Benefits of DBT for Co-occurring Disorders

Benefits of DBT for Co-occurring Disorders

DBT stands for dialectical behavior therapy, a technique used to treat many mental health disorders. Initially, it was created to aid those with suicidal ideation. Developed by Dr. Marsha M. Linehan, DBT was created to address and encourage two things: change and acceptance.

DBT has since been used to treat other disorders such as borderline personality disorder, anxiety, depression, and more. DBT has proven to also be useful in treating co-occurring disorders. As described by Linda A. Dimeff and Marsha M. Linehan, in their article “Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Substance Abusers,” which appears in the Addiction Science and Clinical Practice journal, “When DBT is successful, the patient learns to envision, articulate, pursue, and sustain goals that are independent of his or her history of out-of-control behavior, including substance abuse, and is better able to grapple with life’s ordinary problems.”

The use of DBT for those with substance use disorder (SUD) and co-occurring disorders continues to grow. The principles of acceptance and change presented in DBT are consistent with the emphasis on both throughout the 12-Step process. This correlation allows recipients to relate therapy to their learnings in 12-Step groups and apply similar strategies throughout treatment. At Enlightened Solutions, we incorporate both the Twelve Steps and DBT into our treatment programs.

It is important to recognize that DBT is a comprehensive treatment approach rather than a single treatment strategy. Every client is different, having different needs and circumstances that may require some adaptation and special attention. Because DBT can be used to treat various disorders, settings and specifics surrounding treatment can vary.

Functions of DBT

Despite any variations or adaptations, DBT provided for SUD or co-occurring disorders should always address five specific functions. As discussed by Alexander L. Chapman in his 2006 Psychiatry journal article, these five functions of DBT include:

  • Enhancing capabilities
  • Generalizing capabilities
  • Improving motivation and reducing dysfunctional behaviors
  • Enhancing and maintaining therapist capabilities and motivation
  • Structuring the environment

#1. Enhancing Capabilities

Typically, those receiving DBT are in need of developing skills in a few key areas. These areas include interpersonal skills, emotional regulation, mindfulness, and tolerance. It is important for those with co-occurring disorders to enhance these abilities in order to succeed in recovery.

Many times, these skills are addressed through group therapy. This allows for discussion and practicing of these skills with others working on similar goals. Additionally, therapists may assign homework to encourage practicing the skills between group sessions.

#2. Generalizing Capabilities

This function refers to the transferability of the skills learned to the lives of those receiving therapy. Individual sessions are offered to individualize strategies and offer guidance regarding ways to integrate these new skills into daily life. Homework assignments provide opportunities to practice skills such as emotional regulation and mindfulness in real-life situations.

#3. Improving Motivation and Reducing Dysfunctional Behaviors

This function involves self-assessment of behaviors and tracking patterns between individual therapy sessions. This allows the therapist to identify persisting issues and prioritize the behaviors according to risk and consequence. The therapist will determine why the behaviors are occurring and will work to develop strategies for change.

#4. Enhancing and Maintaining Therapist Capabilities and Motivation

It is important for DBT providers to remain focused, compassionate, non-judgmental, and supportive of their clients. This function involves consistent collaboration among therapists to promote problem-solving and offer encouragement. Treating those with co-occurring disorders can be delicate; thus, therapists must be able to navigate difficult and sensitive situations.

#5. Structuring the Environment

For those with co-occurring disorders, it can be common to have people or places that may be triggering. It is important to ensure the environment created is free of triggers and is supportive of the goals of the individual. Therapists may encourage a change in social circles or modifications of certain environments to encourage success.

DBT in Treatment

As mentioned, DBT focuses on change in behavior and acceptance simultaneously. It is important for therapy recipients to work to change behavior patterns that resulted in their addiction while also accepting the things that they cannot change.

DBT offers opportunities for skill development essential for coping with your diagnosis while successfully navigating treatment and recovery. By developing skills such as emotional regulation, distress tolerance, interpersonal efficacy, and mindfulness, you can better cope with your current situation and come prepared to handle obstacles you may face in the future.

DBT techniques can be incorporated into all aspects of treatment and are most effective when this is the case. Co-occurring disorders can determine how you may experience, respond to, and understand substance abuse. The adaptability and generalization of skills associated with this treatment method make it beneficial for those with substance abuse disorders and mental health diagnoses. DBT can help you heal and learn to cope with what lies ahead in recovery.

Substance use disorder often co-occurs with other mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, etc.  While it was created to be a treatment for people with suicidal ideation, DBT, or dialectical behavior therapy, is now often used by treatment facilities to address substance abuse and co-occurring disorders. DBT is a method or program designed to evoke change and promote acceptance. Enlightened Solutions incorporates DBT in every aspect of treatment. The skills developed through DBT help with developing positive relationships, coping with conflict, emotional regulation, mindfulness, and being present. At Enlightened Solutions, we conduct a thorough assessment at intake to determine if you have a co-occurring disorder. This allows us to formulate a personalized treatment plan to address your specific needs. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse and could benefit from treatment, give Enlightened Solutions a call today at (833) 801-LIVE.

What Are the Benefits of Co-ed Group Therapy in Addiction Treatment?

What Are the Benefits of Co-ed Group Therapy in Addiction Treatment?

In 1990, the book Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus reached the forefront of society and changed our perspectives on gender. Suddenly, we focused on the differences between men and women instead of focusing on how different genders complement one another. While the experience of men differs from that of women, one can accept the fact that struggle is a part of life, and for some, both men and women, that struggle includes addiction to alcohol or other substances.

Addiction does not discriminate between genders. Men and women are both at risk of developing dysfunctional behaviors. Having specialized gender-based group therapies is critical to the growth of the individual and to one’s recovery from mental health conditions. However, having a mixed-gender group might enable participants to better understand themselves and communicate more effectively with all persons in their lives as well as develop more effective and varied coping strategies.

While many facilities focus on providing specific gender resources in treatment, at Enlightened Solutions, we offer a unique treatment program that is co-ed. Our program enables individuals to enhance their communication skills in varied circumstances and safely discuss the effects of their addictive behaviors with others.

Co-ed Groups Facilitate Communication

Different genders have different methods of communicating. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) suggests that women often defer to men in conversations, limiting their own interactions and focusing more on the needs of the other gender. Therefore, gender-specific groups can be helpful to women and men separately but do not always help individuals in communicating beyond treatment.

By combining men and women in one co-ed group and providing proper staff facilitation, women and men can learn how to communicate more effectively with other genders and improve their possibility of success in recovery. Another benefit of co-ed groups is related to the differences in one’s capacity to connect to their own gender. Some men are better able to communicate with women, and some women feel more compatible with men as friends than they do with other women. While having single-sex groups is important to facilitate growth, co-ed groups provide different opportunities for growth for all participants.

Men and Women May Cope Differently

There are two different coping patterns: problem-focused and emotion-focused. In an article on sex differences in coping strategies, researchers explain that men are more likely to use problem-focused coping strategies, whereas women are more prone to using emotion-focused coping strategies. With both strategies, one attempts to alleviate distress, but the efficacy of the strategy varies between persons and processes dependent upon the stressor.

The article further explains that women are more prone to apologizing for their behaviors and susceptible to depression and anxiety-related disorders as opposed to their male counterparts. Men are less likely to focus on emotional response, thereby limiting their ability to communicate their feelings and understand the emotions of others.

A benefit of co-ed group therapy is the meshing of coping strategies. Men can learn how to cope with their emotions in a more sustainable manner, and women can more effectively learn problem-focused coping skills. With the combination of genders, there is more opportunity for growth and development of a balanced outlook on life and recovery using different coping skills.

Benefits of Co-ed Groups for Life After Treatment

Life after treatment involves reintegration into your family, friend, work, and community life. In traditional single-gender treatment settings, there may be a sense of culture shock as you rejoin the world after treatment. Co-ed treatment, on the other hand, can help ameliorate the risk of culture shock by integrating all genders in treatment and providing you with comprehensive care aimed at helping you succeed in recovery both in and after treatment.

Not only will you be better prepared for life in the real world after treatment with co-ed groups, but you will also be better equipped to communicate with your romantic partner and other family members of another gender. You will have a better comprehension of the differences in communication styles and emotional responses between genders. You will be able to recognize fallacies in your own thinking as you engage with others. You will also be better prepared to help others recognize your needs without the manipulation of others’ coping strategies.

A final benefit of co-ed groups is learning and developing boundaries between yourself and other genders. While in active addiction, you may have forgotten communication styles and how to best support yourself without infringing on the boundaries of others in your life. Your partners and family members have also experienced your addictions. As you navigate co-ed treatment, you will learn the benefits of boundaries between genders and develop an understanding of others’ limitations, which will significantly impact your relationships with others as you reintegrate into your life after treatment. Recovery is possible, but communication, positive coping skills, and definitive boundaries are necessary for your success.

Men and women communicate and cope with stressors differently, which is why co-ed therapy can be so educational and beneficial. At Enlightened Solutions, we recognize the value of incorporating co-ed groups in our treatment. We know that all genders can teach others different methods of responding to problems, better enabling you to achieve success in recovery. We know you have the power to overcome addiction. We believe open communication in co-ed groups will help you succeed in recovery after you leave treatment. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, you need not feel alone in your struggle any longer. At Enlightened Solutions, we offer a variety of programs from inpatient to outpatient, and we want to ensure your success in recovery. We know you have the power to change and we want to help you. Call us at (833) 801-LIVE and ask how we can help.

Benefits of Group Therapy

What Is Group Therapy?

Group therapy is an effective treatment approach for Substance Use Disorder (SUD). It supports individual therapy and medication in a multi-pronged approach to addiction recovery(1). The idea of group therapy can be daunting for many, as people often fear opening up and becoming vulnerable in front of others. These fears usually subside after beginning group work.

Johan Hari says the ‘opposite of addiction is connection.’ Addiction can be a very isolating experience. When we participate in group therapy, we learn to connect and empathize with others. Ultimately, this leads to greater self-compassion and growth, which are two key factors for long-term recovery.

A trained mental health professional leads group therapy sessions. Clients get the chance to share their stories, thoughts, and experiences, and listen to others in the group share similar experiences. This cultivates a sense of understanding and compassion in the room.

Addiction impacts our mental and physical health. It also affects our well-being(2). It is common for those struggling with addiction to feel guilt and low self-worth. Many live with an internal voice that criticizes their life and choices, and the internal chatter, thoughts, and beliefs that come with addiction can be exhausting. 

In group therapy, clients learn that many others also experience these self-criticisms. Groups help us understand that such negative thoughts result from:

  • Addiction
  • Unresolved trauma
  • Other mental health issues

We learn that these thoughts are not a reflection of our worth or validity as a person. 

What Are the Benefits of Group Therapy?

Group therapy is a cornerstone of addiction and mental health treatment. It increases self-awareness and promotes positive therapeutic outcomes. Group therapies for SUD target specific substances. Others in your group will also be in recovery from a given substance, and members may be at different stages of their recovery journey. 

Common benefits of group therapy for SUD include:

  • Compassionate support and encouragement
  • Perspective on one's experience
  • Improved behavioral health
  • Improved communication skills
  • Reduced sense of isolation and loneliness
  • Connection to others

According to SAMHSA, 'the lives of individuals are shaped, for better or worse, by their experiences in groups. People are born into groups. Throughout life, they join groups. They will influence and be influenced by family, religious, social, and cultural groups that constantly shape behavior, self‐image, and both physical and mental health.'(3)

As such, group work is a powerful healing tool. Through connection with and understanding of others, clients in group therapy get the chance to shift their perspective on their circumstances. One of the principles of group work is fostering a greater connection to ourselves and others.

What Types of Group Therapy Are Available?

Treatment providers use various group-based treatment models to help clients achieve lasting recovery. Groups usually consist of members who share treatment needs, and common types of groups used in addiction recovery programs include:

Psychoeducational Groups

Clients learn about the nature of addiction and mental health issues. Psychoeducation (PE) groups cover addiction, medication, mental health conditions, and lifestyle. Topics covered in PE encourage self-exploration, and clients explore how topics relate to their own circumstances.

Support Groups

Support groups provide peer support and a sense of accountability in clients. They encourage resilience and maintenance of sobriety. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

This group helps clients recognize limiting patterns of thoughts and beliefs. Clients in this group learn to:

  • Develop practical problem-solving skills
  • Set realistic goals
  • Identify maladaptive behaviors and emotions

Skill-building groups

Skill-building and development groups teach clients about relapse prevention and self-management. In this group, clients learn how to set healthy boundaries. They learn how to manage difficult emotions, how to relax, and how to cope with triggers and stress. 

Interpersonal Process Groups

Interpersonal process groups focus on clients issues and offer effective solutions. A client discusses an issue and works with group members to find solutions. Interpersonal groups offer the chance to practice communication and problem-solving. Clients then apply these skills to their relationships outside treatment.

Each of the above group models has benefits for clients struggling with SUD. A trauma-informed, expert-trained group leader facilitates a powerful therapeutic experience for each group. The type of group offered to a client must suit their treatment needs. 

At Enlightened Solutions, we offer our clients tools to use as they move forward in their sober lifestyle.  We focus on healing the whole person rather than merely treating the addiction. Enlightened Solutions is a licensed co-occurring treatment center, meaning that we can treat both substance use disorders and the mental health issues that frequently accompany addiction.  Our treatment program rooted in the 12-Step philosophy offers each client an individualized recovery plan. At Enlightened Solutions, we offer a range of treatment modalities, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), family constellation therapy, art and music therapy, yoga and meditation, acupuncture and chiropractic work, and equine-assisted therapy.  Our location near the southern shore of New Jersey allows us to provide optimal healing and relaxation. If you struggle with addiction, or if someone close to you does, please call us at (833) 801-5483 for more information about our treatment options.


(1) Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Substance Abuse Treatment: Group Therapy. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2005. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 41.) 1 Groups and Substance Abuse Treatment. Available from:

(2) Lanier, C A et al. “Drug use and mental well being among a sample of undergraduate and graduate college students.” Journal of drug education vol. 31,3 (2001): 239-48. doi:10.2190/R7T3-T266-JN9E-UX3W

(3) Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Substance Abuse Treatment: Group Therapy. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2005. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 41.) 1 Groups and Substance Abuse Treatment. Available from:

Guilt and shame

The Role of Guilt and Shame in Addiction

It happened again. You said you wouldn’t drink too much at the family gathering, but you did. As you start to sober up, you see the hurt and disappointment in your spouse’s eyes. You hate hurting people you love, but you can’t seem to stop your behavior. You feel guilty about your behavior and ashamed of who you are. The feelings of guilt and shame are so painful that you drink again to stop the emotional pain, which causes you to feel guilt and shame. The cycle starts again.

What are Guilt and Shame? Where Do They Come From?

Although many people use the terms “guilt” and “shame” interchangeably, they are not quite the same emotion. According to Joseph Burgo, Ph.D., writing in Psychology Today, guilt is “a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc….” Guilt relates to others. Shame, on the other hand, relates to the self and how we feel about ourselves. Shame is the feeling that something is fundamentally wrong with us, that we are damaged or flawed.

According to information published by the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM), feelings of guilt develop in children between the ages of three and six years of age. Feelings of shame can develop in children as young as 15 months. Guilt stems from the knowledge that we have done something objectively wrong. Shame stems from the feeling that we are inherently damaged. Shame may arise in early childhood when our negative emotions are denied. Some caregivers don’t allow children to have negative emotions, perhaps because the caregivers were never taught how to handle negative emotions themselves. At any rate, when we are children we learn that these negative feelings are unacceptable. So we suppress these feelings and may begin to use addictive behaviors to cover up the emotional pain.

Results of Guilt and Shame

Shame can cause us to fear rejection, which in turn can cause us to avoid people. Shame can also lead to mental health problems, including depression and substance abuse. Many people who struggle with an addiction, be it to drugs, alcohol, gambling, turn to addictive behavior because of their fundamental shame, and then develop shame because of the addiction and guilt over the behaviors caused by the addiction. Shame has also been linked to violence, aggression, bullying, depression, and eating disorders. Shame can also lead to relapse in recovery, which leads to more shame over the relapse. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 40% to 60% of people will relapse in the first year following treatment.

Guilt, however, can lead to positive change. Guilt can lead us to make an effort to atone for the hurt that we have caused other people or to fix the problem that we have created. We can learn to change the destructive behavior that caused the problem and can reconnect us to people in our lives.

How To Conquer Shame 

Shame is a very self-destructive and soul-destroying emotion and can keep us trapped in our addictions. Fortunately, shame can be overcome. A recent article in Psychology Today had several techniques to help overcome shame. When you are experiencing strong, negative emotions, spend some time to sort out what you are feeling. Is it guilt? Shame? Remember, shame is a way you feel about yourself, the feeling that you are inherently flawed. Guilt is feeling bad because your behavior had a negative impact on someone or a situation. Make sure that what you are feeling isn’t unhealthy guilt, which has been described as feeling guilty because you failed to live up to an unrealistic ideal. When you have sorted out what you are feeling, then you can choose an appropriate response.

1. Separate yourself from what you do

 You have value as a human being on this planet apart from your work or your economic status. Learn to recognize what triggers your feelings of shame, which are usually centered around your emotional vulnerabilities. For example, if you have children, you may feel shame when your parenting abilities are called into question.

2. Connect with people

When you are feeling ashamed, don’t go it alone. Seek help from a sponsor, therapist, support group, family members, friends, or the idea of a higher power. Although it may seem like it, you are not alone in this struggle.

3. Think of your road to recovery like that of an athlete in training

 If a champion athlete loses a game, they are likely to be very disappointed but will be back in practice the next day. Likewise, if you have a relapse, view it as a setback rather than a failure, and get right back into your program.

4. Treat yourself with compassion

As you would to a friend who was suffering. Lastly and perhaps most important, forgive yourself.

Shame is a powerful force that can trap people in addictive behaviors. For an addiction treatment program to be successful, a recovery plan needs to be developed to meet the needs of the whole person, not just the addictive behavior. The underlying guilt and shame and other underlying issues need to be addressed as well. At Enlightened Solutions, located near New Jersey’s southern shore, we offer a wide range of healing options and a custom treatment plan for each client. We offer group and individual talk therapy within the framework of the 12-Step philosophy. In addition, we offer a variety of holistic treatment modalities including yoga, acupuncture, chiropractic, art and music therapy, sound therapy, equine therapy, and horticultural therapy. If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction and looking for a treatment facility that will address the needs of the whole person, call (833) 801-5483.



Eight Common Misconceptions About Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy will be part of the equation for many people trying to overcome a substance use issue. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than half of people with substance use disorders have a co-occurring mental health issue. [] These commonly include anxiety disorders, major depression, ADHD, PTSD, personality disorders, bipolar disorder, and psychotic disorders. These are often the driving force behind addiction and therefore need to be addressed for recovery to last.

For people without co-occurring disorders, therapy can be a way to help deal with trauma and shame as well as learning strategies for regulating behavior. Unfortunately, there are many myths and misconceptions about psychotherapy and these may make some people reluctant to seek help. The following are some of the more common misconceptions about therapy.

“Going to therapy means you’re weak.”

This one seems like it should be outdated by now, but unfortunately, it’s not. There’s still a stigma attached to mental health issues. People don’t want to be seen as weak or unreliable, and they’re afraid that going to therapy is like admitting they aren’t in control of their lives. This is especially true of men, who are less likely than women to seek therapy. In reality, mental health problems, like physical health problems, are just something that happens. We all understand that having the flu isn’t a character flaw; it’s just your body’s way of fighting a virus. Seeking therapy for a mental health issue shows that you are willing to take responsibility for yourself, which is the opposite of weakness.

“Therapy is just paying someone to be your friend.”

You often hear that going to therapy is just like paying someone to be your friend. Of course you’re going to feel better when, for perhaps the first time in your life, someone gives you their undivided attention for 50 minutes and seems interested in what you have to say. While that sense of validation is important, there’s more to therapy than just a gab session. A friend is not likely to bring years of psychological training and experience to bear on your conversations. A friend is not likely to have helped many people cope with similar problems or know how to help you overcome distorted thinking. What’s more, you don’t really want your therapist to be your friend. You want to get along and feel comfortable talking to them, but it’s also important to respect the therapeutic relationship.

“Therapy is all just common sense.”

A lot of what your therapist tells you may sound obvious after you hear it, but then you have to ask yourself, “If it’s so obvious, why didn’t I think of it myself?” As with any riddle, the solution is obvious once you know it. It’s often hardest to understand your own problems. We all have biases and blind spots, and even after we overcome those, we have defenses that prevent us from seeing the truth about ourselves. A therapist’s skill lies not only in understanding your problems, but also in helping you understand—and accept—your problems. And, of course, once you’ve reached that point, you have to know what you can do to solve your problems. Your therapist won’t do this for you or tell you what to do, but they will help you discover a solution.

“Therapy goes on forever.”

A lot of people imagine that once they enter therapy, they’ll be in therapy for the rest of their lives. They may be thinking of the old stereotype of psychoanalysis, where you come in every day for years and talk about your childhood, your dreams, look at inkblots, and so on. While there are still practicing psychoanalysts, most therapists today have more of a cognitive-behavioral focus. Instead of going over your whole life in minute detail, you identify the problem you want to solve and you work on changing your thoughts and behaviors to help solve it. With this approach, people typically notice improvements in as little as a few weeks, but, of course, this varies considerably depending on your issues.

“Therapy is too expensive.”

Therapy is too often seen as a luxury and it’s certainly true that mental health care is not as accessible as it should be. However, it may be more accessible than you think. Insurance often pays for therapy up to a certain amount each year and many therapists work on a sliding scale. Before you assume you can’t afford therapy, talk to a few therapists and see if they will work with you on the price.

“Therapy is all about placing blame.”

A lot of people assume therapy is about placing blame, often on parents or a spouse. Understandably, this makes some parents and spouses resist their loved ones getting much needed treatment. However, therapy is not typically about placing blame but rather understanding dynamics. It’s true that dysfunctional relationships contribute to problems, but it’s also true that labeling one person as “the problem” doesn’t do much to improve the situation.

“All you really need is medication.”

For a long time, there was this belief that mental health issues were all about chemical imbalances in the brain. That is probably true to some extent, but the idea that you can fix mental health issues with medication alone has been largely discredited. Medication may still be part of treatment, but these days, therapists are taking a much broader view of mental health that includes thinking, behavior, relationships, and healthy lifestyles.

“Talking about your problems only makes them worse.”

Another common misconception about therapy is that by spending a lot of time talking about your problems, you’re only reinforcing them in your mind and embracing a narrative of victimization. While this might be true in some situations, it largely misunderstands how therapy works. It’s true that in the old psychoanalytic view, the client would talk and talk and when they finally uncovered the root of the problem, they would be cured. Today, therapy is typically more focused on specific problems and the thoughts and behaviors that might lead to a solution. So in a cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT session, you might describe a problem you’re having, but then your therapist may draw your attention to an underlying assumption that could be untrue. In this kind of approach, you are talking about your problems, but always in a way that challenges or reframes them.

It’s important to realize that most people’s objections to therapy are really just rationalizations for avoiding it. They are afraid of going for a variety of reasons, so they latch onto these rational-sounding excuses. It’s normal to be apprehensive about facing your demons. Therapy isn’t always easy, but it has improved a lot of lives. The only way to know if it will help you is to try it with an open mind. At Enlightened Solutions, we use evidence-based therapeutic techniques to help our clients overcome substance use issues. To learn more about our treatment programs, call us today at 833-801-LIVE or explore our website.

managing anxiety

7 Tips for Managing Anxiety in Addiction Recovery

Anxiety disorders are the most common class of mental health issues. About 30 percent of Americans will have issues with anxiety at some point in their lives. What’s more, anxiety significantly increases your risk of developing a substance use disorder. The National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions interviewed more than 43,000 people and found that among people who had struggled with anxiety in the past year, 15 percent met the criteria for having a substance use disorder—about twice the prevalence in the general population. Part of a strong recovery from addiction entails making healthy lifestyle changes to manage anxiety overall and learning to cope with individual episodes. Here are some suggestions for managing anxiety in addiction recovery.


See a Therapist

First, if you have issues with anxiety and you haven’t seen a therapist, see one as soon as possible. An anxiety disorder is a serious mental health issue, sometimes with a biological basis, and you should take it seriously. It’s not just a matter of telling yourself to calm down; there are other issues driving your anxiety. A therapist can help you work through it, perhaps with the help of medication.


Breathe deeply.

Deep breathing is one of the most effective tools there is for calming anxiety. When you’re anxious, your body’s sympathetic nervous system, the fight-or-flight system, is in control. You feel threatened—perhaps by something that’s not really threatening or perhaps by nothing at all—and your body prepares to deal with that threat. But since anxiety can feed on itself, the sympathetic nervous system never backs off. To do that, you have to intentionally activate your parasympathetic nervous system, otherwise known as your rest-and-digest system. 


You can activate your parasympathetic nervous system by taking a few slow, deep breaths. The exhale is especially important, since this is what stimulates the vagus nerve and helps you calm down. When you feel stressed, panicked, or overwhelmed, take a few deep breaths. A common pattern is to inhale for a count of four, hold for a count of seven, exhale for a count of eight, and repeat. Five or 10 breaths should help you calm down and think more clearly.


Examine Your Thinking

Most anxiety comes not from any particular situation but from your thinking about the situation. Sometimes the brain can conjure up anxiety from nothing at all. When you’re anxious, it helps to notice what thoughts are causing the anxiety. Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, has identified a number of common cognitive distortions that cause mental distress. These include black-and-white thinking, catastrophizing, discounting the positive, and others. You typically learn about these distortions and how to combat them as part of addiction treatment or individual therapy. Learning to spot these distortions takes a bit of practice and guidance but will significantly cut down on your anxiety once you get the hang of it.


Get Enough Sleep

Getting enough quality sleep is one of the best things you can do for your mental and physical health. Inadequate sleep has been linked to a number of mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. When you are sleep deprived, or when you run a chronic sleep deficit, you significantly impair several important cognitive functions, including attention, working memory, foresight, and prioritization. Perhaps the biggest problem for anxiety is that lack of sleep also impairs emotional regulation. There is an area of the prefrontal cortex that essentially acts as a brake on anxiety and when you don’t get enough sleep, that brake doesn’t work very well. Getting enough sleep makes everything in life easier.



After getting enough sleep, regular exercise is the second biggest lifestyle change you can make to manage anxiety. Many scientific studies now support exercise’s many mental health benefits, including reducing anxiety. Exercise does a number of things, including increasing the brain’s levels of endorphins, serotonin, and brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which helps grow neurons in certain areas of the brain. It is also thought that exercise affects the brain’s hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal, or HPA, axis, which reduces your reactivity to stress.  


Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness meditation is one of the best ways to learn to manage your anxiety. Most people reflexively try to push anxiety away, ignore it, or stifle it, but these only make it worse. Mindfulness teaches you to accept anxiety and not compound it by being anxious about it. Instead, you observe your anxiety without judgment, noticing where it comes from, what thoughts arise with it, where you feel it in your body and so on. You gradually learn that anxiety is nothing to be afraid of. 


Reduce Your Caffeine Intake

For most people recovering from addiction, moderate caffeine intake is not a big deal. If that caffeine is in the form of tea or coffee rather than sugary energy drinks, it may even have some moderate benefits. However, if you are prone to anxiety, caffeine may raise your baseline of stress. Caffeine’s effects are similar to those of anxiety—faster heart rate, increased energy and focus, and so on. It can make you more sensitive to stress or even trigger an anxiety feedback loop. Perhaps more importantly, caffeine can interfere with sleep. Even a cup of coffee at noon may leave quite a bit of caffeine in your system at bedtime. It can either keep you up or prevent you from sleeping deeply. This is especially problematic since many people already experience insomnia early in recovery. And as noted above, a chronic sleep deficit can significantly increase your anxiety.


Anxiety isn’t just a matter of being on edge or tightly wound. You can’t “just relax.” It’s a real mental health issue that typically requires professional help. You normally get treatment for co-occurring conditions, such as anxiety, when you enter an addiction treatment program, but not if you only attend mutual-aid meetings like AA. However, an untreated anxiety disorder can make recovery far more difficult, since it’s often the anxiety that caused the substance use issue in the first place. 


At Enlightened Solutions, we know that recovering from addiction requires healing the whole person. Our holistic treatment program incorporates modern treatment methods, wellness practices, and modalities such as yoga and meditation to help our clients overcome addiction. To learn more, call us today at 833-801-LIVE.

Why People Avoid Mental Health Treatment

Why People Avoid Mental Health Treatment

You may know that you need treatment for your mental illness, but perhaps you are too scared to do anything about it. You do not know what to expect and are worried that it will not work. However, seeking treatment for your mental health can help you be in more control and feeling better.

Facing Scary Feelings

Therapy is very hard because it involves exposing your deep, dark feelings that you have not revealed to anyone. You are trusting a stranger with your intense feelings, in hopes that they will help repair you mentally. Therapy involves digging deep into your past and present and exposing who you really are. You may be afraid that you do not like what you discover. It is important to be aware that a therapeutic atmosphere is a safe place where you can feel comfortable to express anything. You will have a professional by your side the whole time. 

Questioning the Length of Therapy

It is important to know that fixing your mental health is not something that will happen overnight. It can take months or years to finally feel better. According to the American Psychological Association, 50% of patients require 15-20 sessions which are about three months if you go weekly. By missing your sessions, you are only making your treatment much longer than it needs to be. If you do not put in the time and effort, you are not going to get better. Every minute that you wasted could have gone into speaking to a therapist about how to help you. By making it a routine to go to therapy, you will see that the months you need to be in treatment will fly quickly.

Feeling Shame

You could be afraid that someone will see you walking into a therapist’s office or a neighbor constantly asking you where you go every week. Especially if you are currently unemployed. You may not want to lie when someone asks, but you are also afraid of the judgment you will face if you tell someone you have a mental illness. You need to remember that you are not alone. According to a Barna study, 42% of Americans have been to therapy at least one point in their life. The people curious where you are going could be in therapy for themselves as well. Also, if you had to go to the doctor for a physical medical issue, that would not be something that you would be quick to hide. The same goes for having a mental illness. It should not be something that you are ashamed of. 

Using Your Friend’s Experience to Match Yours

Everyone’s experience in therapy is different. Your friend may have told you that they had a terrible therapy experience and that based on that one experience, therapy is not helpful. The experiences that our friends have dealt with are not universal. The Barna study said that 47% of people have had a positive experience in therapy and 39% had a somewhat positive experience. Only six percent had a negative experience. It could be possible that your friend did not see a good therapist or that the therapist was not fit for your friend’s needs. Focus on the long-term benefits of therapy and give it a chance as you have the opportunity to have a more positive experience.

Therapy Associated with the Crazy Label

You may feel like you do not need therapy because therapy is for “crazy people.” You may think that your symptoms are not that bad because you get irritable sometimes or get sad sometimes. It is all about how you handle your anger and sadness. If you have huge fits of rage or hide in your room whenever you feel sad, you are not expressing your emotions in a healthy way. You could think that therapists have bigger problems to fix than the ones you have. Any problems that you have, though, are important as small problems can become bigger problems later if you do not do anything about them. 


It can be expensive to go to therapy. But, there is such a thing as affordable treatment. There are therapists that offer service based on a sliding scale or there are community mental health centers that offer therapy at little to no cost. Also, remember that money should not be considered as what stops you from seeking help as if you sprained your ankle, you would see a doctor to fix it no matter what. The same emergence should be said for your mental health as not seeking help can lead to panic attacks or suicidal thoughts if you let the symptoms worsen.

Encouragement for Mental Health Treatment

More needs to be done to let others know how normal it is to be in treatment for your mental health. This can mean writing down the statistics of those who are struggling with the same mental illness you have or how many people in the country go to treatment. Government officials need to talk more about their mental health and encourage treatment. The responsibility should also fall on your local doctor’s offices to have pamphlets of information where to go for treatment as well as transportation options. By speaking comfortable about mental illness and being honest about your symptoms, you should be confident enough to pick up the phone and schedule your first therapy appointment. 

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.

Dreams Linked with Anxiety 

Dreams Linked with Anxiety 

Dreams have a way of telling us what we want out of life as well as what we are afraid of. The same can be said for those that have anxiety. By deeply analyzing the dreams you have at night, you will be able to explain to your therapist what you need to continue working on to help you manage your life.


Dr. Carole Lieberman, M.D., says that one common dream people with anxiety have is falling. It can be that you are falling out of a plane with a broken parachute or falling onto train tracks with no time to get up before the train comes. This can mean that you feel like your life is out of control. You are afraid to break out of your comfort zone and try something new in fear that it will cause you to fall and get hurt. You feel like you cannot fix any tough decision situation that comes to you. All you are looking for is a safety blanket.

Being Late

Running late in a dream can be just as nerve-wracking as when you are awake. You could have a dream that you look at the time and it is hours after the test you were supposed to take. You could be running towards the classroom to take this test anyway, but there are obstacles in the way like the traffic preventing you from crossing the street. Maybe you decide to take the bus to make it go faster, but the bus brakes down and none of the cabs are stopping for you. This can mean that you are afraid of missing out on something. You do not have to be in school to be afraid of a test you are afraid to miss as the whole point is you do not want to miss an important engagement no matter what. You are afraid of the obstacles that you may run into when it comes to chasing your goals. 

Being Unprepared

You could be taking a very important test that you were ready for when you were awake or you have your lines memorized before it is time to perform onstage. In this dream, however, you are not as prepared as you thought. You are drawing a blank and everything you studied cannot be remembered. This makes you feel vulnerable and out of place. You could be having this dream because you are afraid of being in a situation where you could suffer embarrassment. That you could spend so much time preparing for something only to fail everyone and yourself.


You may have had a dream where you are getting crushed by a tidal wave and you are drowning. You keep trying to swim up to the surface, but the water keeps rising higher. This can mean that you are going under emotional stress. You could be going through a life change that you are not ready for which is the same as being unexpectedly hit by a wave. This dream is telling you how important it is to stay afloat and to rise above any waves that head towards your path.

Being Laughed at

Another dream you may be having is that you are being laughed at by everyone. It can be when you are in the company of your friends and family. It can also mean performance anxiety where it is your big moment in front of a crowd and the thanks that you get from the audience is a mockery. This dream shows you that you have insecurities and fears of being embarrassed. You know that you tend to stand out from the crowd and that you are different than others in your social circle. Instead of feeling proud about being yourself, you feel like people will punish you for it before they say or do anything.

No Control

You could be having dreams of the worst-case scenario occurring for everything that is going on for you. You could have a dream that your romantic partner breaks up with you and finds someone new. You could dream that you have been missing a number of shifts, leading you to be fired. This could mean that you are afraid of having anything good happen to you because you feel like it is too good to be true. You have no control in your dreams as you are watching everything slip away from you. You fear that the same is true for your life. 

Naked in Public

It is a classic dream to speak to a big group of people only to discover that you are not wearing clothes. This can mean that you are feeling vulnerable and wish to have privacy. You feel like no matter who you are speaking to, people are trying to dig too deep into your personal life instead of leaving you alone. The best thing that you can do about all of these anxiety dreams is to speak to someone about them. As soon as you are feeling any moments of discomfort, that is the time to tell someone instead of waiting right before you go to bed or in the middle of the night. Every time you have the same dreams, write them down in a journal to read to your therapist. By talking out your nightmares, you will see that you can tackle them all when you are awake.


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.

Suggestions for Starting Therapy

Suggestions for Starting Therapy

Starting therapy can be a real challenge for many of us. Sometimes even just the thought of it can be so scary it stops us from trying. We struggle to get the process started. Sometimes we don’t know where to start. Here are some suggestions to help.

Ignore the naysayers

A lot of us have friends and family that will try to dissuade us from therapy. “Why pay someone to do what a friend can do- listen to you complain?” Actually, a therapist can do a lot more than just listen, and therapy can help you do much more than just complain about your problems. Therapists can provide guidance from their years of experience dealing with similar issues. They can help you to look at the underlying issues, rather than just your temporary circumstances. They can listen from the perspective of wanting to help you get better. Sometimes our friends have our best interests at heart but because of their own stuff can’t see the bigger picture, and sometimes they don’t actually have our best interests at heart.

Find the Right Person

Not every therapist is going to be the right one for you. Try different therapists until you find the right fit. Feel empowered to interview them and ask them whatever questions you might have. You can ask what kinds of issues they usually focus on with patients. You can ask what kinds of therapeutic techniques and healing tools they’ve used. For example, do they specialize in CBT? Do they believe in holistic health? Can they help you find a psychiatrist should you need medication? If you feel like a therapist won’t be a good match, or makes you uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to try someone new. Do they talk more than they listen? Do they interrupt you or make you feel unheard or misunderstood? Trust your instincts. Hold out for someone you feel can be part of your recovery team. We often know instinctively when someone is or isn’t a good fit for us.

Get Help

Ask for recommendations from friends, family, your doctor or clinic, your health insurance, community advocacy organization, help line or referral service. Sometimes when we’re really depressed or actively using, we can find logistical things like scheduling and dealing with insurance very overwhelming. When we can’t get out of bed, making phone calls can feel impossible. Some of us wait until we’re already in crisis to start looking for a therapist, and then it’s even harder to get the process going. Ask someone for help, and then let them help you.

Believe in Yourself

It’s scary to look at our stuff. It can be terrifying. Therapy is meant to help you work through painful things. Be brave and believe in your ability to get better. Believe you deserve to be happy.

Therapy can be hard. Enlightened Solutions wants to help. Call (833) 801-LIVE.

Tips for Managing PTSD

Tips for Managing PTSD

Post-Traumatic Stress disorder (PTSD) is very common with individuals who are in recovery from addiction.  It is an experience of reliving a traumatic life-event that has occurred in the past.  PTSD is most commonly associated with combat veterans but can also occur with a myriad of other experiences, including, but not limited to, physical fights and rape, car accidents, natural disasters, unusual health challenges, naming just a few.  

When dealing with PTSD, it is very important to be aware of the principle of trauma-informed, especially when choosing a therapeutic practitioner.  To be trauma-informed is the recognition of the effects of trauma on a person’s reactions and life experiences.  This is a critical awareness when dealing with PTSD to mitigate the false beliefs that can form about the self of the person dealing with PTSD.  To be trauma-informed about PTSD is to recognize that the experiences of PTSD is not who the sufferer is.  

Once some foundational work has been done with a therapeutic practitioner, individuals can be an active participate in their own ongoing healing from PTSD through the practice of mindfulness.  Once the baseline awareness of a PTSD response has been established, the person with PTSD can be cued to recognize when they will need to access mindfulness tools.  


The Frozen Lemon

It can be supportive to use a frozen lemon to break a PTSD episode.  This simple tool is very powerful for bringing the person experiencing PTSD out of the mind and back into the body.  By holding a frozen lemon in one’s hand and closing the fist around it, the intensity of sensation lessens the hold of the mind on the past experience, bringing it down to a level of manageability.  


Making the Image Black and White

When the PTSD takes someone into a critical moment of the traumatic experience, use the imagination to turn the image into black and white.  Many people find that this will reduce the intensity of the experience.


Changing the Position

When the PTSD memory involves another person, the person experiencing it can engage the imagination to change the position of placement of themselves and the other in the memory.  For example, if someone is standing over the person with PTSD and it makes them seem more powerful, the imagination can be engaged to make them stand below you, minimizing the power that they hold in the memory.  


Enlightened Recovery Solutions offers a harmonious approach to holistic treatment, bringing together the best of evidence-based, alternative, and 12-step therapies. Call us today for information on our transformation programs of treatment for addiction and alcoholism: 833-801-5483.