Dr. Kimberly Dennis is the Medical Director at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Successful Addiction Treatment is a Family Affair

Active family engagement and commitment is one of the most underappreciated aspects of recovery from substance abuse and chemical dependency. From supporting a loved one in staying committed to treatment, to addressing rifts among other family members and building an atmosphere of healing that continues once their loved one returns home from an inpatient or residential treatment center, the family is an integral part to ensure lifelong recovery for those suffering from addictions.

Having a family member involved in the recovery process can often mean the difference between temporary and life-changing treatment. Family members are able to learn about and support a resident’s treatment goals, and patients learn about and support their families' goals, forming a shared mission.

At Timberline Knolls, we begin family treatment and therapy by phone almost immediately. This occurs in a variety of settings, including individual psychotherapy sessions, group therapy sessions for residents, and multi-family group sessions via conference call. Across each of these venues, family therapists work to increase awareness of ways that family dynamics may influence a woman’s behavior in ways loved ones don’t appreciate, and to enhance the woman’s confidence to voice her feelings about how the family affects her.

•Individual Family Therapy sessions are often conducted separately with the resident and with members of her family in order to allow all parties to speak openly and honestly. They provide perspective on the key family issues to address during residential treatment.

•Multi-Family Group is an educational forum for adult family members of all Timberline Knolls residents. Conducted by leading family therapy experts, it meets three times per month in order to increase family awareness of about how family dynamics can impact their loved one's illness and develop strategies for managing it. Given that most Timberline Knolls residents come from outside the Chicago area, this forum is conducted via conference call.

•Family Dynamics Group, for residents only, provides a similar in-person forum for residents to explore the 'inner workings' of their families. Residents hear the experiences of their peers and learn that they are not alone in their struggles. This group can often spur insight and breakthrough for addressing their family dilemmas.

Some rehab centers and treatment programs address family issues primarily in a single, on-campus family week. At Timberline Knolls we believe this short-changes the process that the family must go through while their loved one is in treatment. Over the course of several weeks, the examination of family roles and the process of clarifying boundaries and improving communication skills shows residents how to enhance their freedom and find joy within the family even during times of dysfunction or turmoil.

Because families are a part of their loved ones struggle with addiction, illness and problematic behaviors, they also need to engage in their own recovery and healing process. Research indicates a higher probability of their loved ones recovery when family members are a part of the process.

By integrating loved ones into focused family treatment sessions, patients and their families are able to increase communication and work together towards understanding and tolerance of each other's perspective, a major step towards an individual's acceptance of herself and a vital component to the healing process.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mommy Not Always Dearest During Treatment For Eating Disorders

One underlying cause that surprises many women during treatment for an eating disorder is the relationship an adolescent girl has with her mother. Young girls suffering with eating disorders often think the physical aspects of their disease call for the most healing, but in most all instances, girls have to recognize the psychological and emotional damage caused by anorexia or bulimia, too. It’s during this process that they often uncover unexpected root causes of their disease.

This happens because the mother-daughter relationship can be a complicated one. While relationships with friends and husbands begin in adolescence and adulthood, a mother's love begins before a child is born, and can create an unrealistic expectation that the connection between mothers and daughters will be as strong and free from limitations in adulthood as it was in early infancy.

At Timberline Knolls we endorse an introspective look at this unique relationship and believes temporary distance from family members allows many adolescent and teenage girls to feel safe exploring the mother-daughter relationship in ways they haven’t been able to during prior treatment for anorexia or bulimia. We work together to foster a nurturing environment that helps teen girls gain a realistic view of their relationship with their mothers. In turn, the girl and her mother are better equipped to support each other on their path to recovery.

Exploring relations with her mother in a residential setting also equips a young woman to place the relationship in a healthier social context. Because in reality, an individual's needs and fears are often informed by society's needs and fears, making this one of the most maligned of all human relationships. By identifying societal myths commonly found in these relationships, mothers and daughters can begin to build a stronger foundation – and one of recovery for those suffering from eating disorders and substance abuse.

There are several “perfect mother” myths that can create unrealistic standards for behavior that often strain the relationship and trigger feelings of shame:
•the measure of a perfect mother is a perfect daughter
•constant nurturing comes naturally to all mothers
•mothers are born knowing how to raise children
•mothers and good daughters don't get angry
These ideas contribute to mother-blaming when mothers don't match the myth and can create distance between mothers and daughters.

In the same way, there are “bad mother” myths that can lead mothers and daughters to feel like they are walking a tightrope where too much or too little love will push them over the edge. Damaging assumptions include:
•mothers are inferior to fathers as authority figures
•only experts know how to raise children
•mothers and daughters are bottomless pits of neediness
•mother-daughter closeness is unhealthy
•assertion of a woman's power is dangerous or unseemly
The impact of beliefs like these can keep a teenage girl from seeking support from her mother when she needs it, or from accepting her mother’s efforts to build a normal, healthy bond that will help her through adolescence.

Relationship myths can be particularly perilous for young girls who are struggling with body image issues. Given that a mother is often the first person to recognize signs and symptoms of an eating disorder, any reluctance to address her concerns in an open and honest way can impact her daughter’s chances of avoiding long term medical complications.

Through residential treatment and therapy this relationship can be explored and these young girls can come to better understand its affect on their diseases – and in turn help build a foundation for lifelong recovery.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Heroin Addiction Deaths Might Have Fallen, But Still A Problem

A new study by Roosevelt University’s Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy shows deaths from heroin overdoses in Chicago’s Cook County fell 16 percent during the last decade, but the Chicago metropolitan region still ranks among the worst in the nation for heroin use. I see the use of heroin regularly from girls I treat at Timberline Knolls and know the importance of awareness and seeking help to overcome this addiction.

Heroin is exquisitely addictive, especially when injected, because the effect is euphoric, profound and immediate. There is a great need for individuals suffering from heroin addiction to seek treatment, and that many times starts with the family and loved ones of these individuals intervening when they suspect a problem.
Loved ones may notice a number of signs of heroin use, which are visible during and after heroin consumption:

•Shortness of breath
•Dry mouth
•Constricted (small) pupils
•Sudden changes in behavior or actions
•Cycles of hyper alertness followed by suddenly nodding off
•Droopy appearance, as if extremities are heavy

But the above signs are not unique to heroin abuse. More definitive warning signs of heroin abuse include possession of paraphernalia used to prepare, inject or consume heroin, including:

•Needles or syringes not used for other medical purposes
•Burned silver spoons
•Aluminum foil or gum wrappers with burn marks
•Missing shoelaces (used as a tie off for injection sites)
•Straws with burn marks
•Small plastic bags, with white powdery residue
•Water pipes or other pipe

Loved ones must watch for these warning signs and for paraphernalia used in heroin abuse – and seek help immediately. Heroin use is associated with high risks of overdose and death, hepatitis and HIV transmission. But through treatment and therapy, lifelong recovery can be achieved.