What is Healing to Me?: Aboriginal Healing Foundation in Canada

Unknown-5Here is a summary of the findings from interviews of clients and staff of five healing programmes in Canada:

“… healing is an active, not passive, process: it is something you do, not something you think or that is done to you. In this sense, healing is work, it is ongoing and requires dedication. First and foremost, it requires commitment from the individual. No one can heal you or make you heal. Personal agency is stressed above all else.

The dominant metaphor in our research describes healing as a journey… The journey has a clear direction toward healing, yet it is a journey fraught with challenges. Falling off the path of healing is common, even expected by treatment staff. There is no shame to temporary setbacks, nor are these seen as failures; rather, the individual is welcomed back to continue on his or her journey when he or she feels ready…

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‘A Journey Toward Recovery: From the Inside Out’ by Dale Walsh

I’ve been away visiting family this weekend and haven’t had a chance to prepare a new set of blog posts for this week. I therefore thought I would re-post some of my old favourites from the past this week, which will give me time to prepare new ones for next week. 

One of my favourite articles about recovery was written by Dale Walsh back in 1996 which really summed up what recovery and recovery principles mean to a person who has been suffering from mental health problems. I thought I would highlight some of the main points here. 

The Problem
‘For many years I believed in a traditional medical model. I had a disease. I was sick. I was told I was mentally ill, that I should learn to cope with my anxiety, my depression, my pain, and my panic. I never told anyone about the voices, but they were there, too. I was told I should change my expectations of myself and realize I would always have to live a very restricted life.

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Factors Facilitating Recovery: Mutual Support

I continue with my series of blog posts relating to the factors that facilitate recovery from addiction, which I have detailed in the second last chapter of my eBook Our Recovery Stories: Journeys from Drug and Alcohol AddictionThese factors are also relevant to recovery from mental health problems.

“Acceptance is just one aspect of the fifth key factor underlying recovery, being supported by others. People in recovery stress the importance of having someone believe in them, particularly when they don’t believe in themselves. They also stress the importance of having a person in recovery as a mentor or role model as they travel their journey.

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Pathways from Heroin Addiction: Recovery Without Treatment, Part 2

In my last blog post, I started to look at the research of Patrick Biernacki, conducted in the US in the mid-1980s, which involved interviews with 101 people who had recovered from heroin addiction without treatment.

This research indicated that once people who have become dependent on heroin decide to stop using the drug, they are often unsure about what they should do with their lives instead. They may know what they do not want to do, but they are less certain about what they do want and how they can go about getting there.

This problem is greater for those who have immersed themselves in the world of addiction. They may have no money, no place to live, and no friends (other than other heroin users) and family to help them get out of their situation.

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Stopping Heroin Use Without Treatment

Research by Patrick Biernacki reveals important insights into how people recover from heroin addiction. It also illustrates the major challenges that people with a heroin addiction face on their journey to recovery (2,200 words). 

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Good relationships are the key to healing trauma | Karen Treisman | TEDxWarwickSalon

Dr Treisman talks about the importance of forging good relationships and effective society-wide systems when it comes to understanding and healing trauma. Dr Karen Treisman, a Clinical Psychologist, has worked across the globe with groups ranging from adopted children to former child soldiers to survivors of the Rwandan Genocide. TEDx Talks. [17’21”]

Six Core Strengths for Healthy Child Development: An Overview

This brief overview provides an introduction to the Six Core Strengths program developed by Dr. Bruce Perry and The ChildTrauma Academy. The ChildTrauma Academy Channel. [4’31”]

Reflections on Healing: A Canadian Aboriginal Perspective

I’ve been reading a fascinating article from the Aboriginal Healing Foundation in Canada entitled Aboriginal Healing in Canada: Studies in Therapeutic Practice and Meaning. What of course is said in this article is relevant to recovery in the western world. Here are some interesting thoughts about healing:

‘The first thing that emerges from our work is that healing is a concept that is difficult to articulate, in part, because most [people participating in the research – DC] seem to feel that there is no need to articulate it and/or simply have never been asked to.

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Relationships, Connection and Healing from Trauma

UnknownI’m reading an excellent book at the moment, which I can strongly recommend to you. If you’re working in the trauma field, then The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And other Stories From a Child Psychiatrists Notebook by Bruce Perry and Maia Szalavitz is an essential read.

The book really gives you a feel for how our understanding of childhood trauma and its healing has moved along over the years. Bruce Perry is a real leader in this field and I feel blessed to have learnt of both Bruce’s and Bessel van der Kolk’s work in the past year. Thank you Judy and Carlie Atkinson.

Here’s a little section from the book:

‘Trauma and our responses to it cannot be understood outside the context of human relationships… The most traumatic aspects of all disasters involve the shattering of human connections. And this is especially true for children…’

‘Because humans are inescapably social beings, the worst catastrophes that can befall us inevitably involve relational loss.

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Classic blog: ‘Talking About Psychosis, Part 1: Why Do It?’ by Marc Ragins MD

mraginsThe stuff on Mad in America just keeps getting better and better. Here’s a thought-provoking blog from another of my favourite bloggers.

‘I was taught in medical school and psychiatric residency not to talk to people about their voices and their delusions:  “It will only feed into them and make them worse.”  Nor was I supposed to argue with people with paranoia because they’ll just get agitated and won’t change their mind anyway.

We were taught that the psychoanalysts had wasted a lot of time trying to connect people with psychosis by trying to find meaning in their psychosis.  I was taught that there is no meaning.  All we needed to know about their psychosis was enough to prescribe medications and assess if the meds worked.

The venerable Chestnut Lodge where Frieda Fromm-Reichmann had treated the woman in “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden” with psychoanalysis was successfully sued for not providing research-proven meds instead of talking with patients with psychosis.

Beyond that, I was told not to try to relate to the patients in the State hospital because they couldn’t handle relationships and when I left they’d feel abandoned and decompensate.  Most of my medical school class mates were more than happy to follow that advice and left the ward as fast as possible. They already knew that “people with psychosis are creepy and frightening and frustrating anyhow” without having met any of them.

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‘Healing Trauma: What We Are Doing Wrong… and What We Need To Do To Get It Right’ by Bessel van der Kolk

338059More from Bessel van der Kolk’s wonderful book. If you want to know more about trauma and its healing, this is an essential buy.

‘We are fundamentally social creatures – our brains are wired to foster working and playing together.

Trauma devastates the social-engagement system and interferes with cooperation, nurturing, and the ability to function as a productive member of the clan.

In this book, we have seen how many mental health problems, from drug addiction to self-injurious behavior, start off as attempts to cope with emotions that become unbearable because of a lack of adequate human contact and support.

Yet institutions that deal with traumatized children and adults are all too often bypass the emotional-engagement system that is the foundation of who we are and instead focus narrowly on correcting “faulty thinking” and on suppressing unpleasant emotions and troublesome behaviors.

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Classic Blog: ’15 Steps to Become Grateful & More Positive’ by Mindfulness Coach

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThought I’d end this week with a classic self-care blog which I first posted in November 2013. The author, John Shearer, has an interesting bio.

‘“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” Cicero

Being grateful is both a state of mind and perspective. One person’s idea of expressing gratitude may completely contradict another.

Most of us are not born eternal optimists, but being positive and grateful is something that can be imbibed even if a tad forcibly; such as by trying to tweak our sense of humour, the way we react to a given situation, by being more pleasant and believing others too have a mind, by smiling each time somebody says ‘thank you’, and by understanding that every person is on their own journey and accepting that it’s not your position to judge them.

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Classic Blog: ‘Teach Compassion’ by Dan Siegel

“Instead of just Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic, we need to have a new 3 Rs, which is reflection, relationships and resilience.”

Now here is a really interesting talk about us as human beings and a way forward to help improve our education system, society and planet. Though-provoking stuff!

‘Dan Siegel emphasizes compassion as a key component of a healthy mind. Presented as part of the TEDxGoldenGateED event on June 11, 2011.’

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Classic Blog: ‘The Four Walls’ by Mark Ragins

rsz_markHere’s some great earlier writing on recovery from Mark Ragins, who set up The Village in California. This is what recovery is about!

‘In 1989, the California State Legislature authorized the funding for three model mental health programs, including the Village Integrated Service Agency in Long Beach, in part to answer the question, “Does anything work?”

We created a radical departure from traditional mental health services basing our entire system on psychosocial rehabilitation principles, quality of life outcomes and community integration. Arguably, we have created the most comprehensive, integrated and effective recovery based mental health program anywhere.

In recent years, encouraged by our success, both our attention and the legislature’s have turned to the further question of “How can our whole system be more like the Village?” Undoubtedly, there are numerous serious beaurocratic, funding, and system design issues relevant to that question, but I would like to focus on the personal issues staff must face.

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Classic Blog – ‘A journey toward recovery: From the inside out’ by Dale Walsh

IMG_2364-220x165My apologies for the pause in uploading blogs, but have been very busy working on our Sharing Culture initiative. More news on that front soon.

‘I read an extraordinary article by Dale Walsh written back in 1996 which really summed up what recovery and recovery principles mean to a person who has been suffering from mental health problems. I thought I would highlight some of the main points here.

The Problem
“For many years I believed in a traditional medical model. I had a disease. I was sick. I was told I was mentally ill, that I should learn to cope with my anxiety, my depression, my pain, and my panic.

I never told anyone about the voices, but they were there, too. I was told I should change my expectations of myself and realize I would always have to live a very restricted life.

Read More ➔

‘Addiction Treatment (By Itself) is Not Enough’ by Bill White

‘I have spent more than four decades providing, studying, promoting, and defending addiction treatment, but remain acutely aware of its limitations. As currently conceived and delivered, most addiction treatment programs facilitate detoxification, recovery initiation, and early recovery stabilization more effectively and more safely than ever achieved in history, but most fall woefully short in supporting the transition to recovery maintenance and the later stages of recovery, particularly for those who need it the most – those with the most severe and complex problems and the least recovery support within their natural environment.

Addiction treatment as a stand-alone intervention is an inadequate strategy for achieving long-term recovery for individuals and families characterized by high problem severity, complexity, and chronicity and low recovery capital.  In isolation, addiction treatment is equally inadequate as a national strategy to lower the social costs of alcohol and other drug-related problems.  Here’s why.

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Overcoming Drug Addiction: Darren’s Recovery Story

Here’s one of a number of short films abut recovery that is worth checking out.

‘The Alcohol & Drug Service (ADS) has been transforming lives for more than 25 years. Here is one true story about Darren, a young man from Grimsby, who has battled back from addictions to drugs to reclaim his life and rebuild relationships with family.

Darren was supported in his recovery by The Junction, a service which The Alcohol & Drug Service delivers in partnership with Rotherham Doncaster & South Humber NHS Foundation Trust.’

Stamp Out Stigma: “It Can Get Better” by Kelly

A wonderful film clip from an excellent website, StampOutStigma.

“Whatever happened to the sense of community where you actually cared about your neighbour?”

Being brave enough to seek help led Kelly to recovery.

“I get so much satisfaction because I see that when I share my story with others it empowers them.”

‘Talking About Psychosis, Part 1: Why Do It?’ by Marc Ragins MD

mraginsHere’s a thought-provoking blog one of my favourite bloggers on Mad in America which I first posted on Recovery Stories in July 2014.

‘I was taught in medical school and psychiatric residency not to talk to people about their voices and their delusions:  “It will only feed into them and make them worse.”  Nor was I supposed to argue with people with paranoia because they’ll just get agitated and won’t change their mind anyway.

We were taught that the psychoanalysts had wasted a lot of time trying to connect people with psychosis by trying to find meaning in their psychosis.  I was taught that there is no meaning.  All we needed to know about their psychosis was enough to prescribe medications and assess if the meds worked. The venerable Chestnut Lodge where Frieda Fromm-Reichmann had treated the woman in “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden” with psychoanalysis was successfully sued for not providing research-proven meds instead of talking with patients with psychosis.

Read More ➔

Emotional CPR: Saving Lives, Healing Communities

Emotional CPR (eCPR) is a public health education program designed to teach people to assist others through an emotional crisis  by three simple steps: C = Connecting; P = emPowering, and R = Revitalizing.

People who have been through the training consistently report that the skills they learned have helped them communicate better in all their relationships. They tell us that cCPR is a way of life.

Presenters will use real life stories to explore how eCPR is healing communities, including:

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