Mindfulness-Based Substance Abuse Treatment

Expert Insight from Gilbert Lichstein, Program Director, Gateway Chicago West

2 in a Series of 4

Gateway Alcohol and Drug Treatment Centers employs evidenced-based practices to create meaningful, individualized treatment programs. We believe there is more than one pathway to recovery so we expose clients to a wide array of treatment methodologies. This series explores some of those methodologies.

Mindfulness-Based Sobrietymindfulness-based sobriety

Mindfulness-based sobriety is the core curriculum used by and developed at Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers. Mindfulness is essentially a state of active, open attention on the present. Through mindfulness, those in treatment benefit from gaining enhanced life skills and self-confidence. The curriculum addresses mental health issues like anxiety and impulsivity, which can be a part of substance abuse, either as a contributing factor or as a result.

People tend to avoid thinking about or dealing with things that cause them emotional discomfort, sometimes turning to alcohol or drugs to dull the pain. Mindfulness involves learning to accept things as they are at any given moment rather than thinking about how we would like them to be. This new focus helps people notice things they used to ignore or take for granted. People learn how to observe and accept their thoughts, feelings, sensations and urges without judging or reacting to them.

Gateway’s approach to substance abuse treatment helps individuals gain a willingness to accept the realities of their lives and consequently, the insight required to make value-based decisions. With their values now in focus, people often see that substance abuse doesn’t support the things that are most important in life and is actually holding them back. Recovery becomes more than abstaining from substance abuse – it creates an awareness of how fulfilling life can be.

The skills acquired in mindfulness-based substance abuse treatment can become an integral part of how people live their lives. They can be applied to many situations throughout life, remaining with a person as they grow and change, thus reducing the likelihood of relapse.

Learn More about how Mindfulness-Based Sobriety is used in Gateway Treatment Programs >

Gateway Tip: Mindfulness Solutions to Boost New Year’s Resolution Success

mindfulness-new years resolutions gateway alcohol and drug treatment

To increase resolution success rates in 2015, Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment recommends mindfulness to help ease the burden of change.

According to a 2014 study analyzing the custom of making New Year’s resolutions, approximately 45 percent of Americans declare annual intentions, however only 8 percent achieve them. To increase resolution success rates in 2015, Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment recommends mindfulness  to help ease the burden of change.

Regardless of the goal—from losing weight to getting organized to saving money—an effective way to break bad habits is to form good habits incompatible with the behaviors people want to change, and stick with it.  The reward may not be apparent at first as it can take several months on average to form a new habit through repetition.

“When a person is mindful and makes a concerted effort to ‘stick with it’ eventually new connections to the brain’s reward center will form.  When this happens, the new behavior becomes easier and easier, and as a result the person has a healthier habit to replace a less desirable one,” explains Dr. John Larson, Medical Director, Gateway Treatment Centers.

How can mindfulness improve resolution success? Mindfulness is a  mind-body technique involving awareness of breath, which induces the relaxation response–a physiological response in which blood pressure drops, heart rate slows and stress hormone levels decrease. With a little guidance and practice, mindfulness can help de-program conditioned responses, which can undermine self-awareness and personal growth.

To keep New Year’s resolutions in 2015 and beyond, try these simple tips that promote mindfulness:
  • Sit on it, then commit. People tend to stick to goals that are in line with their core values. So take time to reflect and prioritize before penning resolutions on paper.
  • Celebrate progress. From the start, create a game plan for each goal and determine milestones. Prominently display a calendar to tracks all events and activities related to resolutions, including milestones and rewards to encourage the “stick with it” factor.
  • Roost with birds of a feather. To benefit from positive influences of others, seek out people or frequent places with others likely to share similar goals. Join a running club or meet ups, explore yoga studios (many offer free community classes), volunteer for local charity groups, join a professional networking group, take class at park district, etc.
  • Visual affirmation. Visual prompts keep help what matters most front and center. Post pictures and inspiring notes in car, office and throughout home.

For people who need help in attaining resolutions related to drinking alcohol or drug use, Gateway can help get life back on track. Visit RecoveryGateway.org to learn about a free, confidential consultation.

The Teen Brain and Addiction: Brainstorm by Dr. Daniel J. Siegel

addiction, gateway treatment centersA new book called Brainstorm by Dr. Daniel J. Siegel sets out to help adolescents and adults understand just how vulnerable the teenage brain is to addiction.

The book features new research evidencing teen drug use may alter the control of areas of the brain that regulate emotion or dopamine release. What this means is, early exposure to alcohol or drugs may in fact make a teen more vulnerable to substance abuse issues later in his or her life.

Dr. Siegel recommends mindfulness practices to help individuals support the development of their mind to better handle distressed emotions that can lead to substance abuse, such as anxiety and stress.

Mindfulness, as described by author Jon Kabat-Zinn, is: A gentle effort to be continuously present with experience…paying attention on purpose.

The key to appreciating mindfulness is twofold:

  1.  Be aware and accepting of urges, cravings, emotions, and all aspects of your experience, while not driven to act on them.
  2.  Base motivation and actions on what need to be done in order to move towards a life worth living.

Dr. Siegel believes the more people use mindfulness to generate internal education and inner life focus, the likelier they are to be able to effectively regulate their emotions and think clearly.

“It’s a broad skill you develop. You are learning literally the internal techniques of how to balance your emotions, and deal with upsetting memories, and deal with them well,” Dr. Siegel explains to TheFix.com.

At Gateway Treatment Centers, adults and adolescents can learn how to address their substance use disorder and help prevent relapse using mindfulness. To learn more, please visit RecoverGateway.org/Mindfulness.

Diffusing Drug Cravings with Mindfulness Urge Surfing

As defined by author Jon Kabat-Zinn of University of Massachusetts Medical School, mindfulness is: “A gentle effort to be continuously present with experience…paying attention on purpose.”

With practice and commitment, mindfulness is a tool that can help people work through a variety of common concerns, such as: mood swings, stress, depression, grief and impulsivity. And now, it is being used with success to help people in drug treatment manage their addiction issues for lasting sobriety.

A newly released book, Mindfulness-Based Sobriety (Turner, Welches and Conti; 2014), relates mindfulness techniques to relapse prevention. According to the book, mindfulness begins by focusing awareness on one’s own breathing. If and when the mind strays—to thoughts, feelings, sensations and urges—it’s completely normal. However, the trick is to observe yet not react to the distractions.

 The key to appreciating mindfulness is twofold:

  1.  Be aware and accepting of urges, cravings, emotions, and all aspects of your experience, while not driven to act on them.
  2. Base motivation and actions on what need to be done in order to move towards a life worth living.

mindfulness, urge surfingWhen cravings or urges arise, a person in drug treatment learns how to acknowledge the urge without “fusing” with or acting upon it. Cravings, like waves in an ocean, tend to rise in intensity, crest and then subside. Also like waves, the process typically repeats itself. Mindful awareness of this pattern is called “urge surfing,” a term coined by the late Alan Marlatt, psychologist and developer of Relapse Prevention Therapy.

Experiencing and accepting the rise and fall of cravings and urges without reacting can be liberating for individuals who have surrendered to their urges with alcohol or drug use in the past. With a new sense of empowerment, individuals with a foundation in mindfulness will base their actions on what they need to do to achieve the life they want.

To learn more about using mindfulness to manage addiction issues, please sign up for Gateway’s free CEU webinar on Jan. 30, 2014, from 12:30-1:30 p.m. The trainers are Dr. Phil Welches and Nick Turner, substance abuse experts and co-authors of Mindfulness-Based Sobriety: A Clinicians Treatment Guide for Addiction Recovery.

Purchase the book with curriculum on Amazon.com today.

Gateway Clinicians Author New Curriculum; Lead Webinar on Minfulness-Based Sobriety

mindfulness based sobriety, gateway foundation

Gateway Foundation Substance Abuse Experts are Co-Authors of “Mindfulness-Based Sobriety” Available on Amazon

Determined to advance clinical practices in relapse prevention, Gateway’s Clinical Director Dr. Phil Welches began searching for a best-in-class curriculum back in 2011, yet he didn’t find one that met the needs of Gateway’s diverse clientele. Unwilling to compromise, Gateway’s substance abuse clinicians were enlisted to create a proprietary Relapse Prevention Therapy (RPT) curriculum tailored to the needs of our clients. Gateway clinicians Dr. Welches, Clinical Supervisor Nick Turner and former employee and counselor Sandra Conte collaborated on a new RPT curriculum for use in Intensive Outpatient Treatment.

The new Mindfulness-Based Sobriety curriculum was first piloted in Intensive Outpatient Treatment in 2012. In anticipation of rollout, the authors conducted two, one-day trainings with clinicians representing eight Gateway Treatment Centers. Once it came to life in treatment, positive feedback soon followed and continues. Correspondingly, a version of the curriculum was created for use in our Residential Treatment Programs. The curriculum will continue to rollout in FY14.

To learn about this innovative use of mindfulness directly from the authors of Mindfulness-Based Sobriety, please sign up for our free webinar later this month or order the book and curriculum on Amazon.com.

 

Make It A Mindful New Year!

minduflness sobriety, gateway treatment centersWhat is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you:

  • NOTICE things you used to ignore or take for granted.
  • ACCEPT things as they are at any given moment rather than how you would like them to be.
  • OBSERVE and accept your thoughts, feelings, sensations and urges, without judgment and without reacting to them.

Benefits of Mindfulness

Mindfulness is highly effective in treating mood swings, stress, depression, grief and impulsivity–all of which are at risk of fueling addiction. Ultimately, people will do what they want. We cannot live their life for them. But once people reflect on what’s important to them, they may decide it’s time to let go of some things to live the life they want.

More often than not, people who come to Gateway Treatment Centers decide on their own that substance use is not consistent with their values. They realize that alcohol and drug use is holding them back.

  • Improves awareness and communication.
  • Enhances life skills, self-confidence.
  • Addresses co-occurring mental health issues like anxiety and impulsivity–that may have contributed to or resulted from substance use.
  • Reduces substance abuse and the likelihood of relapse.

To learn more about  mindfulness directly from Gateway’s mindfulness experts, please sign up for our free webinar later this month.

As part of an integrated treatment program, Gateway Treatment Centers use mindfulness to address relapse prevention for lasting recovery. To learn more about the tools and knowledge individuals can gain at Gateway Treatment Centers, please visit RecoverGateway.org  or call 877-505-HOPE (4673).

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