I am involved in several intensive outpatient programs (IOP) that provide treatment and support for those with serious or critical mental health and substance abuse issues. These programs help our clients regain stability and develop skills to better navigate the journey in life that lies ahead. Those who are in crisis, considering mental health inpatient treatment, residential treatment for substance abuse, or recently discharged from an inpatient program can find the support and treatment they need. These programs are effective for three main reasons: they provide structure, support, and train the client in emotional regulation skills.
Establishing structure can be a helpful way to reduce temptations and cravings. Too much free time can lead to compromising situations and poor choices. People are often more productive and feel more emotionally in control when they are guided by routines. Clients report that the structure of the program helps give them a reason to get out of bed, feel less apathetic, and increase motivation and energy. New routines can be established, and the healing aspect of structure can be generalized to other parts of life following treatment. Structure with purpose makes treatment effective.
In addition to structure, recovery programs supply support and encouragement for the participants. The staff supports the clients and they in turn provide inspiration for each other. Frequently clients do not have good emotional, spiritual or relational support. Find positive, supportive friends in recovery who can provide camaraderie, encouragement and believe in your ability to stay clean and sober. Henry Ford stated, “My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.”
In our programs, we train skills to regulate emotion. Substance abuse disorders are often filled with emotional dysregulation from mental health problems and from the addiction. Substance use such as methamphetamine, heroin, and alcohol all undermine emotional regulation. Co-occurring disorder treatment that handles emotional problems and substance use disorders at the same time has been shown to be most effective. Emotional regulation skills work to increase self-confidence, self-esteem, frustration tolerance, and manage stress better.
Carry it Forward
These three areas we have been discussing above can be used as an important framework upon which to build any solid recovery program. Structure, support, and emotional regulation skills are not just important treatment elements – they are essential life elements. Each piece plays a vital part of health and healing. The neglect of any one element may weaken the integrity of the program and compromise successful recovery. Using structure, developing support, and practicing the skills will result in a positive, long-term, successful recovery program.
Recovery is a Journey. Enjoy the Ride!