traumatized by men)
  • Services designed to increase women’s access to care, and engagement and retention of clients
  • Women-only therapy environments
  • Women-specific services needs and topic areas addressed in treatment and support services
  • Multiple modalities to meet the specific needs of women

Dr. Bader emphasizes the importance of trauma-informed care, as approximately 80 percent of women seeking SUD treatment report a lifetime history of sexual assault, physical assault, or both. Rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in this population range from 30–59 percent.

Despite the prevalence of trauma, women were traditionally not considered to be as much at risk for substance misuse because “nice women” don’t drink. “Alcoholism” used to be mostly a male thing, but things have changed quite a bit. “Between 1999 and 2008, the number of inebriated women who had to be hospitalized increased by 52 percent,” Bader said. “59 percent of new cannabis users are women.”

Typically, women are increasing heroin use at a faster rate than men but are decreasing nonmedical prescription opioid use at a slower rate than men. Women struggle for gender-specific reasons. “We’re fighting physical and mental exhaustion, we are trying to cope with pain, we self-treat mental health problems, and we are trying to control weight,” explained Bader.

Contrary to traditional notions, women are just as likely as men to develop a SUD. Among other things, “women are more susceptible to cravings and relapse, more likely to have panic attacks, anxiety, or depression, more likely to go to the emergency department or die from an overdose, and more sensitive to the effects of some drugs.”

Addiction professionals have long known that women tend to display a “telescoping” effect: they typically start with lower levels of substances but end up escalating use to a higher degree than men. Like men, many women suffer from mood disorders that are the driving force behind their substance misuse.

“The most important factor to consider in the treatment of addiction in women is unresolved trauma, though,” said Bader. “Activated trauma and shame can flood the whole body and take the individual offline. It’s a state not easily tolerated while sober. That’s why so many women misuse substances.”

Relationships often play a crucial role. A woman’s use is heavily influenced by her partner, and intimate partner violence is common in women with substance use issues. “Sexual trauma both prior to and during active use is also common,” Bader said.

Harmony Foundation has long utilized a holistic approach to healing trauma and addiction. All staff at Harmony have been trained in trauma-informed care. Realizing that addiction is a biopsychosocial and spiritual disease, Harmony’s treatment program promotes physical, emotional, and spiritual healing, empowering patients to embark upon a lifelong journey of recovery.

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

Why Men in Recovery Are Often Hampered by “Man Rules”

“Men are more likely than women to use almost all types of illicit drugs, and illicit drug use is more likely to result in emergency department visits or overdose deaths for men than for women,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “For most age groups, men have higher rates of use or dependence on illicit drugs and alcohol than do women.”

Men face different expectations than women in our society, and this can have an impact on their mental health and their substance use. Should men develop a substance use disorder (SUD), therapy must address all their psychological needs to be effective.

In a recent webinar for Harmony Foundation, experiential therapist Richard “D.J.” Bishop LPC, LAC, explored the paths to recovery for men. People identifying as male are often hampered by what Bishop called “man rules”—harmful socialized beliefs of masculinity, including “no crying, minimize feelings, don’t ask for help, be tough, work hard, must have control.”

Pressure on young boys and men to prove their masculinity to their peers in our culture can cause stereotypical expectations of masculinity in them with far-reaching consequences. One of those “man rules” is to be able to “hold your liquor like a man,” creating social pressure to drink alcohol in order to avoid the appearance of weakness.

“By helping men dismantle the ‘man rules,’ we can enable them to practice the principles of recovery,” said Bishop. Those principles are the polar opposites of toxic masculinity, and they include asking for help, connection, vulnerability, humility, gratitude, and spiritual support.

Treatment for men with SUD involves building a bridge from toxic man rules (isolation, competition, fear) to the principles of recovery on the other side (connection, compassion, courage). On this journey of self-discovery (Who am I?), clients need to reconnect with true values.

Bishop likes to do specific exercises to achieve that. In one exercise, he asked clients to identify a strong connection from life before addiction to introduce a version of the client before he became addicted. In another, Bishop asks clients to create a trauma timeline since trauma is frequently an underlying driver of addiction. Another recovery task may be to create a “social atom”: The client draws a shape that represents himself. He then uses different shapes to represent different relationships in his life.

Clients also explore sexual intimacy (safety, trust, honesty, and caring) and what it isn’t, namely mechanical sex to numb emotional pain.

Finally, clients also explore their spirituality. “Spirituality has been defined as an expression of the transcendent ways in which to fulfill human potential,” Sebastian Salicru recently wrote in Psychology Today. “Spirituality is a recognized psychological construct that is different from religiosity and has transcultural applicability.” For Bishop, it’s about stepping outside the self to embrace intuitive understanding and unconditional love.

Spirituality is about investigating how we are connected to lives and powers beyond ourselves. It’s about understanding our rightful place in the world—a strong aspect of true recovery.

Harmony Foundation is one of the longest-running and most successful addiction treatment centers in the world. If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, or you have questions about our programs, call us today at (866) 686-7867 to get the help needed as soon as possible. Our experienced staff is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Relationally-Informed Clinical Interventions in Addiction Treatment

The motto “the opposite of addiction is connection” has been popular in the recovery community for years, but why are social connections so important in the recovery from addiction, and how do they play out on a neurological level?

In a recent webinar for Harmony Foundation, marriage and family therapist Gabrielle Wynschenk, LMFT, LAC, explored the neuropeptide oxytocin’s important role in maintaining healthy relationships and how to integrate relationally-informed clinical interventions that improve treatment outcomes.

Wynschenk works at the Mountainside Treatment Center as a family wellness clinician. At Mountainside, she facilitates various psychoeducational group offerings for individuals in residential treatment, facilitates psychoeducational group offerings for family members of Mountainside clients, maintains a caseload in which she conducts individual and family therapy sessions, and creates group curricula on family dynamics. Wynschenk facilitates webinars and other educational offerings for community providers. She also writes articles for the Mountainside blog.

Neurological research has been looking at the human brain and its potentially overlapping mechanisms between addiction and connection for some time. “Oxytocin is an emerging area of interest” in this regard, Wynschenk told her webinar audience.

“The release of oxytocin is triggered by various external cues,” explained Wynschenk. “These include stimulation of the nipples and genital areas, during orgasm and in response to prosocial stimuli such as close physical proximity to someone of connection in a safe environment, as well as exposure to infants.”

The functions of oxytocin include bonding, increasing interpersonal trust, reducing anxiety, reducing stress response, reducing immune and inflammatory responses, altering memory and information processing, and reducing the sensation of pain.

Genetics and life experiences both have an impact on the development of a person’s oxytocin system, and any changes in that system have an impact on its sensitivity and the synthesis of the neuropeptide, which in turn can inform differences in relationships and lead to a propensity to addiction.

“Recent studies have shown that higher oxytocin levels are correlated with reports of higher relationship satisfaction,” said Wynschenk. “Healthy relationships have also been linked to optimal health across research. It’s been postulated that oxytocin plays a role in that, as it also has physiological functions such as mitigating the stress response and reducing inflammation.”

Since addiction is frequently driven by extreme stress and trauma, the anxiety- and stress-reducing effects of healthy relationships can help counteract addiction. “In rodents, oxytocin was shown to lessen obsessive and repetitive behaviors in subjects addicted to cocaine,” reported Wynschenk in the webinar. “Similarly, in animal studies, rodents stopped self-administering both cocaine and opiates when receiving high levels of oxytocin.”

Research is now looking at oxytocin as a protective factor for addiction. Since oxytocin reduces anxiety and stress which also builds resilience around triggers, it can help reduce the occurrence of relapse. “Human studies showed that oxytocin reduced cravings and reduced withdrawal symptoms for people detoxing from alcohol and cocaine,” said Wynschenk.

Managing Deficient Executive Functioning Skills

Executive functions are a set of processes that all involve managing oneself and one’s resources to achieve a goal. They serve a command and control function and can be viewed as a kind of conductor of all cognitive skills.

Andrea Pitman is the executive director and founder of The Nectar Group. She has over 18 years of experience working with children, adults, and families through cognitive skills training, consulting, and teaching. In a recent webinar for Harmony Foundation, Pittman discussed the importance of executive functioning skills for human behavior and mental health.

Executive functioning (EF) comprises skills such as response inhibition, emotional control, sustained attention, goal-directed persistence, task initiation, time management, toleration of stress, and more. It’s a kind of “air traffic control” of the brain, Pittman explained, enabling people to focus, hold and work with information in the mind and filter distractions.

Furthermore, executive function skills make it possible to mentally play with ideas, think before acting, meet novel, unanticipated challenges, resist temptations, stay focused to complete tasks, and override the brain’s autopilot.

This means that executive functioning is essential for mental and physical health, success in school, work, and life, as well as cognitive, social, and psychological development.

“Lapses in executive functioning are common,” Pittman told the webinar participants. “Their seriousness and frequency can reflect individual strengths and weaknesses when it comes to executive functioning.”

Strong executive function skills develop through healthy relationships (caregivers provide a consistent, reliable presence and support children’s efforts); activities (caregivers help children learn how to cope and foster open-ended, creative play); places (environments that feel safe); and development (accountability and independence are encouraged).

The development of EF skills can be impaired by cognitive skill deficits (genetic or external trauma), poor content knowledge, lack of healthy relationships, unstable environments, trauma, and a lack of opportunity to develop independence and problem-solving skills.

EF weaknesses occur on a spectrum: they can be mild, mild-moderate, moderate, moderate-severe, and severe. Effective treatment moves the patient to the less severe end of the spectrum and in some cases, off the spectrum if diagnostic criteria are no longer met. There are two treatment approaches: compensation through accommodation or overcoming through treatment intervention that addresses the root causes. “Compensatory measures focus on coping with the disability and symptom management,” said Pittman. “Intervention focuses on overcoming the disability by treating the root cause.”

Various strategies can be employed to address EF weaknesses, such as lessening multitasking, providing a quiet work and study space, reducing distractions, modify or limiting task length and demand. To strengthen emotional control, triggers may be reduced or eliminated, and coping mechanisms explored and rehearsed.

To improve organizational skills, the structure of the environment could be improved and rooms decluttered. Goal-oriented persistence can be achieved by setting SMART (specific, meaningful, adaptive, realistic, and time-framed) goals.

And don’t forget to take regular breaks!

After a thorough cognitive assessment, a therapist can provide intensive coaching to achieve improvements in executive functioning. Coaching works by stressing a weak area through mental exercise, encouraging the brain to build new neural networks. Executive function and study skills coaching may improve skills such as self-advocacy, study skills, time management, and organization.

Harmony Foundation is one of the longest-running and most successful addiction treatment centers in the world. If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, or you have questions about our programs, call us today at (866) 686-7867 to get the help needed as soon as possible. Our experienced staff is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Healing Families With Structured Family Recovery

“Family is always the prominent force, before, during, and after addiction treatment,” says Debra Jay, the coauthor of Love First and the creator of the Structured Family Recovery program. SFR is “so simple, so obvious, it’s a wonder it hasn’t been done before,” she wrote in her 2014 book It Takes A Family. Until then, families had been “mostly left out of the recovery equation,” Jay wrote, but that has changed significantly in recent years. “Structured Family Recovery starts with a family and ends with a family recovery team.”

In a recent webinar for Harmony Foundation, Jay discussed the importance of family engagement in achieving lasting sobriety. SFR “works with family as a whole unit” to bring “the family back together again,” Jay told the webinar audience.

“SFR is best known through the stories families tell about themselves,” explained Jay. “We just need to listen to the family’s narrative.” She presented a quote from the wife of someone with alcohol use disorder: “During our recovery journey, our SFR counselor was the first person to treat us like a family full of love rather than a broken family.” The sister-in-law of an addicted person found SFR “the most applicable and relatable thing that I have ever done, and I’ve done therapy all my life.” The father of a “beloved addict” described SFR as “the language of post-resurrection: forgiveness and love.”

We don’t need to ask what families want; they want to be happy again! It has been said many times that connection is the opposite of addiction. Consequently, SFR is all about belonging, trustworthiness, and happiness.

Jay stressed that Structured Family Recovery is not therapy but a program of action. In It Takes A Family, she wrote that SFR “supports Twelve Step recovery for alcoholics, addicts, and family members, but it isn’t AA or any other Twelve Step group… it supports ongoing recovery—designed so that every member of the family contributes to preventing relapse, healing the whole family, and building trust.”

Families meet once a week for an hour, usually via conference calls, so it doesn’t matter where people live or whether they are at home or traveling. If the addicted persons are in residential treatment or a recovery residence, they can still easily participate.

The meetings have a simple format, and team members focus on themselves. SFR is never punitive or judgmental. The content of each meeting is directed by weekly topics. “Those topics are not random but coordinated with the Twelve Steps,” explained Jay. A list of topics can be found in It Takes A Family.

“Everyone learns where to find their power and what they are powerless over,” Jay wrote. “With time, everyone can begin to forgive and eventually can trust. There are bumps in the road, to be sure, but together, as a family, they work through them.”

In SFR, everyone creates a recovery plan. Every team member needs to engage in the simple and straightforward process of developing a plan appropriate to their recovery situation and role in the family.

The recovery process is ongoing and takes time. “Most families complete at least a year. Even when they started out wondering why they are doing SFR,” said Jay.

Harmony Foundation offers a modified family engagement workshop to all families of current and former clients. It provides education to family members about the disease model of addiction. This gives family members a place to express themselves and begin the healing process.

Harmony is one of the longest-running and most successful addiction treatment centers in the world. If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, or you have questions about our programs, call us today at (866) 686-7867 to get the help needed as soon as possible. Our experienced staff is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Spirituality and Recovery

This presentation is no longer eligible for a CEU.

Understanding the core of belonging centers on energy within. Substance use, abuse, and disorder block that energy. Discover the core through a reconstituted way of life and energy. Find joy within by knowing and living the principles. Annetta’s greatest passion is helping the human spirit recover and transform trauma, grief, and addiction. Join us for the knowledge she has gained personally and professionally from a wide area of experience.

Presented By:
Annetta M. Sutton, MA, AAPC
Author & Founder – Five Point Consulting

Annetta M. Sutton, MA, AAPC, author, founder, and CEO of Five Point Consulting. Over 40 years of recovery experience, 12 Step spirituality, and transitions. Professional life includes Spiritual Care Professional Hazelden/Betty Ford, Director of the Office of Social Concerns, prison, hospital, police chaplain, educator, program developer, and speaker. Author of Catholic Alcoholic: A Witness to Addiction and Redemption, Our Little House on the Prairie, Minister With a Badge, and authored a monthly column, Living Justly.
Educational background; Bachelor of Arts in Ministry/ Addiction Counseling-University of Mary; Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling from Emmanuel College Boston, MA. Certified through the American Association of Pastoral Counselors. Internships: Clinical Pastoral Education and West Central Human Services.

It Takes A Family: Cooperative Approach to Lasting Sobriety

This presentation is no longer eligible for a CEU.

This presentation is designed to help you gain the capacity to articulate a basic understanding of Structured Family Recovery, how it is implemented to transform families into recovery teams, and how the newly recovering person is invited to join the team. Continue reading “It Takes A Family: Cooperative Approach to Lasting Sobriety”

Tobacco Cessation Can Improve Long-term Outcomes in Addiction Treatment

Tobacco smoking rates among US adults with significant depression and/or substance use disorder (SUD) declined between 2006 and 2019 at a steeper rate than among individuals without substantial depression and/or SUD, according to research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

The findings, which were published in JAMA in April, suggest that groups at risk for nicotine addiction can be reached by tobacco cessation efforts. While such efforts have been effective, the NIDA researchers noted that individuals with psychiatric disorders still reported higher smoking rates than those without, although the gap is narrowing.

“This study shows us that, at a population level, reductions in tobacco use are achievable for people with psychiatric conditions, and smoking cessation should be prioritized along with treatments for substance use, depression, and other mental health disorders for people who experience them,” said NIDA Director Nora Volkow, MD, co-author of the study, in a news release.

“Therapies to help people stop smoking are safe, effective, and may even enhance the long-term success of concurrent treatments for more severe mental health symptoms in individuals with psychiatric disorders by lowering stress, anxiety, depression, and by improving overall mood and quality of life.”

The NIDA study analyzed data from more than 558,000 individuals 18 and older who participated in National Surveys on Drug Use and Health between 2006 and 2019. While individuals with major depression, SUD, or both were more likely to smoke cigarettes, cessation rates among these populations improved during the period studied.

“It is crucial that healthcare providers treat all the health issues that a patient experiences, not just their depression or drug use disorder at a given point in time,” Dr. Volkow said. “To do this, smoking cessation therapies need to be integrated into existing behavioral health treatments. The result will be longer and healthier lives for all people.”

The Harmony Campus is Tobacco-Free

Harmony Foundation has been providing the holistic approach to addiction treatment Dr. Volkow suggests. The treatment team at Harmony works daily to address all relevant needs a client might have. Our cutting-edge addiction treatment at Estes Park in Colorado includes tobacco cessation. Consequently, clients are not allowed to bring any tobacco products to our tobacco-free campus.

Like other drugs, nicotine engages the reward cycle of the brain. “A transient surge of endorphins in the reward circuits of the brain causes a slight, brief euphoria when nicotine is administered. This surge is much briefer than the ‘high’ associated with other drugs,” explains the relevant NIDA page. “However, like other drugs of abuse, nicotine increases levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine in these reward circuits, which reinforces the behavior of taking the drug.”

Since tobacco engages the same brain circuits as other addictive substances, smoking is counterproductive in recovery. Harmony offers a tobacco cessation group as part of its holistic addiction treatment to help those seeking additional support. If you are interested in beginning a life of recovery and interested to hear more about how quitting nicotine can help your goal, our admissions team is here to help.

Since addiction is a biopsychosocial and spiritual disease, Harmony’s treatment program promotes physical, emotional, and spiritual healing, empowering patients to embark upon a lifelong journey of recovery. All our services are provided in a safe, culturally sensitive, and trauma-informed manner.

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

Harmony Foundation Names New Director of Clinical Services

Harmony Foundation names Karen Cramer as its new Director of Clinical Services. Karen Cramer is a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC) in Texas and a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in Texas and Colorado. Karen received her Bachelor’s in Psychology and her Master’s in Counseling at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX. In her new role, she will oversee counseling, family programming, and case management and will serve as part of the executive leadership team. Her vast experience throughout her career brings a unique balance of clinical success and organizational operations.

“Karen has been a critical part of the core leadership team that has made Harmony Foundation what it is today,” stated president and CEO Jim Geckler. “This change in role will help continue that path by providing her greater focus on clinical development.”

Previous to running multiple departments at Harmony, Karen helped open a women’s Dallas-based Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). She has also worked in private practice and at the SMU Family Counseling Center. This experience will contribute to upcoming changes to Harmony, including its IOP, which currently serves clients across the state. Karen is in long-term recovery herself, which adds to her passion for helping others that suffer from the disease of addiction.

“Harmony’s unwavering commitment to its mission is recognized nationwide, and continual innovation has and will be key to providing excellent treatment,” added Karen Cramer.

Karen is an active member of the National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (NAADAC), the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP), and is a member of The National Board for Certified Counselors, Inc. (NBCC) with a passion for collaborating on outcomes and best practices. She also serves on the board of directors for Medicine Meadow Heard: Rescued Horses, Healing Humans.