We have been pretty hard on this profession in the past, and we know there are many other great programs that just may be a better fit for you and your family. Thus, it is hugely important to express our great respect for these programs and professionals who work tirelessly in this field. Many of these individuals and programs have given us their time, expertise, supervision, and knowledge base. Thanks in part to them, we were able to stand on their shoulders while we were designing some aspects of our clinical approach.
So, what is our approach? We believe many of the clinical issues our clients face are linked to their interpersonal relationships. Through the lens of attachment theory, we are able to work with our clients and their families to redefine and reframe their relationships with one another. This requires us to help all stakeholders redevelop trusting relationships, set appropriate boundaries and rely on others to share their emotions. This also creates space for everyone to work toward feeling comfortable with their own self-worth. This is also known as secure attachment—and it’s vital. Our experience has shown secure relationships, although usually present at some point, have taken a backseat during the times of substance use and relapse. Out of sheer survival, families, who once had secure relationships, transpose into insecure relationships, or rather, attachment, resulting in negative perceptions of self and others, preventing them from developing meaningful relationships. Family members become hostages to the whims of their loved one as he becomes a hostage to his lack of self-control, self-worth, and self-esteem. The good news is these relationships can begin anew. It requires all family members to learn new ways of dealing with emotions while detaching from the behaviors and developing capacities to build and sustain healthy relationships
We all make mistakes, for that is the most human part of being, well, human. The problem comes when we fail to learn from the mistakes while closing the door on new information or being unable to admit when we are wrong. It’s not just our clients reserving these detrimental traits, family members are quite capable of those traits as well.
Humanistic approaches require seeing the innate worth in all people. We work through empathy, positive regard, therapeutic alliances, and building safe relationships with both our clients and their families. We find the best modalities for these aims are Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT) and Inner Child concepts, which allow us to get to the root of the causes of addiction. Further, evidence-based practices such as Narrative Therapy, Dialectal Behavior Therapy (DBT), and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) allow us to help our clients separate themselves from their problems, negative thoughts, and uncomfortable emotions. Such interventions help people gain clearer understanding of their innate strengths while realizing they are not as broken as they may think they are.
Traumatic experiences throughout a person’s life leave indelible marks, affecting his perception of not only himself, but also others. Trauma comes in many forms, from being bullied in school to any type of abuse. Death of a loved one can also create traumas for an individual, especially when the death was unexpected. Many times, these experiences require the individual to seek out a way to blunt memories of the event and the overwhelming emotions accompanying those memories. Research suggests a strong correlation between traumatic events and substance use disorders, although trauma can also cause other self-harm behaviors such as cutting, eating disorders (yes, plenty of men also have eating disorders), and other mental health issues.
Treating the whole person requires acknowledging his past traumas and the intricate coping mechanisms he uses. Trauma-Informed Care requires us to dig deep with our clients while using psychotherapies such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). Research is clear on this subject. Trauma takes time to heal, sometimes taking years to make a difference. The outcomes put forth through extensive research show the mind can, in fact, heal from psychological trauma much the same way as the body recovers from physical trauma. The trick, as always, is creating space for our clients to experience this healing through their own strengths, positive regard, and the unbreakable therapeutic alliances we build with our clients.
Why adventure? As young men it is imperative to go and experience adventure. There is such a need for people to detach from the mundane and to step out of their comfort zone in order to more fully experience life. And this is so easily achieved while our clients are engaged in the adventure component of our program. There is no greater practice of trusting your community than being belayed while rock climbing by one of your peers. There is no better practice of teamwork than whitewater rafting. Here at Balance House we know that there is no place richer with metaphor and no greater teacher than the wilderness and the outdoors.
I want to say up front that we—those of us who own and operate Balance House—are all members of Alcoholics Anonymous. Further, it is mandated that all employees are at least 18-months sober and have sponsors in a 12 Step program. We owe everything we are and everything we have to the principles set forth in Alcoholics Anonymous and the process therein. As our experience in AA and at Balance House has shown, most who are a part of AA do well, and the majority of those who choose not to be a part of AA have a harder time recovering. This is not to say AA is the only way to maintain sobriety, but it is to say that we have seen far better results for folks who commit to that process. More will be revealed, we suppose, and we are certainly open to anything that will save someone’s life.
We know the power of AA and we stand with our heads held high as members of that fellowship, but the 12 Traditions of AA are very clear…and we believe that because we are a for-profit entity, collecting money for services rendered, we cannot require anyone to “do the steps” or “get a sponsor.” This gets us into trouble with referents, but we are right on this—sorry. What we see constantly are people who have “tried the steps” and found they “didn’t work”. We have heard from many people who “just can’t get over the whole God thing” or that it “feels like a cult” (for the record, the man typing this very word is an agnostic but was still able to find a Higher Power). Yet, when we are able to pierce a little deeper, what it usually comes down to is they have done some steps within some program—usually the first three to five—and then stopped. Instead of blaming themselves for not finishing the steps, it is AA they blame because they expected the full miracle with a third of the work, which usually is par for the course.
Look, in order for the steps to work, you must (a) finish the steps with a sponsor (b) sponsor someone, and (c) practice the principles in all your affairs. However, this doesn’t happen by Balance House or any other program requiring you to “work the program”. In fact, making the steps a line item to be checked off for a higher level and more privileges actually bastardizes the process. You must pour your heart and soul into the steps while taking the suggestions of your sponsor, going to meetings, and actually trusting the process. Doing this ensures longevity in recovery…but let us not confuse: It is attraction, NOT promotion. We will get you to meetings every day and we will hold you accountable to your word, but we will not be calling your sponsor asking why you aren’t done with your fifth step. That, fortunately, is between you and your sponsor. We love AA so much we refuse to make it a part of our curriculum—as Bill and Dr. Bob would have wanted.
You might disagree with this and assume that without AA being a requirement of our program, no one gets sponsors, goes to meetings, or does the steps. Nothing, absolutely nothing could be farther from the truth. Some refuse, but overwhelmingly our residents are highly involved within AA and other sister organizations. I will remind you that the first tenet of all 12-Step programs is “To Thine Own Self Be True”. All we care about is honesty to yourself and the rest will be taken care of.
- Fly fishing
- Paddle boarding
The basic notion is to get young men out of the 4 walls and away from screens and let them have an adventure and experience life in the truest form.