Friday, October 11, 2019

The Power of Caring, Connection and Resilience

To care or not to care…
“Don’t sweat the small stuff” – Sometimes it is best not to care about things that are not of value or importance. However, caring about things that DO matter can have a very powerful influence on each one of us. This may remind people of the well-known concept of “the wisdom to know the difference…” [differentiating between what we need to simply accept as is and what we can try to change] – Having the wisdom to care about positive and important things can be a force for sustaining progress while letting go of the less valuable things is also a huge help.
An important subject that keeps coming up when it comes to making positive progress in life is resilience, which means to “bounce back”, particularly after a trial or other adverse event. Resilient people may temporarily slow down when tragedy strikes, but ultimately, they keep on going even if they have to alter their course. Knowing and understanding when to care and when no to care can be a huge factor that leads to resilience.
How does this work?
Ø  What exactly does it mean to care? – Definition below:

Care: regard coming from desire or esteem a care for the common good - to be concerned or solicitous; have thought or regard.
To feel concern about: He doesn't care what others say.
Concern - to relate to; be connected with; be of interest or importance to; affect:
We become connected with what we care about – We disconnect with what we do not care about

Caring leads to concern which leads to connection

Caring and Connection–There is a direct link between caring and connection as these two ideas work hand in hand. Therefore, if an individual wants to increase their level of resilience, then deepening connections can be essential to this process.

The next stepConnection can increase resilience

Climber illustration: To think about how connection increases resilience, consider each connection you have in life to be like a rope keeping you from falling when you are climbing upward. The more responsibilities that you have to carry in life, the harder it can be to hold on. However, the more “ropes” of connection that you have that help lead you to your goals, the greater the chance that you can continue your climb without falling backward

What are some types of connections that can increase resilience?
Purpose –Believing in and establishing a real connection someone/something greater than you. Connection with a greater meaning than typical day to day events
Spiritual – Connection with something greater than you or a strong belief system or faith
Career – Connection with meaningful employment that helps you feel like you are part of something
Community – Being part of your neighborhood where you feel valued and you can make a contribution
Education/Self Improvement – Connecting with a passion for learning and growing
Hobbies - Making a meaningful connection with an activity that inspires you
Group – Knowing that a group of people will ask about you if you were not around and feeling like you belong
Personal (Friends and family) – Connecting on a deeper level, honestly and openly with others who know you, share memories with you, and care about you in return
Animals – Even a strong connection with a pet can increase one’s resilience. For example, there are people out there whose love for their dog can even be the difference maker in their lives
Nature – Some people are able to make a meaningful connection with their environment that can be both calming and strengthening at the same time

Addiction can overpower these things as addiction often breaks down meaningful connections.

Ø  As a group, consider how this happens? – What are some examples?

However, when the substance is out of the way, these caring connections can sustain you.

Connections build resilience and it often is your 
connections that sustain you when things are tough.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Using Fables to Overcome Foibles

Using Fables to Overcome Foibles

Fable – a short story conveying a moral (As in “the moral [or greater meaning] of the story is…”)
Foible – a shortcoming or weakness – (All of us have them)

Discussion: Did you ever consider how some of the common fables that we heard as kids can have deep messages that can be helpful in our lives today? Some of these lessons are even helpful when it comes to substance use issues. Consider some of the following fables below and the valuable lessons that they teach:

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

The Ugly Duckling

The Ant and the Grasshopper

The Mouse and the Lion

The Little Engine that Could

For each of the above fables, answer the following:

1. Can anyone in the group summarize the story just to make sure that everyone understands it?

2. What is the moral, or lesson of the story?

3. How can this lesson apply in people’s lives today?

4. Can anyone identify with this story? Have you had any similar experiences and life lessons learned like in this story?

Final Discussion

Who here can share a real life “fable” that had a valuable lesson? What was it and what did you learn?

(Two examples provided below – You can use them if you’d like or come up with your own)

Example – “I was doing well and staying away from drugs and my ex was in rehab. For year my ex was a bad influence on me and almost always triggered a relapse. Everyone told me to stay away from my ex when rehab was over, but I didn’t listen. I tried to just be “friends” with my ex but soon we were both getting high again and I regretted that decision”

Example – “I was doing well with my substance use when I inherited a decent amount of money from my grandmother who passed away. Everyone told me to play it safe and put the money away save it but I started spending it thinking I would only spend it a little at a time. I just kept spending and spending, promising myself that it would be the last time every time I made a withdrawal but, in the end, I blew through the whole chunk of money in a few months with almost nothing to show for it”

Monday, September 23, 2019

Making the Most Out of Substance Use Treatment

Directions – This is a Kahoot exercise using the Kahoot online website. If you are a counselor or group leader using Kahoot for the first time, it is a good idea to run through the activity first yourself. What is needed to do a Kahoot exercise is:

1. A computer with internet, preferably connected to a large screen with a TV or Monitor so the group can see the screen and participate in the exercise

2. Group members need phones with internet connection. If a few group members do not have smart phones or internet, then you can still have them do the Kahoot activity separately on paper but they just won’t be part of the online scoring. (In actuality, the score for this activity is meaningless anyway as the competitive aspect of the Kahoot exercise is just a way to engage participants but it doesn’t matter for the overall effectiveness of this group activity) Another way to do this if you are lacking enough phones with internet is to make teams and have pairs of group members each share a phone if the group is willing to cooperate with that

3. The counselor or group leader controls the flow of the Kahoot exercise using the computer that has been selected by clicking “start” and “next “when prompted

There is a short Kahoot Warm Up exercise – You can do this first with the group to give the group a chance to practice using Kahoot– (Click here) It may be fun and helpful to do the warm up first

Once you are prepared:

The main Kahoot exercise, “Making the Most Out of Substance Use Treatment” has 25 questions mostly focused on important aspects and qualities for effective substance use group therapy. Click the link to go to the online Kahoot exercise 

When you have completed the main Kahoot, “Making the Most Out of Substance Use Treatment” exercise as a group, then discuss the information from the exercise which is explained in further detail by clicking the following link

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Truth Mining

Truth Mining

When a miner digs for gold, sometimes he finds fool’s gold and sometimes he finds the real thing. He may have to take an extra few seconds to examine any gold shiny rocks to know the difference. In order to do that the minor must pay attention to anything that shines like gold with an open mind considering that he may have found the real thing. Only after inspection will he throw away a piece of fool’s gold or keep the gold if its real.

Truth mining is similar. It involves digging in your head to find little nuggets of truth, however, it may take a little bit of time to inspect each “nugget” you find. If you keep digging you will eventually reveal some truth.

Warning: Not everyone has what it take to be successful at truth mining as it can be very challenging. In order to be successful at it an individual needs the following qualities:

Ø  Open mindedness – You need to be able to open to the fact that some things you may find are true, even if it is uncomfortable. If you are the type of person who cannot handle a little discomfort or if you are just quick to deny anything that you may not like hearing, then truth mining will not work

Ø  Insight – You need to be able to “look inside”. Truth mining is an exercise in insightfulness so if you are not the type of person is ready to “dig” and learn a little more than truth mining may be difficult

Ø  Self-Honesty – For truth mining to work, you need to be honest with yourself rather than make excuses for uncomfortable truths

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Values and Priorities


Values and Priorities -
Almost everyone would agree that there are many people, ideas, goals, and other things that we value and are important to us. We tend to direct our mind (mental focus, attention, thinking) and our heart (feelings, desires, passion) toward the things that we value – (See diagram below)

Ø  We all have a limited amount of time and energy. When we are functioning well, we divide up our resources to make sure we are prioritizing our areas of value such as family, work, health, recreation, hobbies, etc.

Values, Priorities and Problematic Substance Use – When someone is misusing substances that does not mean that values necessarily change right away. Often what happens is that when substance use becomes more and more problematic, the substance use can hijacks some of what we set our mind and our heart on.

Ø  When substance use becomes a problem, it can steal some of the time, energy and other resources we may have used for other more important life areas.

Ø  The worse a substance use problem gets, the more it may take from other more important life areas. A “functioning addict” is able to use substances and still save something for other areas but this can get harder to do as addiction progresses with time

The Role of Values and Priorities during the Process of Changing and Healing

Re-prioritizing our values is an incredibly important part of the change process when healing from a substance use issue. Escaping a lifestyle damaged by addiction involves getting back to what is most important in life.
However, this is not automatic. Just because a person stops using or abusing substances, that does not mean that it is easy to just jump back in to life. To understand this better, consider the illustration below which involves thinking about when you were a student in school. Think about and discuss the following:

  • ·         Did you ever stay out of school for an extended period because of being sick? What was it like to come back after being out?

p    Most people would agree that getting back into the routine of going to school, learning, and studying is a challenge after being out sick for a while. Usually the longer someone is out, the harder it can be to get back into the healthy routine of school again.

The same can be true with addiction. The farther that addiction takes and individual away from the “normal” day to day concerns, values and priorities, the harder it can be to come back. That is why it is a process that takes time. That’s why it is okay if it may be taking a while to get your priorities in order, early in the change process when dealing with addiction. What you can do each day is make sure to stay focused on re-prioritizing your values in a positive way and then work on making the changes you need. It’s a process. 

Creating Creating a V-MAP - Values Motivational Action Plan

Your values can serve as the driving force to keep you motivated in a positive direction. One way to keep your values and priorities in front of you and in your daily consciousness is to have a Values Motivational Action Plan.


Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The River of Choices: Coping with Stigma

The River of Choices – Coping with the Stigma that may be Associated with the Past

Our life choices flow like a river in one direction – toward the future. Our choices of the past, whether good or bad affect our present and our future, however they do not define us. Today we can choose a new way to navigate down the river different than the way we did during when making our past choices

Quite often however, we may have to live with the consequences of our past choices. But again: we are not defined by our past choices. Even if we are still paying for past choices, we are a new person today who can change (for the better) and improve the way we live and make better decisions. People can and do change for the better with time and effort.

Discussion – Have you ever felt like others were defining you by your past choices?

Think about how society, family, or others may hold your past choices against you through the following:

> Being judgmental or prejudiced

> Labeling

> Discrimination or unfair treatment

The above are all examples of stigma - a mark of disgrace or infamy; a stain or reproach, as on one's reputation

Discussion – What are some ways that stigma may impact your life? Some possible examples below:

“I think about what others will say if they see the scars on my arms from my past”

“I worry about what others will think if they knew I take medication for my mental health (or addiction)”

“I dread the thought of certain people finding out about my past (or present) legal situation”

“When I meet new people, I feel uncomfortable that eventually they may find out about ____ (from my past)”

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Is Fear Holding You Back?

Are You Letting Fear 
Hold You Back?                                                                                  

Fear can serve a positive purpose, especially when it comes to safety or potential self-destruction. The term “healthy fear” refers to a fear that is actually good for you in the sense it can be a protection. For example, fear of drinking and driving or fear of overdose can both be considered to be healthy fears because having a fear of those things can move an individual to make safer choices. However there are other fears that can be unhealthy. Some of these unhealthy fears can severely limit you from living up to your full potential.

“One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises,
is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.” —Henry Ford

When someone is working toward making positive lifestyle changes in response to a substance use or mental health issue, there may be some fear involved during the process of healing. To get better, some risks have to be taken and some fears have to be faced for there to be growth. It is okay to be afraid from time to time but the difference that separates people who are successful from those who are not is the ability to move forward in spite of one’s feelings of fear. The feeling of fear is inevitable at times, however the difference is whether or not you will allow unhealthy fears to forever hold you back from the progress you deserve.

The process of working past your fears starts with insight and self-awareness. This means first recognizing and acknowledging to yourself what you may be afraid of. Once we recognize our fears we can learn to face them, and then slowly and steadily work on them. Some fears may never fully leave us, however, we have a degree of control over how we will allow fear to maintain a hold on us by keeping us inactive. Many fears eventually go away with time, patience, persistence and practice. The main point is to face our unhealthy fears and keep moving forward toward our goals anyway

Group Process: Start with a general discussion of the following questions focused on some of your strengths and coping skills.

Starting with strengths – The fact that you are here now means that you have already overcome some level of fear just to get where you are now – What fears have you already started to face on your journey to get where you are today?

What helps you personally with your fears? Who or what do you rely upon for courage and strength?

Next – Review the following page: