Categories
Family Feelings Mindfulness Recovery School Service Spirituality

Well Wishes As Visions’ Joseph Rogers Moves On

Joseph Rogers has been with Visions since 2005, first as a recovery mentor at our MulhollandVisions-FionaParty-22 facility and later becoming the Director of Education at the Outpatient Day School. Joseph has run the Mindfulness Meditation/11th Step, Spirituality group since 2007, exploring how developing spiritual practice is applicable to recovery. He also co-facilitates the Outpatient DBT Skills group with Jesse Engdahl on Wednesdays. Two and a half years ago, Joseph stepped down from the Director position in order to pursue a Masters of Divinity degree and begin the process of stepping into his new role of Chaplain. This has been a long-time coming: Joseph has been in facilitator/teacher training with Against the Stream Meditation Society for the last 5 years, and has built a remarkable community of cohorts and students.

 

It with great pride and excitement, as well as a bit of a heavy heart, that we bid Joseph farewell as he steps onto a new path. Joseph will begin his residency at UCLA, earning his CPEs (Clinical Pastoral Education) at the top of September. As sad as we are to see him leave the Visions nest, we are excited to see where this takes him. Joseph offers a sense of calm assurance to the deeply suffering, and he is able to hold space for vulnerable people in a profound manner. UCLA has a priceless jewel on their hands.

 

Joseph has been a consistent members of the VTeam for almost a decade, seamlessly blending boundaries and compassion, while encouraging a love for learning. He has created a foundational resource for the kids and staff to look to for support as well as leadership. Many alumni and staff alike will joyfully reminisce about learning history through the various comedic voices Joseph uses.  He has been the rock for many, and the quiet storm of compassion for all.

 

Joseph isn’t completely leaving Visions, however. He will continue to run the Mindfulness Meditation/11th Step, Spirituality group and he will continue to co-facilitate the outpatient DBT Skills group. Despite our denial that he won’t be with us every day, we are really excited for him and grateful for his dedication and commitment to Visions. Joseph has carved out a thoughtful, compassionate path of service, dedicating his life to help others recover and find peace with their suffering. Reverend Joseph Rogers, M.Div as a nice sound to it, eh?

 

“A kind, gentle soul. I will miss seeing Joseph’s smile everyday. I always look forward to his gems and guidance. A true friend I have found. I wish him the very best as he sets out on his journey. The world is a better place for him being here. Thank you for the honor of working with you.”– Noelle Rodriguez

 

“Ahhh! JRO! We will miss you and your gentle ways. Throughout the years, you have been a driving force for our school. You provide so much more than a basic education to our kids; the love you have put into it has been so good for us and the clients. We are so proud of your hard work and making it into the UCLA program, you truly lead by example. We will miss you very much. Thank you for the years spent together!” Amanda Shumow

 

I befriended Joseph years ago while I was studying at CSUN in the credential program. I told him that I worked at a little place called Visions and he was immediately interested. Soon after being hired, he took the position at IOP as teacher. Over the years he has made his mark as a calm leader with a fierce passion for his work. Joseph is wise and knows enough to always be learning. He is an educator in the truest sense of the word and will be missed by staff and students alike. His contribution to Visions has been, and will forever be, immeasurable. Joseph embodies the words of Bruce Lee: “A teacher is never a giver of truth; he is a guide, a pointer to the truth that each student must find for himself.” – Daniel Dewey

 

“​Joseph is an amazing person, teacher and soul.  He is someone that you meet and instantly feel that you are in the presence of someone wise, calm, and fearless. I wish him all the best, in all that he does!” — Jenny Werber

“I’ve never known anyone to be more universally liked by clients and parents than Joseph. Joseph is the rare person with whom you can disagree, but still feel your view was thoughtfully considered, while not feeling imposed by his own.”  – Garth LeMaster

 

“Joseph, you are a man with great insight and gentle wisdom. I have seen you live your convictions, tenderly heal wounded children and be the doorway of understanding for lost souls. I wish you peace, joy, challenges and love. Thank you for your part in my crazy art lady journey.”  Ever faithfully yours — Susan “The Art Lady” O’Conner

 

“Joseph has not only been an amazing role model as a productive co-worker but has become an amazing friend and mentor for whom I will dearly miss. I wish nothing but the best for him and all the experiences to come. You will be missed and loved always ” — Nick Riefner

 

“Joseph’s energy is contagious in every way possible. Every time I see him, no matter what is happening, he seems calm and at peace… For someone as anxiety driven as I am, being around someone so serene is refreshing. I have so much respect for Joseph and aspire to one day walk with as much dignity as he does.” – Ashley Harris 

 

“Joseph will be missed.  He has a very special way of relating to our clients that involves, at times, an extraordinary amount of patience.  I often sit out here at my desk and listen in to the conversations going on between Joseph and the kids.  I am equally entertained, amazed, and grateful to have been a fly on the wall of Joseph’s classroom.” – Natalie Holman

 

“I’ll miss Joseph terribly, I think it’s been so beneficial for our teens to see strength in a man shown through kindness, non judgment and calmness.” Roxie Fuller

 

“Thank you, Joseph. Thank you for helping to create an environment for learning, healing and recovery for Visions kids and families. Thank you for your unique perspective for leading the education and meditation groups and classes. There is some thing very special about the way you gently lead the kids with confidence and class. Thank you, Joseph!” – John Lieberman

 

“Joseph has been teaching me since my first day – a friend, a mentor, and a big brother all in one.  I’ve been afforded so much of his wisdom and care from this relationship, it will be really hard not to have him here all the time.  Riding shotgun while he teaches mediation, DBT, or most importantly sober FUN, he constantly helps me take care of the kids and myself in the kindest and simplest ways.  No one can really imagine Visions without him; I’m just grateful for all the time I’ve had with him and that he will still be doing groups with me.” – Jesse Engdahl

 

“Joseph has been such a huge part of my Visions experience and I think I’m the saddest to see him go. He is my friend, my teacher, my mentor, and my right hand. He has always been so supportive and understanding of things only us Visions teachers would understand. He has a strange yet peaceful way about him that makes any day a good day. He always seems to have the right words of wisdom in any situation and it’s hard to imagine he won’t be around. After years of morning check-ins about life, love, and the pursuit of sanity I’m going to miss him dearly. I wish him the best in his new endeavors and I am forever grateful for the time, wisdom, knowledge, and random facts he’s passed on to me. I’ll continue to make you proud, Jofes… thank you for being my shoulder to whine on, my ear to vent, and my rock to keep me sane.” – Adriana Camarillo

 

“With a heavy heart, I bid farewell to an amazing man, father and colleague. I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside Joseph for nearly a decade and it’s hard to imagine my day-to-day without him. Joseph represents a quiet force, guiding his students with conviction and offering hope where there may be none. While he continues to be a spiritual inspiration to both staff and students, we will miss the man who, for so long, has been the core of Visions Day School.  The feeling is bittersweet. Selfishly, we want him to stay. But the truth is, he has another calling and with that, I honor his path and I am always grateful for this experience.” – Fiona Ray

 

Categories
Adolescence Mental Health Mindfulness Recovery

Can Contemplative Practices Foster Recovery?

In addition to our therapeutic programs, Visions offers contemplative practices to our teens that teach and encourage skills for self-regulation and self-care. We have regular yoga classes and a weekly meditation group.

 

Jessica Rosen, founder of One Down Dog in Silverlake, heads up our yoga program. She brings in a playful element to yoga that the kids love. This allows them to reconnect with themselves in a profound way. I spoke to Jessica and asked her what she feels she brings to the clients, and how contemplative practices are helpful in recovery. She said, “Through the practice of yoga I hope to offer students the tools to get comfortable in discomfort. Through yoga and meditation we explore our challenges, we confront our inner critic, we gain clarity and find acceptance. For example, the ability to sit in a hip opener may help us sit through a tough breakup, or better handle confrontation and fights with our friends/parents, and gain confidence in ourselves and our appearance.”

 

I also asked Joseph Rogers, Visions Education Coordinator at the Visions Day School, Chaplain and meditation facilitator, how he feels meditation is helping the clients.  Joseph said, “The most immediate and greatest benefit is that the clients learn how to, as the Big Book says, ‘stop and pause when agitated.’ Additionally, I try to make a great deal of effort to put these kids on the path of compassion for themselves and others.”

 

The contemplative practices can have a profound effect on one’s ability to self-regulate, self-soothe, and connect with the present moment. Both offer a chance to pause, to look inward, and to come to a place of equanimity (mental calmness and composure) when faced with difficulty.

 

I too teach yoga to youth, and one thing I notice are the high levels of stress these kids face. The pressures of being cool, getting good grades, and the discomfort of the rapid physical changes can be overwhelming. This is where contemplative practices are useful. I’ve found that teaching kids the ability to take a deep breath and pause before responding or reacting to difficulty is hugely beneficial. Developing a sense of self-awareness helps eliminate the sense of perpetual urgency to respond or act on an impulse. The contemplative practices also engage the parasympathetic nervous system—the area within our nervous system that quiets the fight or flight response, quells anxiety, and brings things back into harmony.

 

There are three key tools for self-regulation, and the contemplative practices are the perfect conduit for them:

 

Grounding, Resourcing, and Orienting.

 

Grounding: Reconnecting to the present moment, your emotions and physical sensations. One grounds themselves by noticing their feet on the floor, or placing your hands on something solid in order to help themselves get back into the body. Taking deep breaths while you are doing this can help you track the sensations mindfully. Taking a time out when you are dysregulated is the first step to getting grounded.

 

Resourcing:  We all have resources within us or outside of ourselves. Resources are tools we can easily access that make us reconnect with calm. For example, breath can be a resource. Your hands on your belly or lap can be a resource. Your pet can be a resource. A resource is something that helps you feel good when everything around you is dismal.

 

Orienting:  Checking in with your surroundings. When we are not self-regulated, we check out. This is a disembodying experience–one that feels determinedly unsafe and out of control.  So when we orient, we do so by consciously noticing our surroundings and we do this by looking around the room, noticing where we are, where we are sitting or standing—Orienting is acute observation or present-time awareness.

 

The contemplatice practices of yoga and meditation provide a means of engaging the parasympathetic nervous system. They create a sense of awareness, and allow the practitioner to be ok with not being ok, and to accept where they are emotionally and physically in that particular moment in space and time.  Addiction and mental illness are dysregulating, but the use of contemplative practices opens the door to self-regulation, which does foster recovery.

Categories
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.

Categories
Mental Health Recovery Spirituality

Acceptance: Recovery and Beyond

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Acceptance is a facet of recovery that challenges many of us. It can be the impetus for pushback and resistance regardless of how much sober/recovery time one has.  Initially, we begin by learning to accept the basics of recovery: our powerlessness, our mental health, and our addictions. As we progress, the areas in which we may need acceptance shift, or broaden, and the work continues. We may ask ourselves why we are not where we think we should be in our lives, and finding acceptance around that can be a thorny process. It means holding space for the fact that our addiction or mental illness more than likely postponed our hopes and expectations of being doctors or lawyers or from saving the world from zombies. Don’t worry; you can still do all of these things, though not on your original schedule. In fact, you may find yourself capable of doing a heck of a lot more!

Another difficulty for a some folks is the time and energy spent trying to please others. People-pleasing behaviors are pretty common when a lack of acceptance is involved. Behaviors like:

  • Shifting one’s reality—environment, opinions, friends, likes, dislikes–in order to please others.
  • Ignoring your own needs (see above)
  • Seeking approval from others in an effort to find happiness
  • Making others more important than yourself
  • Being inauthentic or a chameleon in order to “fit in”

Sure, accepting that we are enough as we are is not easy, especially at first. We ask for “spiritual progress not perfection,” right? However, we may be asking ourselves why we aren’t prettier, thinner, or more handsome, or why we don’t have better clothes or that cool car, or that guy or that girl. These thoughts are harmful, not helpful. As we create this ever-growing list of what we think we should have versus what we do have, we will come to find acceptance moving further and further away. Bottom line is, negative self-talk is terribly detrimental to the recovery process. It prevents us from being in the “here and now.” It prevents us from loving ourselves, which makes it more of a challenge to love others. It disallows us to accept love into our own lives. Our efforts to please others or subscribe to the expectations of others act as a filter that prevents change yet encourages codependence.

Acceptance takes time. It takes effort. It takes willingness. It is understanding that things are as they are: you pay your taxes, you obey the speed limit, you listen to your parents, you don’t drink and use, you practice self-care, you go to meetings and call your sponsor, and you take direction.

Surely, the challenges that lead to or distract from acceptance are many; in truth, writing it is even a bit nebulous because the concept is almost undefinable. Frankly, acceptance is best learned and discovered by simply beginning to take contrary actions that lead to letting go of old behaviors so we can be less reactive and more accepting in the face of adversity and discomfort.  To aptly quote Joseph Rogers, “It’s easier to work with the laws of the universe than to bash our heads against them.”

Categories
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.