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Adolescence Mental Health Recovery School Treatment

The Benefits of Blending School and Treatment

There is tremendous value in blending school and treatment. Many clients come to us

(Photo credit: theirhistory)

having fallen off-track in their education as a result of substance abuse and mental health issues. There may also be undiagnosed learning disabilities that need to be addressed. Falling grades and school pressure can create another layer of stress and panic for a teen. When an adolescent comes to treatment, it is our responsibility to provide them with both treatment and educational support that fosters an environment of safety and encouragement around learning and healing. At the same time, providing school and treatment simultaneously allows us to notice where an adolescent needs extra support so we can provide that client with adequate educational and clinical support.

 

I looked to Daniel Dewey, our Residential Director of Education, and Joseph Rogers, our Educational Coordinator at our Outpatient Day School for some insight and perspective, particularly since they each see both sides of the education/treatment pendulum. Daniel sees our clients from their initial point of treatment, while Joseph spends time with our clients during their aftercare process. Both of them promote and create foundational pieces to add to the bedrock of an adolescent’s recovery; they invite curiosity about learning, provide support during times of difficulty, and provide individualized methods of teaching to facilitate and nurture a healthy outlook on education.

 

Daniel gave me some wonderful insight when he said, “School is important for treatment success; when a resident can stay on track (or in many cases gets back on track) they will have a stronger foundation for their aftercare. School can be a big stressor, so if school can work with treatment, we feel residents will be better equipped to leave Visions and follow their academic path. Additionally, doing well in school tends to be a source of self-esteem for adolescents.  We want our clients to feel good about learning. Many of our clients come into treatment hopeless. It is our goal to help them see the intrinsic value in education and to guide them toward a meaningful life.”

 

Joseph gave us similar insights, which also help identify the continuum that occurs with school and treatment. He said,  “The practical piece of joining treatment and education is having the benefit of rolling enrollment – clients can enroll at any time, increasing their opportunities of getting back on track. Additionally, students may not be emotionally able or prepared to go back into a normalized educational setting. Having them in a setting that is therapeutically structured for their safety gives them the chance to practice their new behaviors before they go back to their regular school, and because we have clinicians on staff, we can react to and notice a change in behavior quickly and effectively.”

 

We understand the importance of creating a therapeutically alive and nourishing environment for our clients and their families. Placing school in the treatment arena allows us to support our clients at optimum levels, and it provides a multi-level aspect to the healing process. Blending school and treatment from the residential and outpatient perspective is a necessary stone in the path to wellness. It is beneficial to the adolescent, building confidence and self-esteem, and it is advantageous for parents to see their children simultaneously succeed in their education and in their substance abuse and mental health treatment.

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Anniversary Blogs Recovery Service Treatment

Patrick Schettler – Operations Coordinator

Patrick Schettler is one of the most profoundly helpful people I know.  He has his finger on the pulse of Visions and is able to jump in and be of service whenever and wherever necessary.  Patrick’s adventures at Visions started out with him working as a program aide in 2006. He later moved on to hold various positions of leadership over the years: He’s been our Lead Program Aide, held the position of Educator, and he currently holds the position of Operations Coordinator. In truth, Patrick epitomizes service in the most genuine way. He doesn’t do it because he has to; he does it because he wants to. To boot, Patrick is so much more than an administrative genius. As it turns out, he apparently plays a mean guitar. Hm. Maybe there’s a Visions band in our future!? Now that could be interesting!

Of course, the staff has some truly amazing things to say, so read on:

“P-trick, as I affectionately refer to him, is an all-around ninja. He has been tech, teacher, tech supervisor, para-clinical, administrative fire-putter-outer, late-hour working, and foundation at Visions. He keeps his cool, while others might flip out in stressful situations. Aside from all of this professional praise, I can also vouch for the fact that he is a bad-ass guitar player.” – Daniel Dewey

“He’s the best ‘mini-me’ John Lieberman could ever hope for!” – Katie Mason

“Patrick is the calm in the storm. He is committed to our Visions Team. Patrick helps make the unmanageable manageable. We work back to back I can’t think of another person who could put up with me…with no way out.” – John Lieberman

“Schettler knows there’s no ‘I’ in team.  He’s always willing to step outside of his job description to create a first-class environment at Visions.  I depend on him for a lot due to not working on campus.  Patrick’s drive for success and his compassion to help makes everyone’s job at Visions easier on a daily basis.  He also has the ability to pull off purple sunglasses…not a judgment…just noticing.” — Christina Howard

“‘Apartrick’!  Thank you for picking up every random call and question from every tech, doctor, insurance agency, parent….and us.  You have stepped up time and time again and have proven yourself to truly be a managing member of this team.  We can trust you to take care of every crisis–big and small–and know you will handle it with grace–minus the dreaded insurance guy who denies coverage, and whom you yell at with our blessing. 🙂  You have been an amazing sounding board for all of us.  Part of our office joy radiates from your end of the building and during the stressful times, we can always count on you to laugh or make some kind of joke to make us smile.  Thank you for showing up at all hours of the day or night, you have eased some of John’s stress (ours too!) and for that we thank you!!! — Chris and Amanda Shumow

Without further adieu, let’s hear what Patrick had to say when we asked him our usual wild and wacky questions:

1: What is your guilty pleasure:

I’m a sucker for reality TV shows on the food channel.  I will drop everything to watch the newest episode of Chopped.

2: Do you prefer acoustic or electric guitars?

 Both. Gotta have an acoustic for the late-night sessions.

3: You’re stranded on an island: name three things you couldn’t live without.

My dog Trane, a hammock, and some good hot sauce.

4: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

Call me crazy but I actually like it here!  I could not live without Mexican food, period. Plus we have the Lakers, Dodgers, great weather, my family…you get the idea.

5: Favorite genre of music to listen to and/or to play?

I love all of it. I enjoy playing loud rock n’ roll with the band, but I also really like to play classical guitar. Hearing John Williams for the first time was a spiritual experience for me (nerd alert).

6: What’s your most relatable pop culture reference?

 I’m just excited that Shark Week is finally upon us.

 7: Mountains or beach?

 Beach, which happens to be surrounded by mountains in most of California. Bam.

8: Are you an introvert or extrovert?

 Extrovert.

9: How do you maintain your cool, calm demeanor

Good genes probably. That’s where I get my modesty too.

10: Why do you choose to work for Visions?

It’s the people.  Speaking of which, I love your work, Sarit. Where’s your shout-out blog, huh?

Categories
Anniversary Blogs School Service Treatment

Adriana Camarillo: Educational Director at Visions Day School

Adriana Camarillo joined the Visions team in 2006 as one of our educators. She worked at our residential facilities and eventually became part of the Outpatient/Day School team, working closely with Joseph Rogers and Fiona Ray. In 2011, she left to pursue other things, but she is back in full force and we are beyond grateful!

Adriana has recently earned her masters degree in Educational Counseling coupled with a Pupil Services credential, a testament to Adriana’s bold and thorough educational background. Dri, ever-dedicated to her students,  remains true to the age-old art of teaching. For example, she will deftly find the very thing that sullied a student’s relationship to math, and reignite their desire to learn one of their toughest subjects. It’s a great testament to her character that Adriana teaches to the student and not to the test. She is truly a remarkable teacher.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this, though: Adriana is funny! Hilarious, really. She’s able to bring a mix of firm boundaries and humor to a room full of adolescents—they love her and respect her for this! We are honored she came back to us after a year away—Visions is truly blessed to have such an incredible teaching team!

The staff can’t agree more! Check out what they had to say:

“Adriana is a stable presence at the Day School. She remains calm in the midst of the daily press of business, always ready to help our students regardless of what else is happening. She is an amazing resource for students preparing for college, helping with SAT prep, application essays, and the bureaucratic maze of forms and requirements. “Dri” is absolutely reliable and someone the students can count on for help and support. Dri is a real team player, and the one you always want around to make you laugh when things get difficult.” – Joseph Rogers

“Adriana is an amazing person to work with. She is very passionate and understanding. She has a great personality that is infectious (and sometimes too happy for me!). I’m proud to work alongside her and most importantly, proud to call her my friend.” — Ryan Cox

“Adriana is a selfless, loyal and inspiring person. You can always count on her to brighten your day with a wide smile and a positive attitude. She approaches teaching and mentoring students with fortitude and conviction. Adriana understands her students, picking up on their subtle nuances and adapting her academic plans based on the individual. She listens with an open mind and an open heart while instilling hope for their future. Her students are lucky to have her and I am lucky to know her. She makes us all better people.” Fiona Ray

“Guess who’s back…back again?  Dri is back…tell a friend.  We could not be more excited to have Adriana back in our world! She has always been an example for our students, teaching with poise and balance, and never letting the toughest challenges scare her, in fact, she finds the best way to reach her kids and turns those challenges into triumphs.  Adriana brings just the right amount of humor and boundaries so the kids know that she is always looking out for their best interests.  We are excited to welcome her back with open arms!” – Amanda and Chris Shumow

Now let’s get to Adriana’s answers to those silly questions we always ask:

1: Who was your first influential teacher and why?

Throughout my life I have had a number of influential teachers. Some were amazing because they remembered my name year after year. Others were amazing because they were interesting and worked at keeping us entertained while they taught. I think the first teacher to influence me was Ms. MacDonald. She was a great teacher. She listened, she challenged me, and she believed in me. I still see her around sometimes and she remembers me. Things like that have always mattered to me.

2: What is the most challenging yet satisfying subject you teach? 

I think that the most challenging subject for me would be math. I have always loved math but that is rarely the case for other people. It’s most challenging because most students have a poor representation of math and therefore, they do not like it. I like getting students to understand the concepts and overcome their dislike for the subject.

3: If money were no object, where would you live? 

If money were no object, I would live in San Francisco but I would definitely have a few vacation homes in Hawaii, Chicago, L.A., and New York. And of course, I would love to travel the world to see all the beautiful places this world has to offer.

4: What’s your favorite season?

California doesn’t really have all four season but I love Fall. I love the way the weather feels. I love wearing hoodies and jeans. I love the color of the trees and the smell.

5: If you were a Muppet, who would you be?  

A Muppet? Ummm, I think I’d be Fozzie Bear mostly because I like to make people laugh. Usually my jokes aren’t followed by tomatoes but I enjoy smiling and I like the people around me to smile too.

6: What TV show has serious consequences if interrupted? 

I’m not a big tv person. But there are three shows that cannot be interrupted. Those are Sons of Anarchy, Dexter, and Smash. They are my favorite shows and I usually watch each episode twice. Once for viewing pleasure and the second time to make sure i got everything the first time.

7: What’s your Starbucks order?

I’m not a fan of complicated coffee orders. I like iced non-fat caramel machiatto.

8: What did you want to be when you grew up? 

 

I always wanted to be a nurse growing up and i actually began college in a nursing program but after taking a few courses, I realized that nursing wasn’t for me and I decided to pursue teaching instead. I still love the idea of being a nurse but I can’t handle the “gross” aspect involved in caring for other health and I hate blood.

9: Do you sing in the car when you’re driving along? And better yet, do you stop singing at a stoplight?

I sing every where! Car, shower, classroom, store… you name it and I have probably sang a song or two. I don’t have a particularly great voice but I just love singing. It makes me happy and people usually respond well to the stranger who is serenading them in the line at the grocery store. Needless to say, I don’t stop when I get to a stoplight, in fact, I usually use that time to sing louder and add in a few dance moves.

10: Why do you choose to work for Visions?

I began working for Visions with very little information of what I was getting myself into. I was with them for almost 5 years. I left briefly this last year to teach middle school and now I am back. I came back mainly because it is my home. My coworkers are like family and I have never felt so welcomed and appreciated in one place. Working here has combined my love of helping youth with an enjoyable environment that allows me to truly say “I love what I do.”

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Anniversary Blogs Service Treatment

JuliAnn Crommelin: Alumni Coordinator and Counselor

JuliAnn Crommelin truly understands the treatment process.  As a Visions alumni, she is a shining example of what is possible in recovery.  For the last 6 years, JuliAnn has dedicated her life to helping others. She is kind, compassionate, and able to meet the clients and their families on a deeply empathetic level. It’s a pleasure to witness her growth. JuliAnn began working for Visions as a program aide but she quickly became a Certified Chemical Dependency Counselor, and eventually took on the role of Outreach Coordinator on the Marketing team. Quite honestly, JuliAnn is the perfect person to share with others the benefits and value of the Visions program! As you can see, there is no shortage of kind words from the staff, either:

“I was told that in order to represent something well you have to believe in it with your entire being.  JuliAnn is just that…an image of passion and enthusiasm that lives and breathes the essence of Visions.  It has been an honor working side by side with her, sharing the common mission of reaching out to support teens & families.  If you have not had the chance to meet JuliAnn, please take a moment to watch this: Visions Teen Interview with JuliAnn.  Kindly, Christina Howard”

“JuliAnn is the most positive person I’ve ever met. Seriously.” – Joseph Rogers

“Incredibly poised, insightful, and wise beyond her years! She is an amazing role model.” Heather Colligan

It’s been a pleasure watching JuliAnn’s progression expand from client to program aide to counselor and eventually to alumni coordinator and marketing. JuliAnn has continued to grow into an amazing part of the Visions team.  We often brag to tours about her because she is truly an example of someone who works hard and continues to put one foot in front of the other and gets results!  We can always count on her to be a consistent person for the clients at Visions to talk to.  She is just the right touch of tough love and compassion, always keeping the client’s best interests at heart.  We are grateful for her work ethic and loyalty.  She is truly a leader and we cannot wait to see what she can accomplish next! – Amanda and Chris Shumow

Of course, JuliAnn had to answer a few questions from us as well. As you can see, her passion for what she does is everywhere:

1. What is your greatest accomplishment thus far?

My greatest accomplishment thus far is being a person that my family is proud of.  My little sister tells me all the time how she looks up to me and how I am a guiding role in her life.   It continually baffles me because for so long I was a bad influence on her and probably not someone she would ever want to be like and now she calls and asks me for advice.  That is something I never expected to happen.

2. Your favorite movie?

My favorite movie is Elf with Will Ferrell. Or probably any other comedy he is in.

3. If you could do anything in the world, what would it be?


If I could do anything in the world I would want to open an animal sanctuary for abused or neglected animals that paired each animal with an abused or neglected kid, so the animal and kid can do the healing work together.

4. Would you rather sail the sea or climb to the top of Mount Everest?

I would rather sail the sea, even though I get sea sick.

 5. Cake or pie?

Anything chocolate….or red velvet.

6. What’s your favorite book and why?

The Hunger Games series and the Harry Potter series, they are both so captivating and have every element you could want in a book: romance, mystery, violence, etc.

7. Katniss or Hermione?

Katniss, I find her commitment to her anger amusing.

8. What would you say to your teenage self if you knew what you knew now?

I would tell my teenage self to breathe, chill out, get involved in yoga, horseback ride while you still can and write a gratitude list.  Your life is not as hard as you think it is.

9. What inspires you?

I am inspired by anyone that does good in the world.  There is a lot of hurt, sadness, homelessness and greed but there are also a lot of good-hearted people who are willing to help and make things better.

10. Why do you choose to work for Visions?

I initially chose to work for Visions because I wanted to help other teens who are as lost and confused as I was.  I continue to work at Visions because I know that by doing this I am helping save lives and families.  Every kid that is helped here can go out and touch that many more lives.  My hope is that we are all creating a ripple effect of love and healing that will continue to spread.

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Anniversary Blogs Service Treatment

Daniel Dewey – Teacher/Residential Director of Education

Daniel Dewey has been with us from the very beginning, nurturing Visions during the early days of its burgeoning development and creating a safe space for learning and academic achievement within our residential facilities. Daniel works to create academic stability for incoming clients, whose education has fallen to the wayside. Setting up educational plans and creating that type of stability works to not only create confidence in the parents, but in the students as well. There is an element of kindness that permeates everything Daniel does, whether it’s working with students, talking to the staff, or being a parent to his son. He’s an inspiration to all who cross his path. We’re lucky to have him with us. Happy 10 years, Daniel. Thank you for everything you do!

Our staff weren’t shy in their expressions of appreciation either:

“Calm, caring gentle presence.” – Heather Colligan

“Daniel is without a doubt one of the most unflappable people I’ve ever met.  His kindness is a constant that clearly is the cloth from which he is woven.  I’ve never met a former student of Daniel’s who hasn’t spoken of him with respect and great fondness.  Visions is fortunate to have such a caring and warm educator. I also hear he’s a wicked dancer.” – Joseph Rogers

“What can I say, other than that Daniel really is the heart of Visions.  He’s an institution around here.  He’s been here forever, but even after all this time there is never a day that he doesn’t give his all for the kids.  Daniel is one of these guys you can’t not like.  He is one of best people to work with, nay, best people to know. He is a model of genuine compassion and good works.   I have been incredibly blessed to have him as a mentor and a friend.    Just, please, don’t ask him to dance, for all of our sake.” – Troy Matthews

“Daniel has been with us before we even had clients…or the hope of clients! 🙂 Over the years, he has been one of the vertebrae of Visions.  His quiet strength and patience has helped us grow and change and change again into the program that we are today.  We are most thankful for his ability to teach kids that thought they were “unteachable.”  We can’t tell you how many times we have heard that Daniel was the first teacher that ever “got” them to learn and inspired them to not only finish high school, but to go to college.  When we call parents to check in, Daniel’s name is usually followed by glowing reports of professionalism, kindness and knowledge.  We have often come into the facility and gone directly to Daniel to figure out exactly where the clients are emotionally.   Although he is not a clinician, he always has his finger on the pulse of what is going on with them. We can’t imagine what the past 10 years at Visions would have been like without Daniel Dewey.”  – Amanda and Chris Shumow

Without further adieu, let’s see what Daniel had to say when we asked him a few curious questions:

1. Favorite genre of music?

Classic Rock if I had to narrow it down. I love most all genres of music except modern country and Dubstep.

2. Chalk or dry-erase?

I’m Old School in many ways, but I appreciate the convenience of dry-erase.

3. Favorite poet?

Bukowski.

4. If you could invent something, what would it be?

A time machine so I could visit exotic times and places throughout history..

5. What inspires you to teach?

Sounds corny, but it’s the kids and the hope that they’ll change their lives and make this world a livable place when they get older.

6. Favorite thing about Los Angeles?

Central to the mountains and the beach and a great culinary selection.

7. Webster’s, Random House, or Oxford?

Oxford.

8. What did you want to be when you grew up?

A professional athlete; probably a quarterback or a pitcher.

9. How does your son inspire you?

He inspires me to give him a better life than I had and he keeps me out of trouble (most of the time).

10. Why do you choose to work for Visions?

It’s my addictive personality. Visions gives me the opportunity to work in a small group setting so I feel like I have some impact on the kids. The people here are cool too.

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Anniversary Blogs Recovery Service Therapy Treatment

Garth LeMaster, MA, LMFT – Outpatient Therapist

Garth Lemaster is precisely the type of person you want around in a crisis: he’s level-headed, straightforward, respectful, and honest. He shows up when he says he will and he always gives his heart and soul to his work. Garth is one of those therapists the kids seek out for their check-ins, and as a result, he spends the majority of his time at Visions session. It’s also not unusual to see Garth helping out with the day-to-day operations of Outpatient and the Day School, which shows how much of a team player he really is. Since 2007, Garth has been a wonderful source of goodwill for all of us at Visions; we are lucky to have him as part of our treatment team. I really can’t say enough kind things about Garth and neither could the staff:

“Garth is an amazing person!  His patient and calm demeanor is unparalleled.  It takes a lot to rattle Garth’s nerves…on occasion I try simply for entertainment (I know, it’s terrible) but I end up giving in before he does.  This way about him is reflected in his approach with the kids he works with as well.  His ability to listen is one among many and I’ve witnessed the lives that he has touched as a result.  Garth is one of those people who “so rocks” and has no idea!” —  Love Always, Natalie (IOP Staff Member and huge fan of Garth!)

“Garth is the quiet warrior of our team.  Families always know that Garth will be there with kind words, thoughtful insight and strength.  He meets his clients where they are, and he helps them find their inner strength in therapy.  We respect Garth and I, over the years, have found myself in Garth’s office when overwhelmed or in need of advice, always getting what I need as a co worker. Parents tell us that Garth is solely responsible for the change in both their lives and the lives of their teens. He would likely scoff at this and respond back that the family did the work, but Garth truly led the way.  Patrick says it best when he says that Garth is a ‘therapy ninja’!!  Thank you, Garth, for being an anchor at our outpatient location.” — Amanda Shumow

“If I had to pick someone from work to team up with on Survivor, I would pick Garth. The thing I love about Garth is his quality of character. He has an integrity that can be counted on. I’ve had the privilege to really watch him blossom as a therapist over the last 5 years, and I really appreciate the work that he does. He genuinely cares about the families and kids he works with. He is respectful and I greatly enjoy our occasional  political détente in the mornings—and while we don’t always agree, I love that he always listens and genuinely has care and concern for people.” — Joseph Rogers

“Garth is quiet strength for the kids.  Now, to get him to paint with us…!  –  Susan O’ Conner who’s best known as “The Art Lady.”

And without further adieu, let’s hear Garth’s answers to some of our curious questions:

1.  If you had wings where would you go?

The Hotel Caruso in Italy.

2.  Favorite restaurant in Los Angeles?

IN N OUT: Double-double combo, hold the “animal,” I’m just a regular guy. 

3.  Last movie you watched in the theater?

The Gray.

4.  Favorite song to play on your guitar?

“Over the Hills and Far Away.”

5.  Have you watched any episodes of The Real Housewives on Bravo?

I’m proud to say no.

6.  What was your High School Mascot?

A wildcat.

7.  What is the best present you ever received?

Tivo.

8.  Soup or Salad?

Salad.

9.  Best word to describe your personality?

Mellow.

10.  Why do you choose to work for Visions?

I like helping kids, but I do so at Visions because the team is so good. It’s a really good place to work.

Categories
Anniversary Blogs Service Treatment

Joseph Rogers: Educational Director at Visions Day School

It was January, 2005 when Joseph Rogers joined the Visions crew. He started out as a tech but soon moved on to exercise his teaching and psychology degrees as the Educational Director at our Outpatient Day School. Since then, he has created an environment of trust and care within the classroom. Joseph has also created a wonderful space for nurturing spirituality, as he’s lead a weekly meditation group for the several years. In many ways, Joseph has become the gardener of spirituality and compassion amongst those that are under his tutelage. Many an alumni make efforts to come back for visits and to ask him for advice or direction when they encounter difficulties, and regardless of circumstance, he greets them with an open heart.

Joseph is currently pursuing his Masters in Divinity at the University of the West. He has long been pulled toward teaching the practice of meditation and becoming a chaplain will allow him to reach more people struggling with addiction and mental health from the spiritual perspective. It’s exciting to know that we’ll have a chaplain in our midst.

The Visions team genuinely adores Joseph. This really became apparent to me when I began to receive comments about him from some of his colleagues. What I received was amazing and heartfelt. We are truly lucky to have Joseph Rogers in our midst:

Fiona A. Ray, our Director of Outpatient and Aftercare Services had this to say, “Joseph’s approach to instilling academic esteem with his students is unparalleled and refreshing.  He brings creative innovation to the learning process and continues to develop new methods to address various learning styles.  It is an honor and a privilege to work in tandem with someone who inspires both his students and co-workers.

Daniel Dewey, our Teacher/Residential Director of Education, aptly quotes the Buddha when he thinks of Joseph, “His work is to discover his work and then with all of his heart give himself to it.”

John Lieberman, our Director of Operations, says, “I believe that Joseph is the perfect man to teach out kids. Joseph is a combination of edge, gentle, fun and calm. I would want Joseph to be my teacher.”

And Amanda Shumow, our fearless leader and one of our Founders really says it all: “Joseph truly exemplifies what it is Visions sets out to do as a company. He takes care of the students with compassion and efficiency and shows them they can be successes in this world with the right support. As an educator, Joseph finds the best way for a child to learn and then meets their needs as opposed to teaching with a “one size fits all” approach. Joseph is also a trained meditation instructor and helps to bring mindfulness to all of us. He is without a doubt, one of Visions’ best!”

Hear what Joseph had to say when we asked him a few, erm, pointed questions:

1.  What is the name of your favorite book?

“Tropic of Cancer” by Henry Miller

2.  What would you prefer to vacation next to … River, Ocean or Lake?

Definitely the ocean, fewer bugs that way. And I’ve never been to a tropical   island.

3.  Favorite food as a kid?

Escargot. True story.

4.  You can only bring 3 items with you to an island for 5 years…what are your 3 items?

A boat. A tent. My wife.

5.  Who’s a better Super Hero…Superman or Batman?

Spiderman: He’s the “everyman,” the superhero with problems. I don’t like            nationalism or revenge as motives.

6.  Have you ever been Skydiving?

Yes, I like to jump out of high places. My dad took me for my 21st birthday. He is    afraid of heights.

7.  Favorite dish your wife makes?

Apple cobbler on the 4th of July with fresh apples from our tree.

8.  If Kermit the Frog came to you for advice about what to buy Miss Piggy for her     Birthday what would you tell him?

I miss Jim Henson.

9.  Ice Cream or Pinkberry?

Life is short. Ice cream.

10.  Why do you choose to work for Visions?

The free trip to a tropical island for seven years of service. It helps that I love what I do, too.

Categories
Mental Health

Mindfulness in Schools

There’s so much talk about the current education model and increased stress being placed on kids, even at the kindergarten level. In our current system, we teach to the test, we encourage good grades, we chase after high API ratings in order to use them as a gauge for determining school quality, but what we are often forgetting is how this added pressure is affecting our kids. I find it hard to believe that there are so many children unable to focus and wonder if given a learning environment with less pressure, their focus would increase. Something to ponder, that’s for sure.

That pressure on our kids is still here and from the looks of it, it’s increasing. Since turning the clock back isn’t really an option, I suggest we begin giving our kids tools that allow them to manage the inevitable pressure of school and adolescence more skillfully. Teaching mindfulness to kids is something many professionals are talking about, both from a mental health standpoint, and from an educational one. It’s an invaluable skill that teaches one to stop and be in the present moment, sans deadlines, sans pressure, yet learning to focus on nothing but the intake and outtake of our breath. This act, in and of itself, can reteach and retrain the mind to focus more acutely.

As parents, we may be familiar with the practices of mindfulness and meditation, but at yet we so often engage in this practice without our kids. I see no real value in this, in fact, I feel it denies a child the ability to utilize one of their most valuable tools: their breath. As Sharon Salzberg says, “Our breath is portable.” It’s not a tool you have to carry in a backpack, or shoulder bag; it’s not something friends can see or make fun of; it’s a natural part of who we are as human beings and something we can engage at will. The adage “Take 10 deep breaths” can begin to mean something much deeper.

Susan Kaiser Greenland, author of “The Mindful Child: How to Help Your Kid Manage Stress, and Become Happier, Kinder, and More Compassionate” has embraced this ideology with great passion. One of the things she reminds parents is this is a “process-oriented practice as opposed to a goal-oriented practice.” Greenland says, “It is not at all uncommon for kids to have a hard time when they begin to look at their inner and outer experiences clearly without an emotional charge (or with less of one).” This can be true for adults as well! This is a call to parent from a different perspective, using patience and tolerance when faced with difficulties, less reactivity, all with the knowledge that this is all part of an emotional and worldview transformation. Susan Kaiser Greenland teaches kids skills like:

  • Approaching new experiences with an open mind;
  • Developing strong and stable attention;
  • Seeing life experience clearly without an emotional charge;
  • Developing compassionate action and relationships;
  • Building communities with kindness and compassion;
  • Working together to make a difference in the world;
  • Expression gratitude; and
  • Planting seeds of peace by nurturing common ground.

Learning to meditate and sit still is a tough task for a lot of kids–with and without issues of ADHD! I am always a little shocked when my 10-year-old sits for a full half-hour in meditation with little to no squirming, but he does it and reaps the myriad benefits.  I really like this technique for getting kids ready to meditate, which Susan Kaiser Greenland calls the Pendulum Swing. (Read here for an interview with Susan and a details on the Pendulum Swing!)
The truth is, beginning to bring mindfulness to our children will provide kids with the opportunity to hone their focus, feel less stressed out by the having to multi-task at every turn, and have healthier peer and familial relationships. As parents, it helps if we remember the joys of childhood and the innate value of sand between our toes and dirt under our nails. Sometimes, we need to remind ourselves as well as our kids that great joy can be found in doing nothing. In fact, accepting what is rather than obsessing on what should be is actually liberating. Crazy, right? I don’t think so!

For more resources on Mindfulness and Meditation check out:
UCLA: Mindfulness Awareness Research Center
Insight LA – Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MDSR)
Against the Stream

Categories
Recovery School

School: Getting Back in the Groove

Even without addiction issues, going back to school can be a bear. Going from middle school to high school is a huge shift, but more often than not, you’re not away from home. However, the shift from high school to college can be huge, especially if going to college means living on your own. All of a sudden the safety of any parental input (no matter how annoying it may be) is gone–trust me when I say this, you’ll eventually miss the family dinners you fought so hard to get out of.
There are a few things to keep in mind when going back to school, particularly when most schools and colleges are starting and our nerves are shaking. If we’re newly sober, then the heat is really on, particularly when we’re going back to our old stomping grounds.
  • Stay connected with your sponsor and others in sobriety. 
  • Set firm boundaries with old friends that may be weary of the new you. If they want you to “hang out” like you used to before you “went away,” say no. Real friends won’t try to drag you down. 
  • Maintain open communication, not only with your sponsor and friends, but with your parents and therapists as well. Recovery is a net: if you weave a wide enough web, you are more apt to create an environment of emotional and physical safety. 
  • Develop a healthy exercise program. Sometimes, a good run or a long bike ride can clear a muddled mind. This is a great area to create a buddy system. If you don’t do it one day, you didn’t fail! 
  • Make realistic goals. You don’t have to do everything at once. 
  • Remember to be kind to your body: just because you’re sober doesn’t mean you can start poisoning your system with junk food. 
  • HALT: never get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired 
  • Show up no matter what. You’re not only showing up for others, you’re showing up for yourself and your sobriety.
The reality is, school can be frightening: the newness, the change, and the idea of venturing into the unknown. Taking things one breathe at a time is key to survival. Sleep is your friend, cry if you need to, and ask for help. Everything is going to be okay!Resources:
Angels at Risk