Adolescence Dual Diagnosis Family Parenting Recovery

An Intensive Family Program Promotes Healing the Family System

Visions knows that a family in crisis needs requires an intensive family program. It doesn’t benefit a family to be viewed as having individual branches that need to be removed, trimmed or repaired. We are thrilled to be building out our 3-day intensive family program with the help of Jeff and Terra Holbrook. They have been doing family work for almost two decades and are deeply committed to healing the family system. Their insight and experience are invaluable and in line with the  culture of Visions. Visions wants the family to heal from the inside out; We require all families to go to:

  • Weekly parent support groups;
  • Weekly multi-family groups; and
  • Individual family sessions.

Families are also encouraged to go to outside support groups (Al-Anon, AA, ACA, Refuge Recovery, et cetera).  When we meet with families, we address issues of attachment, enmeshment, codependency, and we assist families in creating healthy boundaries. The recovery process requires a level of willingness and curiosity on everyone’s part and it is particularly important to do family work because addiction and mental health are rooted in the family system. It is not uncommon for parents and loved ones affected by their child’s addiction or mental illness to become angry, place blame, distance themselves from their child, or try to fix the problem themselves; often times, the focus remains on the addict. Here’s where an intensive family program comes in.


Think of the family system as a garden. Imagine the roots of everything in the garden weaving their way through nutrient rich soil containing love, respect, healthy boundaries, positive attention, and connection to healthy resources. Now imagine what happens when that same soil becomes fallow: The roots begin to suffer from neglect, abuse, abandonment, deprivation, and entanglement; the garden begins to whither away, grasping onto whatever is closest to try to survive. Family systems need to be nurtured from their root systems all the way up. Removing one unhealthy part won’t allow the entire system to heal. In fact, the entire root system will malfunction as a result.


Our intensive family program provides salient educational tools for parents to learn to face addiction and mental health in a healthier way. Families must begin to unpeel their own layers, and begin looking deeply within themselves and at the origins of their own root systems. Parents must also understand what they are asking their kids to do to recover, and more importantly, it’s invaluable for parents to show their kids they are willing to do the same hard work.  For example, if a family is asking their kids to look at how they are powerless, that same family needs to ask themselves the same question.  Addiction and mental health are a family disease; they are not isolated incidents wherein one family member goes rogue. As David Sheff, author of Clean says, “The addicted are not morally bereft, they are ill.”


An intensive family program will also help parents move away from the stigma of mental health and addiction and move toward acceptance and healing.  Families are often surprised to find out that their feelings are in line with their child’s: Both may feel angry, betrayed, ashamed, scared, resentful, frustrated, tired, and so on. When parents are able to shed a light on these similarities, the willingness to look at the hows and whys of addiction and mental illness becomes more palpable. Recognizing this similarity also elicits compassion and empathy for their child and for themselves. When a family can recognize that everything is connected, recovery can truly bloom.

Adolescence Mental Health Parenting Recovery

Accepting Your LGBT Teen

Identifying as an LGBT teen

for the first time is a courageous, albeit scary leap toward self-acceptance. Often times, one embarks on this leap with great trepidation, avoiding conflict with aversive family and friends while creating a whirlwind of conflict within. In cases where there is little to no familial support, this process can really be challenging. We have hosted several LGBT youth in our programs and we offer them a wide variety of support while also encouraging them to be unabashedly who they are.


I asked Joseph Rogers, one of our teachers and the Education Coordinator at our Day School, to identify some ways to support LGBT teens in their recovery. Joseph says,

“I think one of the most important aspects of recovery for an LGBT teen is the availability of LGBT meetings. Additionally, it is important for LGBT youth to develop a mentor relationship with someone who has dealt with the challenges of growing up as an LGBT youth in American society. LGBT youth, like all young people who get sober, need to see that there is a life beyond drugs and alcohol; that there is a life to be had and a life to be built.”


Some other challenges LGBT youth often face is familial discord and deep resistance to a sexual identity different from the family’s perspective on societal norms.  Often times, families are more concerned about what others thing rather than focusing on what their teen needs. When I asked Garth LeMaster, MA, LMFT, and therapist at our Outpatient Program about what parents can do in order to support their teen, he said,

“The most important thing for a parent to do is get support for any feelings that may arise.  The kid may be dealing with enough regarding their feelings, so parents must provide a safe place for them to land.  If they do not, they make like infinitely more difficult for the kid and can seriously damage the relationship.”


A component of our treatment programs are our family support groups and we offer them to parents throughout their teen’s treatment. These groups are a terrific resource for parents to use and lean into. They can provide the group support necessary to help parents unravel the tangle of emotional difficulties they may be experiencing. It’s also beneficial for parents who are having difficulty accepting their LGBT teen to have individual therapy, which facilitate a deeper unraveling and investigation of the root causes of resistance.


SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) shared incredible statistics about the connection between familial support and the betterment of behavioral health. SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) announced their new resource “A Practioner’s Resource Guide:  Helping Families to Support Their LGBT Children,” which can be downloaded for free. The statistics show LGBT teens with low or no family support, who experience rejection instead of acceptance were:

  • 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide
  • 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression
  • 3.4 times more likely to use illicit drugs; and
  • 3.4 times more likely to report having engaged in unprotected sex—

Compared with peers from families that reported no or low levels of family rejection.

Family acceptance helps:

  • Protect against depression, suicidal behavior and substance abuse;
  • Promote self-esteem, social support, and overall health.


LGBT teens faced with this inner conflict can often feel like outcasts, castigated for not being like “everyone else,” and challenged to conform. If we as a community can provide support for your LGBT teen, we can help normalize the transition from feeling apart from to feeling a part of a community.


Creating a safe, supportive space for a teen coming to grips with their sexual identity is a necessary component in allowing them to land on both feet in their recovery and in their process of self-acceptance. Showing our kids that they are loved and cared for, regardless of who they are, is an invaluable gift we can give our kids.

Mental Health Mindfulness

Mindfulness: Looking at Addiction In a New Way

The benefits of a mindfulness practice can be felt by anyone willing to be present and prepared to stop running from their feelings and fears. The practice of mindfulness allows us to come into direct contact with the here and now, bringing with it a sense of awareness and healing. In doing so, we are able to directly see how our addictions, actions, and behaviors are causing us suffering.  Similar to the 12-step model, mindfulness provides us with the opportunity to take contrary action. As a result, we begin to notice and work with our uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, body sensations, and reactions to the physical and emotional cravings closely associated with addiction.

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Confronted with anxiety or fear or panic, our basic, human instinct is to run in the opposite direction as quickly as possible, hoping to get out of harm’s way. These feelings are uninvited guests, after all, right?  In this case, our bodies’ “fight or flight” response is immediately triggered. So, what happens if we go the other way? What happens if we turn into our fear, into our anxiety, or into our trauma? What if, through conscious breath and direct attention, we learn to give those feelings space? The interesting thing about doing this is the intensity of those feelings will eventually begin to lesson and our unwanted guests start to lose their footing. No, the trauma isn’t gone, but in that moment of stopping and facing our fears, we have done something incredibly powerful: shone light into the darkest corners of our hearts and minds.

Through my own experience in recovery, dealing with trauma and its corresponding anxiety, I have found the most peace and healing through my practice of meditation and yoga. I have learned to use my breath in a way that allows me to move with my emotions rather against them. I liken it to moving with the ebb and flow of the sea. In early sobriety, when a higher power was in question, I remember being told to “try and stop a wave” only to discover that I most certainly could not. Within that phrase also lies an inference that we cannot “stop” something from coming at us. Utilizing mindfulness, we then learn how to to ride the wave without causing additional harm and without getting lost in the energy driving the fear or addiction. In turn, we may discover that those blasted shadows we are accustomed to running from appear much larger than their reflecting counterpart. From this perspective, things look a heck of a lot more manageable.

As we are challenged to turn off the autopilot we’ve become accustomed to, we are given an opportunity to learn to respond to triggers and cravings in a non-harming way. As such, we are beginning to view our feelings, thoughts, cravings, and sensations with curiosity and non-judgment rather that the usual disdain. In those moments when the freedom of awareness and being present are there, the real healing has a chance to begin: one breath at a time.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. has a wonderful series, which I’ve linked to below:

Mindfulness and Addiction, Part 1

Mindfulness and Addiction, Part 2

Mindfulness and Addiction, Part 3

Further reading:
Meditation for Addiction Recovery

Kevin Griffin

Mindfulness and Addiction meetings:
Against the Stream

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