Blog: News & Views from the Field

Knowledge can be empowering. Whether you are seeking recovery for yourself or someone else, we hope you find our blog topics helpful. Check back often or subscribe today.

Another Day, Another Chance Can Lead to Path of Recovery

"This correspondence is forwarded from a Massachusetts Correctional Institution" was stamped on the back of the envelope containing a letter from a client whom I've worked with across multiple treatment episodes over the last eight years. My first reaction was relief that she was alive, because I recently heard that she had relapsed.

As I read her letter, I learned of her most recent relapse and the ensuing emotional, physical and legal hurricane that followed. During a two week lapse she lost her car, her apartment, her freedom, and twice, her life. One overdose was reversed by a friend's nasal naloxone (Narcan). The next overdose was reversed at the emergency room and left her with several broken ribs.

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Making Treatment of Substance Use Disorders Culturally Responsive

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An expected standard in the behavioral health industry is for treatment to be culturally responsive.  That is, cultural competence should be demonstrated by the organization, as well as, by the clinical staff delivering services.  But what exactly does it mean to be culturally competent?

To answer this question we must first recognize what culture is and how it impacts all of us.  Each person, client and clinician, comes to the therapeutic environment with their own history and experiences which provide a framework for how each views the world. 

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On Mindfulness, Acceptance, and Addictive Thinking

When mindfulness practice, a non-judgmental, observational approach, is incorporated into addiction treatment, a client can utilize the power of conscious thought and action to replace identification with addictive impulses and behaviors. Or more simply, the practice of mindfulness can help our clients experience a deep connection with the present moment. This is in contrast to the characteristic patterns of addictive thinking, which often includes rumination about the past and future, obsessive cravings, and distracted attention. Scans conducted on individuals who practiced only 10 hours overall of mindfulness already demonstrate differences in the neurochemistry of their brain.

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Recovery Through Entrepreneurship

Reentry and reintegration of criminal justice clients are the primary goals of all criminal justice rehabilitative efforts.  There are few who would disagree that jobs are a major key to successful recovery.  There is a need for a fresh approach to employment through entrepreneurial trainings and opportunities for prison inmates and participants in community substance abuse treatment programs.  The focus of this blog is on increasing employment opportunities for substance abusers as a means of aiding recovery, reducing recidivism and facilitating a prosocial lifestyle. The need to improve employment opportunities is evident from the substance abuse and criminal justice literature. Research has demonstrated the effectiveness of substance abuse treatment in reducing drug use and recidivism, while employment – an important aspect of a prosocial lifestyle -- has lagged behind. Thus, new models for providing vocational training must be developed. In light of this need, the proposed alliance support the utilization of social entrepreneurship as a means of making vocational training a more significant treatment tool, one that is thoroughly integrated into the recovery process.

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Using Mindfulness in Teaching Clients New Ways of Thinking

Neurological science has demonstrated that the practice of mindfulness improves learning as well as quality of life, enhances the ability to cope with problems when they arise, and interestingly enough, makes learning new concepts actually meaningful, as opposed to simply learning a new concept because you are being told to do so. In learning the practice of mindfulness, clinicians have a unique opportunity to make learning new ways of thinking a meaningfulness experience.

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Spectrum's Research Focus

As I reported in my last blog, there has been growing interest at Spectrum in developing a research capability to explore and enhance the organization’s understanding of treatment processes and further improve program effectiveness.  As part of Spectrum’s increased focus on research, I have conducted a survey with a small group of my senior colleagues  to help inform Spectrum’s current research initiative and suggest strategies to maximize benefits to the programs and contributions to the treatment field.  The survey results are the basis of my current blog series.

This blog focuses on the survey question, “What are the major unanswered questions in treatment research?”  As Spectrum considers how best to engage and expand its research work, it is important to consider what experienced researchers view as the areas needing attention and to identify where the field is heading.   

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Spectrum's New Research Initiative

Spectrum is a national leader in delivery of evidence-based substance abuse treatment services. Recently, there has been growing interest in developing a research capability to explore and increase understanding of treatment processes and further improve program effectiveness. Spectrum’s interest in research is demonstrated by the recent formation of an Institutional Review Board (IRB) that is needed to approve federally funded research projects conducted at Spectrum and the creation of a research advisory group.

As Spectrum more actively engages in research, it is important to deepen our understanding of the research “business.” As Spectrum’s Senior Research Advisor, I have conducted a survey with a small group of my senior colleagues 1 who are recognized leaders in treatment research and the application of research findings. The purpose of my informal survey was to help inform the current Spectrum research initiative and provide ideas on some strategies to maximize benefits to the programs and contribution to the treatment field.

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Mindfulness in Young Adult Recovery: Research and Benefits of Practice

romas-buivydasMind over matter. This old adage encouraged us to believe that the mind is more powerful than the body, but is this actually true? What difference could a few positive thoughts possibly have in your daily life? The answer is much more than we could have anticipated. Research has shown the practical and statistical benefits behind meditation, or mindfulness, as an addiction recovery technique. Let’s take a look at some of the most fascinating finds from these studies.

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Integrated TC Treatment for Offenders with Co-Occurring Substance Abuse and Psychiatric Histories

I recently had the opportunity to present to Spectrum staff and criminal justice administrators in Georgia on prison TC treatment of co-occurring disorders (COD). The Georgia DOC is forward thinking and very interested in effective prison treatment and a strong supporter of Spectrum’s COD treatment approach.  I have taken this blog opportunity to share the Georgia presentation.

Historically, mental health and substance abuse treatment have been seen as separate entities with different procedures, professional orientations and certifications.  In recent years, there has been a growing realization that COD disorders that include both a mental health and substance abuse diagnoses are more the norm then the exception and the preferred treatment approach based on both research findings and best practices is to treat both at the same time in an integrated approach. Spectrum is a leader in this area and is a firm supporter of integrated treatment for co-occurring disorders, both in prison and the community.

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Spectrum’s Integrated Cognitive Behavioral/Therapeutic Community Model

Spectrum Health Systems is a leader in creating integrated treatment models that bring together the best of therapeutic community (TC) and cognitive behavioral approaches (CBT).  I have recently had the pleasure of working with Spectrum senior staff Peter Paolantonio, Christopher Petrozzi and Cindy Buraczynski to write a groundbreaking article “Integrated Cognitive Behavioral Treatment in Prison-Based Therapeutic Communities” that was recently published in the “Offender Programs Report” a well-respected publication that is widely read by treatment professionals.  Publishing is important because it provides an opportunity to share what we have learned and helps bring national attention to the excellent work at Spectrum.

A long-standing controversy in the substance treatment field has been whether the TC or CBT models are more effective.  For a long time I have felt that this question is somewhat misleading and out of date since most effective programs usually include elements of both approaches.  Over the last few years while serving as Senior Research Advisor at Spectrum, I have had the opportunity to deepen my understanding and appreciation of Spectrum’s integrated approach.  Based upon the work at Spectrum, the decision was made to share its approach with the larger community of substance abuse and criminal justice professionals. 

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