Fall Gardening: Healing and Harvesting

Fall Gardening: Healing and Harvesting

Spending time in nature can be an excellent escape if you are struggling with substance abuse. Nature in itself can be very healing. Research suggests that actually interacting with nature through gardening or horticulture therapy can be even more beneficial. Spending some time planting or harvesting, even in the fall, can be very calming.

When was the last time you spent some time in a garden? While you may think it is a seasonal activity, there are actually quite a few things that can be planted and harvested in the fall.

Gardening is something some people may do as a hobby. For others, gardening can serve as a therapeutic experience. Watching the fruits of your labor grow and flourish can be very rewarding and healing. Seeing the end product is always fulfilling. Believe it or not, the process of planting, watering, and nurturing can be just as gratifying.

Healing Through Gardening

Let's dig a little deeper into the healing benefits of gardening and interacting with plants. Some people may really enjoy spending time in a garden, while others may not feel that they have a green thumb at all. Others may feel indifferent or have little experience with gardening.

When you think of gardening, you probably think of planting, trimming, watering, or harvesting. Other activities allow for interaction with gardens and plants too. Here at Enlightened Solutions, our therapeutic horticulture program utilizes natural materials to encourage healing and learning.

This can sometimes involve gardening tasks, but often it looks more unconventional. For example, a session might include making tea from freshly picked herbs from the garden. Or, it may involve seeding pumpkins in the fall to represent new goals and a new life in recovery.

The Farm at Enlightened Solutions

For those who have a green thumb or are interested in learning more about gardening tasks and practices, the farm offers clients an opportunity to learn hands-on. Our staff teaches you the importance of caring for something other than yourself and instills the value of working hard to grow organic and nutritious foods for yourself and your community.

Enlightened Solutions continues to offer activities and programs at the farm throughout the fall and winter seasons. This includes markets, volunteering opportunities, and a transitional employment program for clients.

Gardening in the fall can offer all of the same therapeutic benefits provided in the warmer months. If anything, the cooler temperatures might make the experience even more comfortable. Growing your own organic and nutritious produce can be very empowering and motivating.

At Enlightened Solutions, we offer many programs at our farm that provide opportunities for learning new skills and healing. Staff members encourage clients to step out of their comfort zone and try new things. Many even discover talents and abilities they didn't realize they possessed.

Skill Building on the Farm

While you are healing through our programs such as therapeutic horticulture, you can also learn new skills. Many are surprised by how much they enjoy gardening and farm work. The things you learn while engaging in therapeutic horticulture or other Enlightened Farm programs can help you once you complete treatment and enter recovery.

The skills and knowledge you gain while participating in these programs can also aid you in future employment. You can update your resume with meaningful experiences while still undergoing addiction treatment. This is ideal as it can help eliminate gaps in employment and help you build interest in new potential career fields.

Finding Purpose in Recovery

Engaging in programs at the Enlightened Farm can also provide you with purpose. The work you put in to maintain and care for the garden is for the greater good. You are helping to provide healthy and organic foods for others in treatment and your community.

Knowing that you are caring for something other than yourself and helping it flourish can restore purpose in your life. Many find giving back to be rewarding and motivating. Following addiction, finding purpose and motivation in life can make all the difference.

The skills and knowledge you gain as a result of therapeutic horticulture and farm programs can also revive your sense of purpose. It can be easy to lose touch with your strengths, interests, and skills while under the hold of addiction. You likely are not practicing them much during this time. By participating in gardening and farm activities, you can be reminded of the things that you love and discover new things you may have a gift for.

Cooler temperatures do not mean garden activities and programs stop. Fall gardening is in full swing at the Enlightened Farm, and so is our therapeutic horticulture program. This means that healing through gardening and interacting with nature can continue regardless of the season.

Gardening and spending time in nature is an excellent form of therapy. It not only pleases the senses but can serve as a temporary escape from stressors or worry. At Enlightened Solutions, we are rooted in a commitment to the health and sustenance of the earth and all humanity. Our goal is to support and nourish those struggling with substance use disorder and mental illness with holistic and evidence-based therapies. These include our horticulture therapy and other farm-based programs, which cultivate gratitude and connection among the members of our recovery community. If you or someone you care about is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, reach out to Enlightened Solutions today by calling (833) 801-LIVE

harm reduction approach to substance abuse treatment

What is the harm reduction approach to substance abuse treatment?

Substance abuse is a complex condition that can affect many areas of an individual’s life. There were over 20.7 million Americans in need of substance abuse treatment in 2017. Thus, it is a no-brainer that there is a dire need for specialized substance abuse treatment. The good thing is that substance abuse treatment programs help address the needs of people struggling with substance abuse.

What is the Harm Reduction Approach?

It is a well-known fact that substance abuse encourages many harmful behaviors. They include risky sexual behavior, driving under the influence, and sharing needles. The harm reduction approach aims to limit such destructive behaviors among drug addicts and improve their quality of life.

Generally, harm reduction is a public health strategy that utilizes practical ideas to limit the negative effects related to drug use. It is a social justice movement designed for drug addicts who do not respond to traditional rehabilitation methods or abstinence. The harm reduction approach to substance abuse treatment contains proactive strategies that addicts can put in place on their own or with the help of their family and friends.

Examples of the Harm Reduction Model

Contrary to the punitive approach, the harm reduction approach to substance abuse treatment acknowledges the humanity and dignity of addicts. It aims to bring them into a community of support and care. In turn, this minimizes the harms of both ineffective and racialized drug policies and problematic drug use.

As a result, the approach promotes social inclusion and optimal health among addicts. There is no universal formula or definition for implementing the harm reduction model. But, below are the central principles involved in harm reduction practice.

1. Safe Needle Exchange Programs

Needle exchange programs provide free and sterile injection equipment. In turn, addicts who are not yet in a treatment program receive contaminant-free needles. This reduces their chances of contracting hepatitis A or HIV.

According to research, such centers serve as a bridge between addicts and other essential services. Such services include drug dependency treatments and HIV testing. These centers also provide safe disposal sites to throw away hypodermic needles and syringes.

2. Supervised Consumption Sites

Also known as Overdose Prevention Sites, these are areas that provide a safe and controlled environment for addicts to use currently illegal substances. In turn, this occurs under the supervision of trained personnel and without fear of arrest.

Such safe consumption spaces also offer mental health and medical help to users. They also provide a crisis helpline in case of emergency. Onsite workers also train the users on how to use medication-assisted treatment.

3. Medication-Assisted Treatment

Over-reliance on prescription painkillers is just as problematic as heroin addiction. Excessive use of OxyContin, Vicodin, and Fentanyl leads to opioid dependence. With the help of injectable Naloxone, methadone, and buprenorphine administered by a medical professional, addicts can reverse opioid overdose effects.

These medications also aid in limiting heroin cravings. They also improve the tolerance to HIV medications and other treatments. As a result, they enhance community and personal consistency. Treatment centers that provide this harm reduction service pair it with group therapy and counseling. Thus, patients can focus solely on mending their emotional and mental health without getting worked up about physical withdrawals.

4. Counseling and Peer Support Groups

Traditional peer support programs and counseling groups work hand in hand with the harm reduction approach to substance abuse treatment. They equip addicts with the relevant psychological tools to allow them to live a normal and fulfilled life.

Group and individual counseling help addicts understand the underlying reasons for their drug use. Talk and behavioral therapy assist them in taking note of the environmental and mental factors that contributed to their addiction.

5. Alcohol Treatment

Treating alcoholism involves several harm reduction strategies. For instance, the doctor and patient work together to create and maintain abstinence or limited drinking goals. Other harm reduction ideas involved in alcohol treatment include:

  • Arranging a ride before going out drinking
  • Giving your car keys to a sober companion
  • Logging off and keeping away from various social media platforms
  • Counseling and support groups to help you understand why, how, and when you drink.

6. Housing First

Also referred to as non-abstinence housing, these are permanent housing solutions for under-housed or homeless people. It also provides a safe and controlled environment for people who use drugs. They do not have to commit to abstaining from the use of illegal substances.

7. Community Mobilization and Empowerment of Rights Protection

Human rights protection is essential to health just as much as sterilized injection equipment. Mobilizing the community to realize this is vital in enforcing the harm reduction model. In turn, it is critical to legally empower communities to enhance the access of those who use illegal drugs. It also reduces cases of police harassment.

Community mobilization is also helpful when it comes to advocacy for drug policy reforms. It can help to decrease interference from law enforcement during lifesaving services. It also aids in holding and preventing various people accountable for abusing the rights of those who use drugs and reducing incarceration.

Pros and Cons of the harm reduction approach to substance abuse treatment

Compared to detention and the punitive approach, research shows that harm reduction strategies are more cost-effective. They also produce better and more effective results as it allows people who misuse alcohol and drugs to improve their quality of life.

Furthermore, people who use harm reduction strategies are more likely to get referrals to social services and medical organizations. They can even receive employment through special programs. By reducing the harmful effects of substance abuse, such individuals can actively work on getting their lives in order before going through physical withdrawals.

On the other hand, many people believe that implementing these strategies encourages illegal substances in the community. Likewise, some safe needle exchange sites are poorly managed. Thus, it is vital to do your research before choosing a facility.


Suppose you or a loved one suffers from substance abuse and is not willing to commit to traditional rehabilitation programs. In that case, the harm reduction approach to substance abuse treatment may be an ideal option. At Enlightened Solutions in New Jersey, our trained specialists use various harm reduction strategies to ensure addicts improve their lives.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help addiction

How can cognitive behavioral therapy be used to help people who suffer from drug and alcohol addiction?

People suffering from addiction may also suffer from a co-occurring mental illness, such as depression or anxiety. Research has found that when the co-occurring illness isn't treated alongside the addiction, the individual is more likely to relapse after leaving a treatment facility. This is because the individual turns to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate for the underlying mental illness. To address this problem, most addiction treatment facilities also provide mental health services to recovering addicts. In particular, cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT is used to effectively treat addicts as they begin their recovery process.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

In the early 1960s, Dr. Aaron T. Beck created cognitive behavioral therapy as a means of helping patients discover how their behavior patterns affected their lives. While many people assume their poor choices in life and external events affect their emotional health, CBT helps patients realize that this cycle actually flows in the opposite direction.

In truth, your thoughts and feelings affect how you make certain choices or react to certain events. Once a patient understands how this pattern of thought and behavior works, they can modify their thoughts to produce more positive results in their daily lives.

Traditionally, CBT has been used to successfully treat the following conditions:

  • Anxiety
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Eating disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

In recent years, CBT has been adapted to help people who suffer from drug and alcohol addiction. This type of therapy is particularly effective in treating addiction because it helps the individual recognize how their mood or emotional state affects their choice to use the drug or alcohol. Consciously thinking about this relationship can give the recovering addict more control in choosing not to relapse.

How Does CBT Help Addicts in Recovery?

There may be many reasons or triggers that push an addict to use drugs or alcohol. While some of these triggers are external, such as visiting a favorite bar, there are also internal triggers that prompt substance abuse.

An example of an internal trigger is the habit of entertaining negative thoughts that automatically pop up in your mind. If you're already struggling with addiction, one of those negative thoughts may be enough to push you to use again.

Spending too much time focusing on these negative thoughts can affect your mental health over a long period of time, leading to a pattern of negative thinking and substance abuse.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy teaches addicts to recognize those thoughts and the consequences they produce. This type of therapy can help people who suffer from drug and alcohol addiction by teaching them how to recognize their negative thought patterns.

Often, people have negative thoughts for extended periods without recognizing that's what's happening. In this way, those random thoughts can influence how people behave or make decisions. They can even affect how people interact with one another.

Through CBT, a recovering addict will learn how to recognize those thoughts quickly and dismiss them. They will be less likely to let negative thoughts force them into making poor decisions. They will also be less likely to engage in high-risk behavior.

What Types of CBT Are Used in Treating Addiction?

Thought Records

This involves making a record of negative thoughts the addict experiences throughout their week. When they meet with their therapist, they will create a list of statements that support or disprove the negative thoughts. This gives the addict a more balanced perspective, and they may find that most of their negative thoughts are entirely baseless.

Behavioral Experiments

This is a process of experimenting with different thoughts to see which ones produce the best results. The therapist will help the individual come up with a positive thought for each negative thought so they can explore the results of each one. This will help the individual discover the best thought patterns for dealing with events in their lives.

Imagery Based Exposure

For some people, negative thoughts are the result of a traumatic life experience that they never resolved. Therapy sessions will revolve around exploring those memories in vivid detail. By picking apart those memories over and over, the trauma will lose its power over the individual. As a result, they will no longer be plagued by those negative thoughts.

Pleasant Activity Therapy

The recovering addict will work with their therapist to come up with a list of pleasant activities that they can easily do. These should be inexpensive activities that can be done anytime. Once the list has been created, the therapist will help the individual schedule these activities for various times throughout the week.

This gives the recovering addict something enjoyable to look forward to instead of focusing their thoughts on using drugs or alcohol. Creating frequent, positive experiences will help people who suffer from drug and alcohol addiction by taking their focus away from their recovery for brief periods.

Is CBT Effective in Treating Addiction?

CBT has been used to successfully help people who suffer from drug and alcohol addiction for many years now. In addition to the therapies specifically outlined here, it also helps by teaching individuals new ways to cope with their addiction. They learn new skills and discover healthy ways to motivate themselves to stay clean and sober.

Many people find CBT to be effective because it gives recovering addicts more control over the treatment process. While other types of therapy largely involve talking about the individual's feelings, CBT takes a more hands-on approach. The therapist and addict work closely together to identify how their thought patterns and high-risk behaviors are related.

Since these types of therapy involve creating rapid solutions for coping with cravings and other withdrawal side effects, they're especially effective in 30 to 90-day treatment programs. By the time the addict leaves a rehab facility, they are skilled in the broad range of coping mechanisms they learned in their CBT sessions. Even though they may still need to continue some form of therapy after completing a treatment program, CBT better prepares recovering addicts for their return to normal society.

If you or a loved one are suffering from addiction, contact us immediately. Our counselors can help you start the treatment program that offers you the best possibility for sustained recovery.


The Power of Volunteering in Recovery

Action precedes motivation. Fake it till you make it. Just do it.

These sayings all point to the power of action--of doing something--whether you feel like it or not. Have you ever had a project looming on the horizon that seemed insurmountable? Did you build it up into a huge thing in your head? Were you afraid to start? Once you did start, did you wonder why you had waited so long to do it?

Are you waiting for the motivation to start an exercise routine? Most fitness experts will tell you that if you wait until you are motivated to work out, you will wait a long, long time. Once you do begin working out, you may wonder why it took you so long to start.

How does this apply to recovering from addiction or coping with depression? Simple. Treatment plans for both issues encourage volunteering or doing service work, whether you feel ready or not.

Depression and Volunteering

An article published in Psychology Today in 2016 discussed the value of volunteering when you are depressed and described the benefits to you. When you are depressed, the last thing you want to do is get up and volunteer. Just getting out of bed can seem like an enormous effort. But if you get up, take a shower, dress in something presentable, and show up, you may very well feel better.

When you are volunteering, you are committing to be at a certain place at a certain time and perform a task, whether it is picking up trash on the beach, walking dogs at a shelter, or leading tours through a museum. You are accountable to the organization and they are depending on you.

When you volunteer, you will gain a sense of purpose and accomplishment. You will feel needed and appreciated, you can learn new skills, and develop new relationships with people. Volunteering gives you the opportunity to think about something other than your situation and someone other than yourself and can make your own problems seem more manageable. 

Being with people is also important when dealing with depression. When you are depressed, you may have a tendency to isolate yourself, which can make your depression worse. Being with other people can make you feel better.

Volunteering or Service Work and Addiction Recovery

Volunteering and being of service to others is a part of most recovery programs, including 12-Step programs. Being of service in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA)--or any of the other groups patterned after these--can be something as simple as coming 15 minutes early to set up chairs, serving as a facilitator for your meeting, or serving in the larger organization. SMART Recovery also relies on volunteers to serve as meeting hosts and facilitators both in-person and online and uses volunteers to manage message boards and chat rooms.

There are many benefits to service work during your recovery. Performing acts of service for your AA group gives you a way to make amends. You may have hurt some people while you were drinking or using, and helping with your meeting gives you a practical way to be of service--not necessarily to the people you hurt, but to other people. It’s a way of “paying it forward.” Doing volunteer work forges bonds with other people in the group you are working for. If you are volunteering in your 12-Step or SMART Recovery meeting, serving as a volunteer means that you have made a commitment beyond just attending the meeting and can keep you going to meetings even when you don’t feel like it. In addition, volunteering can keep you in the right mindset and keeps you busy in a meaningful way.

The Science of Doing Good

We know that volunteer work helps the organization, but doing service work can also improve the physical and mental health of the volunteer. When you do something for someone else, you have an increased level of oxytocin in your system. This has been shown to increase self-esteem and optimism. Also, higher levels of oxytocin are connected to lower blood pressure and overall improved cardiovascular health. Levels of serotonin are also increased by volunteering, which improves sleep and reduces depression and anxiety. Endorphin levels are boosted, which reduces the sensations of pain and decreases anxiety. Finally, cortisol levels are lowered which results in less stress, which in turn leads to better overall health and is thought to slow the aging process.

Tips to Get Started

If you are in recovery or struggling with depression, finding a volunteer outlet will do you a lot of good. Start out slowly: volunteer to spend two hours a week stuffing envelopes for a non-profit organization in your area or make coffee for your AA meeting. Gradually increase the time that you spend volunteering or take on a different volunteer role. 

The opportunities for volunteering are endless. Find an organization that uses volunteer help and get involved. You’ll be glad you did.

The physical and mental health benefits of performing volunteer or service work are numerous and well-documented. Because of this, many opportunities to be of service are incorporated into the treatment offered at Enlightened Solutions, a substance abuse treatment center located on the New Jersey shore. Patients there work together to maintain the facility and have the opportunity to work on the center’s organic farm, which provides much of the food that they then use to prepare meals. Enlightened Solutions focuses on treating the whole person, not just the addiction, and develops a unique treatment program for each patient based on their needs and their goals for recovery. In addition to psychotherapy, the center offers many holistic treatment modalities including music and art therapy, yoga and meditation, sound therapy, equine therapy, acupuncture and chiropractic work, and family constellation therapy. If you are ready to be free from addiction, call (833) 801-5483.


The Role of Complementary and Alternative Therapies in Treating Substance Abuse

Addiction to drugs or alcohol is a disorder that affects the entire person--body, mind, and spirit. Because of this, the needs of the whole person must be considered for a treatment to be effective. It isn’t enough to treat the addiction and ignore the underlying depression or other mental health disorders.

Drug and alcohol treatment centers all offer therapy. Psychotherapy, sometimes referred to as talk therapy, can be offered individually, in a group setting, or both. The therapy frequently focuses on providing the patient with coping strategies that don’t involve using drugs or alcohol, tools to maintain their sobriety, and education about drugs and alcohol. In the past, therapy was frequently limited to behavioral issues.

Many treatment facilities now go further and work to address mental health issues or unresolved trauma that may be underneath the addiction. Many treatment centers also offer complementary and alternative therapies that complement talk therapy.

What Is Alternative or Complementary Treatment?

Merriam-Webster defines alternative medicine as “systems of healing or treating disease...that is not included in the traditional medical curricula of the U.S. and Britain.” When talking about mental health issues and recovery from substance abuse, alternative therapies include treatments ranging from yoga to equine therapy to diet and nutrition. Using alternative therapies gives clinicians more ways to help people suffering from mental health and substance abuse issues--another way to get to the root of the problem.

Alternative therapies are particularly helpful for people who have suffered from a trauma of one sort or another. The body is said to store memories just like the brain does, but the body cannot provide context for a memory. Alternative therapies, particularly those that make use of activities, like art and music therapy, or yoga and meditation, help people recovering from addiction to integrate their minds and bodies.

Alternative or Complementary Modalities That Rely on Touch

Facilities now use many different alternative modalities in treatment programs for patients. Massage therapy, acupuncture, and chiropractic care are three treatment modalities that rely on touch and support the recovery process.

Massage therapists are trained to use touch to reduce pain and stress. As tension in our bodies is released, our minds relax and we are better able to cope with the stress of everyday life. 

Acupuncture is an example of traditional alternative medicine that has been practiced for centuries. Acupuncture is used in recovery treatment to reduce stress and cravings, help with relaxation and sleep issues, lessen mood swings, promote energy, and calm emotional trauma. Chiropractic practitioners work to align the spine. This helps to restore balance in the body that has been harmed by addiction. As the range of motion is increased in the spine and adjacent muscles, tension and stress are reduced. Chiropractic care alleviates pain in many areas of the body and like massage therapy and acupuncture, supports recovery.

Meditation and Yoga

Meditation and yoga are frequently discussed together, perhaps because yoga classes frequently end with a guided meditation. The word “yoga” means “to yoke” and the goal of yoga is to yoke your mind and your body. Yoga lowers stress, reduces pain, reduces anxiety and depression, all of which can lessen a person’s impulse to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. Yoga lowers the level of two hormones associated with stress, cortisol and adrenaline, and increases levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is a neurotransmitter associated with overall feelings of wellness and tends to be found at lower levels in people suffering from addiction and co-occurring disorders. 

There are many techniques for meditation and many articles have been written about the physical and mental benefits of meditation. Bear in mind, however, that meditation is not a replacement for therapy when coping with addiction or mental health issues, but it is a powerful addition to conventional treatment. Meditation is a way of becoming more aware of the present. Its benefits include stress reduction, increased self-awareness, and an improved ability to focus.

The Role of Diet in Recovery

Several treatment modalities focus on the role of diet and nutrition in recovery, including the use of dietary supplements, herbal medicine, and overall good nutrition. At Enlightened Solutions, all patients receive education in nutrition and wellness, and many patients elect to learn healthy cooking techniques using fresh, organic ingredients, many of them grown on Enlightened Solution’s farm.

Healing Through Energy Work

Many people recovering from addiction to drugs or alcohol have found help through energy work, in which energy from outside the patient is used to aid in healing. Reiki is one type of energy work that has been used successfully to treat patients recovering from addiction. Reiki as it is known today was developed in Japan in the 1920s by a Buddhist monk and brought to the West in the 1980s. In addition to addiction, Reiki has been used to treat cancer, heart disease, anxiety, depression, and infertility.

Experiential Therapies

In experiential therapies, the client focuses on doing certain activities, and through the experience begins to explore their feelings, including anger, hurt, and shame. These therapies include art, music, and equine therapy, all of which are used successfully in drug and alcohol recovery. In art therapy, the patient will work on a piece of art--a painting, drawing, sculpture, collage, or any other medium. Afterward, the therapist encourages the patient to think about the psychological and emotional aspects of their piece. Art therapy is a tool to help patients access and process their feelings.

Music therapy is very similar but uses music instead of visual arts. According to an article on the National Alliance on Mental Illness website, four major types of musical intervention are employed: lyric analysis, improvisational music playing, active music listening, and songwriting. Music therapy is a way for patients to reach emotions that have been buried under drug or alcohol abuse. Music therapy also decreases stress, lowers blood pressure, and improves sleep.

Because of the strong bond between horses and humans, equine therapy is also offered at some treatment facilities. Depending on the facility, equine therapy can include different activities. Some activities focus on caring for the animals, others focus on riding, and sometimes the activities focus on both caring and riding. Because horses sense the emotions of the people around them, horses can help people identify their feelings which is helpful because people recovering from addictions have often suppressed their feelings. Working with horses can also give people in recovery a sense of purpose.

Alternative treatment modalities aid in treating the whole patient, not just their addiction. These treatments can have powerful mental and physical benefits and enable the patient to heal on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level.

An addiction recovery treatment plan must address the needs of the whole person--mind, body, and spirit--not just their addictive behavior. In addition to traditional talk therapy and support groups, alternative treatment modalities can play a powerful role in treating the whole person. At Enlightened Solutions, we focus on treating the whole person and use a multidisciplinary approach to develop a custom treatment program for each patient. We offer treatment for a wide variety of substance dependencies as well as mental health disorders that can co-occur with substance abuse. In addition to talk therapy, we offer holistic treatment including yoga and meditation classes, acupuncture and chiropractic care, art and music therapy, and equine therapy. Our life skills component includes thorough education in nutrition and wellness. We are located on New Jersey’s southern shore and are rooted in the 12-Step philosophy. If you or someone you love is ready to break free from substance abuse, call us at (833) 801-5483.


Equine Therapy

Equine Therapy: Using Horses to Help Heal

Horses and humans have been closely connected for thousands of years. For early cave dwellers, wild horses were a food source. When horses were domesticated approximately 6,000 years ago, the world changed because humans now had a much faster way of working and traveling. Because horses are herd animals with a sense of pecking order, horses were well suited to domestication.

Horses have been used in warfare, hunting, transportation, herding, and recreation. Horses have pulled chariots, carts, wagons, and carriages. They have carried soldiers into battle, taken goods to market, and pulled a plow. The horse also played an important role in the transfer of language, culture, and technology as stated by the equine heritage institute. Horses also provide us with leisure time activities, whether you like to ride or just observe these beautiful animals.

Bond Between Horses and Humans Celebrated in Art, Books, and Film

The bond between horses and humans is undeniable and has been celebrated throughout history in many art forms. Cave paintings depicting horses have been found in France and date back 15,000 years. In more recent times, horses and the bond between horses and their owner have been memorialized in books and on film. The books Black Beauty and National Velvet are childhood classics. The film Seabiscuit, released in 2003 and starring Tobey Maguire and Jeff Bridges, was based on a horse that competed into the 1940s and was seen as a symbol of hope during the Great Depression. The Horse Whisperer, starring Robert Redford and Scarlett Johansson, depicts a horse trainer who helps a young girl recover from a serious car accident by rehabilitating her horse.

Horses for Mental Health

Ask any horse lover and they will say that spending time with a horse is one of the best stress reduction techniques around. Being with a horse, whether you are going out for a trail ride, riding in the ring, or just hanging out around stables searching for a friendly-looking horse who would like some carrots, reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, and improves overall health. You are outside doing physical activity and enjoying the companionship of a beautiful animal. Many horse lovers have said that spending time with a horse is “therapy.”

Equine Therapy: A Complementary Therapy for Mental Illness and Addiction

Because of the strong bond between horses and humans, the recognizable benefits to spending time with horses, and the particular attributes of horses, a growing number of addiction and mental illness treatment centers use equine therapy (also known as horse-assisted therapy) as one of the alternative therapies they offer. Equine therapy as we think of it today began to be used in Europe in the 1940s, but has roots in ancient Greece. According to an article on the therapeutic value of horses that appeared in Psychology Today, horses make good therapy animals for several reasons. Horses are herd animals and they are used to a pecking order, which makes it possible for them to recognize a human as the “boss.” In particular, horses have a strong emotional sense; they pick up on what other horses and the humans around them are feeling and can serve as a “mirror” to a client’s feelings.

Equine therapy can encompass different activities depending on the facility. In some facilities, the emphasis is on spending time in the barn doing “groundwork”—feeding, grooming, mucking out stalls, and other tasks necessary to the horses’ wellbeing. In other facilities the focus may be more on riding. The horses used for equine therapy are calm, even-tempered, and well-trained. All of these activities are carried out with supervision to protect the clients and the horses from being injured and equine therapy is always supervised by a licensed mental health professional.

Benefits of Equine Therapy

The benefits of equine therapy to clients in addiction recovery programs are numerous and include increased mindfulness, positive nonverbal communication, and reduced stress, anxiety, and feelings of guilt. One very important benefit is in helping clients identify their feelings. In an article that appeared in Psychology Today, Constance Scharff, PhD, writes “Addicts, in particular, are known for numbing their feelings through the use of drugs and alcohol. When they do get clean, they don’t know what to do with, or often how to identify, their feelings. This is a confusing and frustrating period for addicts. The horse, however, provides information to the client….Addicts and other trauma survivors have to learn how to identify their emotions in order to work through them.”

Several research studies that looked at the effectiveness of equine therapy in addiction recovery were recently conducted at Oslo University Hospital. Researchers there found that equine therapy gave clients a sense of purpose, that the work they were doing in caring for the horses was useful and necessary, and increased the likelihood that they would stay with the treatment program. In addition, the equine therapy program gave the clients a sense of identity beyond being an addict in a treatment program. Their sense of well-being and self-worth was increased and enhanced. One client stated that when he was working at the barn he felt like he was being seen as “who I really am.”

The ultimate goal of treatment for addiction or mental illness is helping people become who they really are. An equine therapy program can be a powerful tool in that pursuit. An addiction recovery program should offer a variety of treatment options for its clients. In treatment, one size definitely does not fit all. In substance abuse recovery, the whole person needs to be treated, not just his or her addiction. A multidisciplinary approach that offers holistic treatment modalities in addition to traditional talk therapy can be highly beneficial. Equine therapy can be an effective alternative therapy because of its success in helping people to identify their feelings and because it provides a safe place to process emotions. Equine therapy also reduces stress, anxiety, and feelings of guilt. If you or someone you know is seeking help in overcoming an addiction or other mental health issue, we can help you break free from a life controlled by drugs or alcohol. For more information, contact Enlightened Solutions at (833) 801-5483.


Art therapy for addiction recovery

The Healing Power of Music Therapy

Music is a powerful force in our society and has been a part of all cultures since the beginning of time. According to an article in the National Geographic, the oldest musical instrument found to date is a 40,000 years old flute made from vulture bone. To illustrate the power of music in a modern context, think about the music that accompanies movies. Imagine the sense of dread conjured up when you hear the music that accompanies the shark in the 1975 film Jaws: da dum, da dum, da dum da dum da dum. Two notes, repeated, growing in intensity and speed. The music speeds up as the shark swims closer. Composer John Williams later described the theme as “simple, insistent, and driving….unstoppable, like the attack of a shark.”

According to the American Music Therapy Association, music therapy is “the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship [led] by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.” Music therapy became a profession in the 1940s and has been used to treat substance abuse since the 1970s and has been shown to improve both physical and emotional well-being.

What Is Music Therapy?

An article published in 2016 on the National Alliance on Mental Illness website identified four major interventions used in music therapy:

  • Lyric analysis. This technique can be used to elicit response from the client on topics that may be too difficult to discuss. The client can talk about the lyrics, write different lyrics, and discuss how the lyrics may relate to their own experiences.
  • Improvisational music playing. In improvisational music playing, clients come together to play on simple instruments, particularly percussive instruments, and explore the connection between their feelings and the music that they created. This technique encourages emotional expression and socialization.
  • Active music listening. Active music listening is used to assist with mood regulation. The rhythmic and repetitive aspects of music helps to calm listeners and reduces impulsivity. Music can be used to alter mood, first by listening to music that matches the listener’s current mood, and then shifting to music that elicits a more positive or calm state.
  • Songwriting. Writing a song allows the client to express emotion in a safe way. Writing music also feeds a person’s sense of self-worth and can give a sense of pride when their piece is shared with other people.

Benefits of Music Therapy

Musical therapy produces many physical benefits, including lowered stress, improved sleep, lowered response to pain, and lower heart rate and blood pressure as well as reduced blood pressure. A major benefit is a reduction of stress. Musical therapy lowers the level of cortisol in the brain, a hormone that is released in response to a perceived threat. While a flood of cortisol can be life-saving in response to a physical threat, overexposure causes an increased risk of many health problems, including anxiety, depression, digestive problems, headaches, heart disease, sleep problems, weight gain, and memory and concentration impairment. 

Stress is also linked with an increased risk of substance abuse. A study conducted at McGill University demonstrated that music therapy improved the subject’s immune system, lowered their response to pain, and was more effective than prescription drugs in reducing anxiety before surgery. A study conducted at Beth Israel’s Center’s Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine found that music lowered heart rates of premature babies and improved their sleep.

Music therapy is a powerful tool for both eliciting emotional responses and regulating emotion. According to an article that appeared on the National Alliance on Mental Illness’ website, music therapy is helpful in treating many mental health conditions including substance abuse, depression, and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Music can also be used to help calm patients suffering from anxiety and or those who have difficulty regulating their emotional responses.

Music Therapy and Addiction Recovery

In a review of previous studies that appeared in the journal PLosOne that looked at the use of music therapy in treating substance use disorders, it showed that music therapy was particularly helpful in facilitating emotional expression, group interaction, skill development, and an improved quality of life. According to the American Music Therapy Association, music therapy has provided another avenue for patients to explore the connection between their emotional state and addiction and can strengthen the connection between participants and create more cohesive therapy groups. A patient’s work with music, be it an improvisational jam session, a private lesson, singing, writing a song, or moving to music, can lead to a sense of accomplishment and enhanced self-esteem. Music therapy can provide motivation for people to stay in treatment and can be a great hobby for people as they embrace a sober lifestyle and are looking for meaningful activity to fill the time that they used to spend drinking or using.

The Power of Music

Almost all cultures throughout time have engaged in creating, listening to, and moving to music. Researchers at the University of Central Florida have found that music activates almost all of the brain, and causes the neurotransmitter dopamine to be released. Researchers are still investigating the impact of music on the brain—the why of why music therapy is so effective. While researchers grapple with these questions, the rest of us can just agree that music is a very powerful link to our emotions. After all, what would a movie be without a soundtrack?

Addiction to drugs and/or alcohol can affect your entire life. To fully recover from a substance use disorder, the needs of the whole person need to be considered. It isn’t enough to simply stop the addictive behavior, the alcohol or drug abuse; the underlying emotional issues that caused the individual to turn to alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism must be addressed. The power of music to heal is recognized by most cultures. Because of the power of music both in terms of eliciting emotional responses and stimulating the brain, music therapy is an excellent tool to use in your recovery journey. Music therapy is one of the many holistic treatment modalities that Enlightened Solutions uses in its individualized treatment plans. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction and are seeking treatment in a facility that treats the whole person, call Enlightened Solutions at (833) 801-5483.


The Power of Grace

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition, grace is “the divine influence which operates in humans to regenerate and sanctify, to inspire virtuous impulses, and to impart strength to endure trial and resist temptation.”

Of all of the things we need most in our lives when we feel we have failed at everything, grace is the gift that can encircle us with love, lift us up, and inspire us to believe in ourselves and become better people. Whether we receive this grace from God or another higher power, the most important thing is to surrender ourselves and receive it. It will give us power we never knew possible.

Divine Influence

One of the first things we do in treatment is to admit that we are powerless and turn our lives over to God. What happens in that moment when we surrender ourselves is more than magical, as we allow divine influence to enter into our hearts and into our lives, then the healing begins.

There is so much power in admitting that we are powerless. Seeking power from a divine source allows us to be helpless and strong, all at once, and we gain wisdom as we plead on our knees for the gifts of forgiveness, strength and grace.

Regenerate and Sanctify

We have seen ourselves at our worst, and are now taking the steps to regenerate. Regenerate our bodies, minds, and souls. We seek treatment to cleanse our bodies of our substances and renew our physical strength. We seek treatment to cleanse our minds of cravings, old habits, and thought patterns. And we seek treatment to cleanse our souls of the pain and emptiness that we tried to compensate for in our addictions.

To sanctify means to purify, or make holy. We have the opportunity now to clean our slate, before God, our family and friends, and most importantly, ourselves. With divine grace, we can seek and achieve forgiveness and make ourselves whole again.

Inspire Virtuous Impulses

Up until this point, impulses have meant something entirely different to us. It started out to be all about us – our pain, our emptiness. Then it became about the substance, and those impulses became stronger and more difficult to resist. Until it seemed impossible, and we no longer had control over our impulses at all.

With grace, we can develop virtuous impulses. Looking outside ourselves to provide a smile, a kind word, or service to another human being. No matter how rough we are feeling, grace provides us with the impulse to do virtuous things and be a better human being.

Strength to Endure

Starting on the recovery path is only the beginning. Every day is another chance for negative thinking, old habits, and unhealthy appetites to rear their ugly heads. Strange how rebuilding our lives isn’t an overnight project, but rather a daily struggle with all kinds of bumps in the road. We face the consequences of our pasts, the reality of our present, and the needed courage for our future.

But we don’t have to face each day alone. With the grace of a higher power, we can receive strength beyond our own. When we feel like we are at the end of our rope, there is a loving hand there to support us and keep us from falling. When we turn to a higher power, we find that we can do things we never thought we could do on our own. 

Resist Temptation

There may never be another day without the temptation on some level to use or abuse our substance. Just like practice makes perfect, it might get a little easier the more often we resist, but it definitely does not feel that way. As a mere mortal, resisting the temptations of addiction is next to impossible. However, with grace, we draw upon a strength that is beyond mortal.

When we feel alone, when we feel that we are being tested beyond our limits, we can reach for divine grace and receive renewed ability to resist temptation. Our cravings will not go away necessarily, but our burdens will be lightened as we turn to our higher power.

Grace is Infinite

The best part about divine grace is that it is limitless. Like a bottomless well, or the vast oceans, we can dip our cup in the water and it will always be full. Grace is something given us, but it is given only to those who ask. We need only ask for grace and it will be given to us bountifully by the higher power of our choice..

We have the opportunity to receive grace every day of our lives. Through prayer and meditation, we can receive the refining and strengthening powers as often as we ask – we just need to reach out our hands and surrender to the power that is beyond our own.

We can choose to be sanctified and regenerated by divine grace. Enlightened Solutions is the perfect place to begin our recovery journey and learn how to access grace in our lives. Find your grace today. 

If you are battling an addiction to drugs or alcohol, you are not alone, and there is hope for your recovery. At Enlightened Solutions,  we understand the complexities of addiction and foster hope for the future. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, call us today at 833-801-LIVE.

The Healing Power of Music: The Multiple Ways That Music Can Aid in Recovery

Music therapy is a growing field in psychology. Music helps patients recover speech after suffering a stroke or reduces stress in situations dealing with chronic illness and disease. There are various styles of music, and specific types do particular things, such as help someone get through painful chemotherapy or physical rehab sessions or help guide meditation. Music therapy involves playing music yourself, having music played with you, or having music played for you. Luckily, technology makes it easy to access any music to adapt to any situation. When you are feeling stressed, listening to your favorite music and songs makes you feel better, and multiple studies support this positive association. 

Music’s Influence During Infancy

When a baby is born, they go to the hospital nursery, which can be a noisy and busy area, full of nurses and doctors. For a baby born prematurely, the noises in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) include ventilator beeps, IV infusion pumps, the moving of carts, murmurs of voices, and the hiss of the oxygen. Studies indicate that musical sounds such as lullabies may soothe these pre-term babies, which improves their sleeping and eating habits, and therefore improves their quality of life and positively impacts their medical outcome. Furthermore, research finds that infants remain calmer and for longer periods when they listen to music, rather than when they simply hear speaking. 

Music Has the Ability to Relax and Heal

Music can induce emotional responses that may relax, stimulate, and heal. It can even improve one’s quality of life and the results of medical interventions. Music is an effective form of therapy that provides an outlet for emotions. Studies endorse the exponential benefits of music on physical and mental health. For example, an analysis of 400 separate studies found that music reduces stress and improves the body’s immune system. The researchers also found that listening to music, as well as playing music, increases the body’s production of antibodies that attack viruses and boost the effectiveness of the immune system.

Furthermore, music reduces the levels of the primary stress hormone cortisol. Many researchers believe that music eases pain because listening to it releases the brain’s natural pain relievers, known as dopamine. Studies indicate that listening to music increases the brain’s levels of dopamine, which enhances mood, and therefore positively impacts the symptoms of mental illnesses such as depression.

Studies find that listening to music can reduce anxiety before procedures or surgeries which may be stress-inducing, such as knee or hip surgeries and routine colonoscopies. Those listening to music in operating rooms before procedures and during recovery following procedures report experiencing less discomfort and therefore require fewer painkillers. The positive results of music were stronger for patients who were able to choose their music. Furthermore, listening to music decreases the perception of pain, therefore reducing the amount of pain medication required. Music can also reduce nausea and vomiting among patients receiving chemotherapy and improve coordination, communication, and reduce agitation among dementia patients. Also, epileptic patients may reduce seizure activity through listening to relaxing music, since stress causes seizures to occur and music battles stress. Music also positively affects fibromyalgia patients, which is a chronic disorder that causes joint and muscle pain and fatigue. Studies find that listening to relaxing music that the patient chose themselves reduces pain and significantly increases functional mobility.

Music Can Help Restore Speech Abilities and Memory

A study found that stroke patients with communication problems after the stroke exhibited improved language ability after one month of neurologic music therapy. The ability to sing comes from the right side of the brain. Therefore, when someone suffers a traumatic brain injury or stroke to the left side of the brain, which is responsible for speech, they can work around the injury to the left side by singing their thoughts using the right side of the brain. Then, they work to drop the melody to regain their ability to speak gradually. Therefore, active engagement in listening to or playing music allows people to reconnect with the healthy parts of themselves, even while dealing with a debilitating or disease. 

Music is closely connected to memory recall. Next to smell, sound is one of the most connected senses to memory. We can all appreciate that certain songs trigger emotional responses, whether they be the first dance at our wedding or reminders of a loved one we have lost. Music is ingrained into our brains and our bodies and creates a deep connection within ourselves. A study published in the Journal of Memory and Cognition found that adults learning a foreign language can recall phrases more accurately when they sing them, suggesting that music may aid memory recall for adults in the early stages of dementia.

Dealing with a Substance Use Disorder and Looking to Enhance Your Quality of Life?

When dealing with a substance use disorder, it is imperative to engage in improving one’s life. Music promotes recovery by enhancing one’s quality of life. Researchers the world over continue to investigate the therapeutic potential of music and the results are promising. The benefits of music are omnipresent in the research and throughout the human population which confirms these benefits daily. Music may also help with recovery from substance use disorders, positively impacting stress, anxiety, and depression levels. If you or someone you know is dealing with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, call Enlightened Solutions today at 833-801-LIVE.

How to Calm Down When You Are Quick to Anger

How to Calm Down When You Are Quick to Anger

Anger is an easy emotion to turn to when you are feeling depressed or overwhelmed. Anger can come naturally to all of us, but it can also turn away our loved ones if we are not careful. By learning to take control of your anger, you will learn to express your anger in healthy ways that will not push your loved ones away. 


One effective method of keeping your anger in check is by practicing mindfulness breathing when your anger is beginning to get more intense. Try counting backward from ten. When we get angry, our fight or flight responses tend to take over which makes it hard for us to come up with successful problem-solving solutions. If we focus on our deep breathing instead of our problems, we will be able to problem-solve better and have a clear head.

Jot Down Your Thoughts

You do not want to say something to someone that you do not mean or will hurt their feelings. We tend to say things in anger without thinking about the people we hurt. That is why you should write down your thoughts to avoid saying them all out loud. For example, if someone on the phone says something to anger you, tell them you will call them back and then write down what is going on in your head. This will lift a huge weight off of your chest and help you organize your thoughts. Then, you can call your friend back when you have calmed down and still express your anger but in a way where no one gets hurt.

Distract Yourself

When we are angry, we tend to be too focused on our emotions to think of anything else. If we got into a fight with someone, we may be focused so much on that fight and the things that we said that it takes over everything. Take a few minutes to find some distracting activities to take your mind off something else. It can be playing a game or reading. You should be able to see your emotions shift when you surround yourself by activities that make you happy even if the problems that make you angry still exist.

Focus on Yourself

You may think that your anger is the most important thing happening to you right now. The truth is that nothing could be more important than your health. You cannot forget to take care of yourself. This means taking a shower, exercising, seeing your therapist, and being with your loved ones. Taking care of yourself will help yourself feel calmer. You should also take care of yourself in the evening by giving yourself a warm bath, listening to smooth music, or reading a book. All of these self-care tactics will help put you in a better place by the morning.

Evaluate Your Anger

Everyone’s anger works differently. Some people will yell really loud, others will slam doors, and others could be violent. Scale your own anger to increase your chances of calming down. Think about what happens to you when you get angry, what you do, and how you feel. Scale it from 1 to 10 with 10 being the most angry. If your anger is at a 9, then ask yourself what you can do to lower it to an 8 or a 7. You can even ask your partner, friend or family member to help you out with this.

Choose Not to Be Angry

When something bad happens, know that anger does not have to be the go-to emotion all the time. We can choose to feel differently even if it takes a while. Once we are aware of our anger, how we express it and see who we are turning away, we realize that we do not have to react this way. We can be bigger people and rise above the anger if we know we have the option to. 

Control Yourself

Sometimes, anger has a way of killing us if we do not control it. For example, if you got into an angry phone call while you are in the car, you could end up getting into a car accident if you keep yelling or putting yourself in a frenzy. You could be hurt yourself, the people in the car, and the people on the road. If you are aware of what angers you, come up with a plan of what to do when those moments come, like taking a breather, going into another room by yourself, or pulling the car over. Ask if your anger is worth all of the hurt that can come to yourself and others in the future.

Think of Your Emotions

Anger is normally triggered by an initial emotion. It can be fear, embarrassment, jealousy, disappointment, or sadness. Anger is what people do to mask the initial emotion to avoid crying and looking weak. Your anger probably has good intentions in trying to make you strong, but it will only leave you feared and hurt by others. You can experience these initial emotions by staying in control and keeping your honor, dignity, and self-respect. You may be trying to get these things through anger without realizing that your anger is destroying it. It is human to be angry, but it is important to have control over it so that you can convey you are upset without hurting anyone in the process.

Located on the shore of Southern New Jersey, Enlightened Solutions is a recovery center that uses evidence-based therapies and holistic healing to treat addiction and mental illness. With the opportunity to learn about therapies that are keyed in to healing the human spirit and learning about new stress-reducing techniques centered around a 12 step network, you will ensure a lasting recovery. For more information, please call us at 833-801-LIVE as we are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.