Mental Health Recovery Therapy Treatment

Mental Health Care: The Only Way Out is Through

English: Tranquility
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mental health is not something to be meddled with. It’s not something that can be fixed by prayer or meditation or going to yoga or by thinking positively. It requires legitimate clinically supported psychological care.  For some that may require a long-term in-patient program, for some, that may require an intensive outpatient program, and for some that may require weekly meetings with a therapist. The spiritual practices of prayer, meditation and yoga can and ought to be integrated into any therapeutic work but they are not the end all be all.


Stepping onto the path of recovery is about change. It’s about shifting one’s perspective and learning how to redefine and shift old paradigms so we can create new ones. We must first begin with our old thought patterns and old ideals, which are heavily ingrained in us. The older we are, the deeper the planting, and often the more difficult the change, though not impossible.


It is imperative that we seek help for our mental health needs when we need it. If we are confronted with clinical depression, anxiety, OCD, panic disorders, or PTSD, this is where a skilled psychologist or therapist or possibly a psychiatrist should come in.  Bypassing it is dangerous and causes us more harm than it does good. Often times, we seek that magic bullet that will make everything just go away, but it doesn’t. We have to walk through it, or stumble through it, whatever the case may be.


I am reminded of my newcomer years: I was a mess. And when I say mess, I mean, a real mess. I was angry, resistant, but I was full of fire. I was ultimately convinced that I was going to be killed by my feelings (clearly, that didn’t happen!), and I would wax poetic dramatically that it was so.  If it weren’t for people pulling me out of myself and into reality, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Part of that process was also learning to walk through my issues not around them, because wherever I went, they were right there with me, like a trusted companion, ready and willing to make my life miserable.


You don’t have to do this alone. In fact, you can’t. There is a network of mental health care that avails you and a network of support groups at the ready. One step at a time, one breath at time, one minute at time, recovery is possible. Mental health care is possible but one thing is for sure, the only way out is through.


Addiction Adolescence Mental Health Recovery Service Treatment

Visions: We Have Your Back

I go through the news endlessly, looking for things of interest for the Visions community, looking for things that act as a springboard for the Visions’ blogs, or simply reading to stay on top of the myriad things going on in the environment in which we live and breathe. I sniff out science and psychology articles the way some people seek pop culture references. Keeping you informed and in the loop is my priority. At Visions, we see and experience all walks of life and treat a varied population of teens struggling with everything from mental health issues, substance abuse, and psychological trauma, and for that reason, it’s imperative we address a multitude of subjects.


We are currently knee deep in the heat of summertime, and for some, that might signify a sense of freedom. For some, it’s a time of leisure, and dealing with “issues” feels like it’s putting a crimp in their style. For others, it’s just a shift in barometric pressure and a change in their work attire. Because we maintain a structured schedule year round, Visions maintains a level of consistency that adds a real sense of grounding for teens while they are learning to navigate the newness of recovery. This provides consistency and structure for our treatment population, which is highly beneficial to their recovery process whether they are at one of our inpatient facilities, outpatient, our Day School,  or NeXT. The goal is to create a safe, therapeutic container for our adolescents and their families.


Visions has an incredible knack for providing different psychological layers of support for teens to pass through in order for them to get back onto their feet. What I mean by this is, we don’t just toss them back into the unchartered world with old friends and into old stomping grounds without proper coping skills and tools to manage new feelings and challenges. In fact, we encourage the development of new friends, with healthier habits more in line with a lifestyle in recovery. We provide teens with different levels to walk through and gain success and confidence before moving onto something new. If that means backing up a step or two, then we encourage that and provide sufficient support until the client is established and grounded enough in their recovery to move forward.


I marvel at the resiliency in so many of our families. Substance and mental health aren’t easy seas to navigate, but they are not impossible and the Visions team is one that is full of many skilled sailors. Many of us are walking the path of recovery ourselves. It’s imperative that we do stay on top of what’s going on both inside of our facilities and out in the world. If we have our blinders on in any of these places, we become limited in our ability to do what we do best, and that is help those who cross our path. We cannot leave any stone unturned because we never know who might need our help.

Mental Health Recovery Spirituality

Acceptance: A Practice of the Heart

via saritphoto

Acceptance: this is one of the toughest yet most valuable attributes we can pursue in our lives. Sometimes, we are so attached to a thought or idea or vision that we cannot see beyond the very thing we seek. When this happens, we disallow others to contribute or share their ideas and solutions, leaving us essentially painted into a corner. I often ask, “Is it more important to be right or to be happy?” How many of us inadvertently choose the former, fighting tooth and nail for the chance to be right? How many choose to accept being wrong in an effort to promote happiness? Acceptance of others and their opinions and ideas play a huge part in this process. But in order to get there, we have to first learn to accept ourselves.


Self-acceptance means loving ourselves in spite of difficulties, in spite of imperfections, and really, in spite of the lies we tell ourselves. Acceptance of others means allowing them to be just who they are. Lessons for acceptance can be found in every pitfall, every success, every disappointment, every challenge, and every accomplishment: it is in our responses to those things where our acceptance or lack of acceptance is exposed.  Accepting “things as they are” tends to give us us the most trouble—it’s human nature to want to change things to fit our needs and wants. But as an old work mate once told me, “You can’ t recarpet the world. Sometimes you just need to put on some fuzzy slippers.”


Acceptance is not a finite goal: it is a practice. There’s no magic bullet that makes someone who struggles with acceptance suddenly stop and become “enlightened.” We learn to accept others by accepting ourselves.


I practice a lot of yoga, in fact, I’m entering teacher training next week.  A little over a year ago, I suffered an injury that shifted the way I practice. All of a sudden, I couldn’t do the hard-core power practice I was used to. I had to suddenly be gentle with myself and accept the fact that I needed to shift the way I was doing things. My first response was to just stop practicing. But that made me miserable. Then I had to really delve into what my practice was really about. Was ego there? If so, was it helpful or harmful? I had to ask myself, “Am I less of a yogi because I will never be able to do a handstand?” The truth is, I was gifted with the greatest opportunity to practice acceptance: Acceptance of my body and its injured state, the acceptance of my practice as a yogi, and the acceptance of others who are doing what I once wished I could do.


Every day is an opportunity to be in a state of acceptance, to act out of love and kindness rather than jealousy and hate. I find that being in a place of acceptance also requires that we have the courage to walk with an open heart.


““A further sign of health is that we don’t become undone by fear and trembling, but we take it as a message that it’s time to stop struggling and look directly at what’s threatening us. ” Pema Chödrön

Addiction Mental Health Parenting Recovery

Video Game Addiction: Our Digital Foe

English: Image released to the public domain through the official website at (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Video game addiction: Like most things where addiction is in question, the behaviors and call signs are similar. There is an unquenchable desire for more, leading to irritability, anger, despondence, and isolation. Video game addiction isn’t a substance abuse disorder; it as a clinical impulse control disorder, similar to a gambling addiction. In other words, playing the game becomes a compulsive call to action. Role-playing games in particular can evolve into an addictive foe.


Meet George. He’s 13 and he is always seen plugged into a device. It could be an iPhone, or his desktop computer, but he is never without some kind of technical distraction. He’s been like this ever since I can remember—I think he got his first game around 6. As he’s gotten older, he has become more and more involved in the role-playing games online, locking himself away in a room with his headphones on so he can talk to his online “friends.” He is, however, completely anti-social when it comes to interacting with actual people. School is fraught with fights and suspensions, and parental communication is bereft of any real content or authority. At home, if there’s an opportunity for actual play, George will sneak off to play a video game—he did this once during a game of hide-and-seek, leaving his playmate hidden for an extended period of time. From the outside in, this looks troublesome—it IS troublesome–but George’s parents see it as keeping him occupied and engaged. Have we forgotten how to interact with our children? Have we made our own needs and external busyness more important than creating an emotional connection with our kids?


The current generation is the first “native” tech generation. They have never known a life without cell phones, a world without the Internet and its multitude of social media sites, or gaming and the varied choices in virtual realities. These things are just part of this generation’s day-to-day life. Our social environments have been forever changed, and sites like Facebook are often considered to be the sole vehicle for maintaining friendships. I won’t lie, I like that I am able to keep in touch with out-of-state friends because of Facebook. It certainly has its value. Online gaming can be fun. Lots of folks play online games on occasion, and often times, it’s harmless, but there are those (like George) who are seduced by the alluring cyber world of false reality and find themselves getting lost when the digital falsehood becomes more important than reality itself.


According to the Center for Online Addiction, these are the warning signs to look for:


  • Your child is playing video games for increasing amounts of time;
  • Thinking about gaming during other activities;
  • Gaming to escape from real-life problems, anxiety, or depression;
  • Lying from friends and family to conceal gaming;
  • Feeling irritable when trying to cut down on gaming.


They also suggest keeping note of the following and seeking help as soon as you recognize a problem brewing:


  • Log how often your child plays and for how long;
  • Problems arising out of gaming;
  • Your child’s reaction to time limits.


Treatment for video game addiction is similar to dealing with food addiction in that you have to learn how to live with it and use it responsibly. And you have to detox from the addiction itself by unplugging for a period of time. We are in a computer generation: we live and work on our computers, and if addiction is an issue, then we need to learn to change our relationships to them so we can use them responsibly. Now that we are inundated with technology, we have to learn how to safely navigate the broadly accessible world it’s created. Recovery is possible.


Articles of interest:

Video Game Addiction Among Adolescents: Associations with Academic Performance
and Aggression


Parenting Recovery

Wise Speech: A Behavior Worth Modeling

Our speech is a powerful tool: What we say and how we say it can have a profound effect on whomever we’re talking to. If we are kind, it can change the trajectory of the conversation; likewise, rudeness and thoughtless speech can wreak havoc. Part of recovery is changing our actions and our interactions with others. When we speak wisely, we nurture healthy relationships with others, and create a safe haven for ourselves as well as for those around us. The times when it’s really difficult are when someone is being unkind to us.


When you find yourself in a situation where you are concerned about your response, ask yourself:


  • Is it useful?
  • Is it true?
  • Is it kind?
  • Is it all of the above?


The 10th step asks us to “Continue to take personal inventory and when we are wrong, promptly admit it.” This step is part and parcel to paving our spiritual paths, teaching us that spiritual practice is tied to our connections with others. Those connections show us there is something greater than ourselves through connecting with community. When we are unkind, thoughtless, or dishonest with our speech, we disconnect from others, and disconnect ourselves from spiritual connection.


It behooves us to speak kindly, lest we endure the disdain of others. This is not an easy lesson to learn or an easy task to follow, especially in adolescence, where the brain is still developing and the process of individuation is in full force, all of which makes talking back, being rude, and being unskillful with speech par for the course.  How, then, can we effect change amongst the burgeoning minds of our youth? For starters, we need to treat those younger than us with the respect that we would like shown to us. I am not implying that we should become doormats, but I am asking that we practice wise speech and display positive behaviors as an example for our teens.


When we meet rudeness with rudeness, shortness with shortness, and aggravation with aggravation, we are giving our kids mixed messages–“do as I say, not as I do”– which just leads to resentment and frustration. If we want respect, we have to model respect; If we want kindness, we have to model kindness. It is our job to model positive behavior and fess up when we make mistakes. Kids will get it eventually, but it requires patience on our end and a fervent desire to model healthy behaviors.

Feelings Mental Health Recovery

Failure: A Stepping Stone to Success

© Wikipedia

Failure doesn’t have to be a dirty word. It can also be viewed as a stepping-stone to success, be it personal or professional.  In school, for example, failing a test shows us what we don’t know and what we need to study. Sure, the grade is bad, but the opportunity to learn is alive! The need to be right all the time is debilitating – it prevents us from being teachable and from learning new things. Interestingly, failure is what allows us to grow. If you never allow yourself to fail, you limit your ability to expand beyond your safety zone.


When I was growing up, I was told repeatedly that I would be a failure. I thought those words were a death sentence but I know now that is far from the truth. Those words are actually something I used as the impetus to succeed and overcome difficulty. As I got older, got sober, and expanded my comfort zone, I learned something: failure was tantamount to opportunity. It was something that could be used to try again with vim and vigor. I learned that it’s ok to be wrong and it’s ok to fail.

  • Thomas Edison failed 1000 times before he successfully invented the light bulb.
  • J.K. Rowling suffered from depression, poverty, and countless struggles before her success with the Harry Potter series.
  • Michael Jordan was cut from his high-school basketball team but went on to be one of the greatest basketball players in the world.
  • Elvis Presley was fired after one performance at the Grand Ol Opry, and told he should “go back to driving a truck.”
  • Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”


All of these people were regular folks chasing a dream. They experienced failure and setbacks, but they kept trying. When we enter recovery, we are scared and often convinced of our failure. We are scared to succeed, scared to fail, scared to change, and scared to try again, but we have to keep trying. Take that fear and kick it in the pants. You can do anything you set your mind to, you just have to try and try again.


I’ll leave you with this bit from Star Trek. Captain Kirk was so afraid of failure, he rigged the computer program during the Kobayashi Maru – a no-win exercise to see how people dealt with failure. Rigging a win isn’t a real win and defies the real lesson we need to learn: failure is part of finding success.

Addiction Adolescence Recovery

Addiction: Starting Anew and Letting Go

Stop! Are you being of service? Are to being kind? Are you hungry? Are you angry? Are you lonely? Are you tired? #recovery #selfcare #love #kindness #VTeam


It creeps up on you, biding its time, weaving its way into your mind and body, wrecking your resolve, staining your spirit. It plays a game of cat and mouse, its talons elusive, its manipulation brilliant; it captures you like a rat in a cage. I want to say that we can prepare our teens for treatment, but once those talons of addiction are embedded, nothing sane makes sense until the talons are removed and the healing begins. Addiction effects more than the user: it affects the family as a whole, nuclear or otherwise; it doesn’t give two shakes of a lamb’s tail who you are, where you come from, your financial status, race, color, creed, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.


Addiction is a hopeless affair until you stand up to it and take the reigns of your life back. But that process takes work; it takes dedication; it takes a commitment to yourself, to your family, and to the world in which you live. It means looking at the ugly, dark, and terrifying thing in the recesses of your mind and body and naming it. It means recognizing the warrior within and ultimately dealing with whatever it is you’re running from. Something to note about drugs and alcohol: their numbing properties are merely a temporary Band-Aid for a much larger problem.


When a family comes to us, broken and scared, we understand the complex characteristics of what addiction does. It erodes trust, negatively impacts emotional safety, creates an environment fueled by fear and anger, and depletes the coping skills of the family as a whole. As a result, everyone is vulnerable. It is here where the work begins. Often, it is within that vulnerability where one finds the opening in the heart and mind that allows the healing to begin. We understand that the work of the family is layered: it requires honesty, and an ability to look at oneself; it requires willingness to separate your reactions to your child and to develop compassion; it requires a desire to forgive, and a desire to be forgiven. The treatment process allows for a new beginning, if you will, something many don’t ever have a chance to access. It’s an opportunity to recognize the warrior within—we all have one!


I can give you a million tools that may or may not prevent addiction from effecting your life, but the truth is, there’s no one way. For some, addiction is a something they are born with, for others, the spark is triggered by a traumatic event, and for others, it’s something unknown. As parents and support persons, it behooves us to let go of our laundry lists of the woulda-coulda-shouldas, and show up for our suffering teens. We can be supportive, we can get them help, we can love them in spite of their behavior, we can show them the meaning of unconditional love, and we can create safe, healthy boundaries for them and for ourselves. It’s not unlike an addict or alcoholic to push your every button to get a rise out of you, so boundaries are an imperative. Just because you’re showing support doesn’t mean you may continue to be a battering ram. You can love with boundaries: it’s not easy, but once you get the hang of it, your life will change for the better.


Try to remember to be kind to yourself as parents or kind to yourself as the teen in trouble. Allow the clinicians and supporting staff guide you back to wellness and stability. If there’s one thing that has stuck with me since I got sober it’s this: remain teachable. Once you think you know everything, you can’t learn anything new. Taking these early steps onto the recovery path is part of a letting-go process: we let go of what we think we know so we can learn a new way of living.

Allow yourself the opportunity to begin the healing process and embark on this path out of the darkness of addiction and be welcomed into the arms and support of the recovery community. With recovery comes grace and dignity, and those are qualities lacking in the addiction realm.


Serious to Silly: Finding your Funny Bone in Recovery

Do we have to stop being silly just because we’re in recovery?  I think not!  In fact, our mental health just might be at stake if we get too serious!

Things we do need to be serious about:

  • Our sobriety
  • The 12 Steps
  • Our speech: is it helpful or harmful?
  • Our actions: are you being selfish, self-centered, greedy, or manipulative?
  • Our health: are you taking care of our mental and physical health?
  • Asking for help
  • Developing self-awareness
  • Self-care

But here are some things where being silly, play, lightheartedness can be invited in:

  • Creativity
  • Exercise…outside…in the mountains, or at the beach. In fact, learn how to do something new, like stand up paddle boarding, and bring your sense of humor with you–you’ll need it!
  • Look random things during your day that bring you joy and share them with others.
  • Games: grab a yo-yo or try to walk a slinky down some stairs. Remembering how to be ridiculous is truly liberating.
  • Have a Game night. Seriously a night hanging out with friends, some coffee, and a silly game like Balderdash can be hilarious.

Getting sober, managing mental health issues, learning how to be comfortable again or for the first times in our bodies is hard work. It’s scary, emotional, and intense. When we get lost in the intensity, and lose site of our light side, recovery can feel overwhelming.  This is where finding humor, laughter, and fun can act as a release valve we so desperately need.  Keep it simple never sounded so good!

Mental Health Recovery Self-Care

Don’t Let Dysfunction Dim Your Light

When we come to recovery, one of the toughest realizations is the discovery of family dysfunction and the work it takes to heal those relationships. Sometimes when we heal, our families don’t heal with us. Being the addict or alcoholic or person suffering from mental illness typically makes us the focal point within the dysfunctional family. So when the healing process begins, it’s not uncommon for a family to try and divert their loved one back to their old behaviors or at least to their old emotional responses. It is what’s familiar, after all. It’s what allows the family to take the focus away from what’s happening within the family dynamic and redirect it onto the “problem.”

How often do we drink, use, starve, self-harm, et cetera, in an attempt to “manage” our discomfort and disconnection within our families? It’s not uncommon for these behaviors to be a direct response to a family’s dysfunction. Sometimes a family will continue to batter and abuse, or enable, all of which evidence their own negative interactions. In this case, the dysfunctional paradigm of the unhealthy family dynamic hasn’t changed, even though you may have. In recovery, we begin to set healthy boundaries with those who persistently spew harmful behaviors our way, but no one says creating those boundaries would be easy. It takes consistent and ardent work coupled with attention to our own reactions to our environments to effect real change.


We work with families all the time at Visions. Many, if not most of our families jump on board and get involved in Al-Anon, make efforts to shift their actions and parenting styles, actively go into therapy, and accept help and suggestions from our clinical staff. They honestly do their best to mend the familial fabric and understand that recovery is a family process. Still, there are some whose own dysfunction prevents the acceptance of help and promotes a culture of denial. In those cases, it’s imperative that boundaries are established and self-care is modeled effectively. In doing this, we allow our light to shine through; we allow our healing to flourish; we allow people into our lives that are safe, kind, and supportive. Being in recovery is a process, and within that process, our internal light gets brighter and stronger.


Visions offers family groups, parent groups, and multiple teen groups in our various facilities. These groups support the individual and their needs as well as the family and its needs. The wounds created by addiction and mental health can and do heal. Therapeutic groups provide a safe container for that process to begin. They build trust and encourage peer support, something urgently necessary in treatment and recovery. We really can’t figure this stuff out for ourselves! It takes a community of clinical and peer support, love, and patience, and healthy boundaries.

Mental Health Recovery

Mental Health Recovery: Lose the Stigma

Recovery (Photo credit: glenn~)

Addiction and mental health are deeply woven into the fabric of our culture. Rather than stigmatizing those suffering from the confines of their minds and addictions of their bodies, it’s clear we need to provide wider ranges of treatment for recovery. Over the Visions has broadened our treatment base, continued to step away from the prohibitive nature of limited thinking, and are continuing to encompass the whole person in treatment. I just read an article that talked about the use of antiquated treatment methods circa 1950, and I was pleasantly reminded of how forward we are in our treatment programs.


Our mental health track has broadened to include the treatment of trauma, provide DBT for all levels of treatment, and allow for alternative methods of support when the 12-step model isn’t appropriate. Recovery isn’t one-size-fits-all, and we recognize that. Our therapists and staff devise a treatment plan appropriate for each client, supporting their individual needs while also providing them with the treatment they need. We can begin to find solace in therapeutic care, safety in our own bodies, and space in our hearts to heal from the deep wounds of our hurts. We will find that there are answers to the most difficult questions if we are ready and willing to do the work. To give up when things are painful or when the shadows are looming cease being a choice when a skillful clinical and support staff supports you.


Remember, healing is a process, not an easy 28-day fix. Recovery is a life-long practice that we engage in one day at a time, and some days, one moment at a time. Many of us want everything right here, right now, supersized, and fast: the typical “quick fix.” Recovery isn’t like that. Allow yourself the chance to slow down and catch your breath. Allow yourself to let go and accept help. Our brains and bodies can recover and learn to hold space for our trauma and addictions in ways that are safe and kind to us as individuals.


Try this for good measure. Find a group of friends whom you trust and feel safe with; make a pact to text each other “.b” (stop-breathe) when you are feeling overwhelmed or when you want to have a unified moment of mindfulness between you and a friend. By doing something as simple as this, we can create a chain of positive healing instead of polishing the old standby chain of sickness. We can recover.

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