Compassion: An Important Key to Recovery

  • By 7016369785
  • 08 Sep, 2017

by Christy Porter

Part of eliminating the stigma surrounding the disease of substance abuse disorder includes fostering the same attitudes granted toward others with chronic conditions (such as heart disease, asthma, or cancer). As Mary Pollock, MA, LPC, notes in her article Chasing the Dragon (Part Two) , “Addiction is a brain disease. Many people have difficulty separating the person from the disease. . . what we see are the behaviors that develop over time which support the addiction. These behaviors are what cause relationship issues within a family. . .The addicted individual becomes unable to respond to his environment in a healthy, adaptive manner as the addiction takes over the brain.”  

For those with substance abuse disorders or their families and friends, finding a genuinely helpful response can be difficult. Training in true compassion can provide a path and a framework for decision-making. But true compassion is not well understood.

As Deniz Ahmadinia, Psy.D explains in Practicing Mindfulness Through Kindness and Compassion , “We hold all these misconceptions about what it is to be compassionate and kind, including that it makes us weak, that it’s a form of self-pity, that it’s indulgent, and that it gets in the way of success. Our competitive, tech-driven, busy culture instead believes that being hard on one’s self is the key to achieving goals.” A strong will and drive to succeed is necessary in recovery as in life, but being harsh and unrealistically cold with ourselves and others is counter-productive.

Ahmadinia continues by pointing out: “The reality is that the great majority of us struggle with a judgmental voice when we don’t live up to our own expectations, and it is this voice that judges others as well.” She suggests this can lead “to persistent negative emotions, doubt, feelings of worthlessness, shame and feeling disconnected from people around us.” These negative emotions and a lack of connection to the people around us can be triggers or barriers for those with a substance abuse disorder or other mental health disorder.

The concept of learning and practicing compassion and self-compassion is starting to gain a foothold in the literature about other mental and behavioral health issues as the fight against stigma grows. It is time to bring this powerful and useful tool and skill set into our discussions of recovery from substance abuse disorder as well, not as something only offered by others to someone on the path, but as something the person engaging in recovery can learn, practice, and use.

Life is messy. Waiting for the perfect time to start living wholeheartedly with a focus on wellness and recovery doesn’t work. No perfect time exists. Now is the time to consider recovery as a path to the life you actually want to live. Everybody starts where they are, no matter how messy or disorganized it is, and they move forward.

Living with the profound discomfort and agitation caused by giving up a substance or a behavior adopted to try to manage life’s difficulties is not easy, but recovery does happen. People are successful, even if relapse is a part of their path, just as relapse is often a part of many chronic diseases. Many paths to recovery exist, so a person can tailor their recovery path to their own needs and circumstances.

Practicing compassion for self and others can be a powerful tool for those who have chosen a path of recovery and for those of their loved ones and friends who are walking this path with them. As Pema Chodron notes in Comfortable with Uncertainty , “We cultivate compassion to soften our hearts and also to become more honest and forgiving about when and how we shut down” toward ourselves or toward others (73). She also draws attention to the fact that “we learn as much about doing this from our failures as we do from our success. In cultivating compassion, we draw from the wholeness of our experience – our suffering, our empathy, as well as our cruelty and terror.” (73)

The need for total honesty, for seeing ourselves and our behaviors clearly and with perspective, is an essential part of cultivating both compassion for others and self-compassion. Compassion does not excuse behaviors, but instead comprehends the difficulty of change. Compassion includes setting proper boundaries for others and for ourselves, to promote positive interactions and discourage negative interactions.

The practice of compassion encourages people to recognize difficult emotions, and learn to sit with them, live with them as a normal part of life, and not try to escape them. It does not mean repressing negative emotions, but accepting them and dealing with them without taking actions that might injure ourselves or others. According to Pema Chodron, “It has to be this way. Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.” (73) Learning about compassion illustrates both our need for compassion and for the connections to others and to the larger world that is an essential component of a recovery plan.

Fostering true, clear-sighted compassion for oneself – that accepts flaws and works with them rather than trying to escape the past or push them down – is not necessarily easy to achieve. Serious thought, and yes, actual practice are necessary to train your mind toward compassion and away from harsh judgment or negative self-talk. In Learning Compassion for Yourself , Rita Chin discusses her battle with panic disorder and what it took for her to really consider her self-talk when dealing with panic.

Chin remembers ”thinking about those forty million Americans I’d read about. Where were they? Were they sitting on their front steps clutching their knees to their chests like me? Did they also feel alone? Hopeless? Defective? . . . I wondered how many people I’d unknowingly passed who were also struggling under the weight of a fear that seemed as vast as the universe itself. And I wondered what I would do if I met such a person. Unlike the elusive answers to the many questions I’d asked about my own panic, this answer was easy: I would reach out my hand. I would say, ‘You’re not alone. And you’re stronger than you feel in this moment.’”

Discovering what you might say to someone else, even a stranger, who came to you struggling with the same things you are, is often a first step. Many of us are kinder to strangers in our thoughts and ideas than we are to ourselves or loved ones. This is often because a stranger has not disappointed us in any way. We can react with compassion, find out how a compassionate response feels to us, by considering what we would say to someone who doesn’t have an emotional history with us. Then we can work on granting ourselves and our loved ones a measure of this same compassion.

Deniz Ahmadinia’s article Practicing Mindfulness Through Kindness and Compassion   also outlines a way to literally practice being compassionate by extending your compassion outward from someone you care about or a pet, to yourself, and to others, slowly, a step a time, simply observing your reactions without judgment as you practice. It takes time and resolve to begin making the changes involved in a recovery journey. Practicing compassion as a skill to be developed is one way you can work to make the path kinder to yourself and to others.

September is National Recovery Month, a time to celebrate those in recovery or on the path to it, and to encourage those who are beginning a recovery journey. As noted in What is Substance Abuse Treatment: A Booklet for Families , substance abuse disorders affect families and friends as well as the person with the disorder. If you or someone you care for needs help managing self-care, or if you are someone who is interested in pursuing a recovery journey, please contact Community Counseling Center of Mercer County to make and appoint by calling 724-981-7141 or toll free at 866-853-7758 and TTY: at 724-981-4327. For more information about Community Counseling Center of Mercer County, visit our website or our Facebook page .

Community Counseling Center regularly provides speakers for community groups, employers, schools and other audiences interested in behavioral health topics. For more information or to schedule a speaker, contact Mary Pollock, outpatient administrator, at (724) 981-7141, ext. 143, or by email at mpollock@cccmer.org .

 

Resources

Ahmadinia, Deniz, Psy.D. (2016, Nov. 2) Practicing Mindfulness through Kindness and Compassion. Retrieved from: https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/November-2016/Practicing-Mindfulness-through-Kindness-and-Compas

Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2014) [PDF] What Is Substance Abuse Treatment? A Booklet for Families . HHS Publication No. (SMA) 14-4126. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved from: https://store.samhsa.gov/product/What-Is-Substance-Abuse-Treatment-A-Booklet-for-Families/SMA14-4126

Chin, Rita. (2015, Aug 14) Learning Compassion for Yourself . Retrieved from: https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/August-2015/Learning-Compassion-for-Yourself

Chodron, Pema. (2003) Comfortable with Uncertainty : 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion . Boston: Shambala.

Pollock Mary, MA, LPC, CCDP, NCC, MAC, DCORT. (2017) Chasing the dragon (Part 2) Retrieved from: http://www.cccmer.org/chasing-the-dragon-part-2

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Community Counseling Center Blog | Hermitage, PA

By 7016369785 07 Dec, 2017

Any recovery journey is one of learning – not only about facts, appropriate medications and their management, and therapeutic methods, but also about a person’s own needs and strengths. A key element in recovery is support, whether from peers or from trained observers.

According to Pennsylvania Recovery and Resiliency , “Peer Support Services (PSS) are . . . conducted by self-identified current or former consumers of behavioral health services who are trained and certified to offer support and assistance in helping others in their recovery and community-integration process. Peer support is intended to inspire hope in individuals that recovery is not only possible, but probable.”

At Community Counseling Center (CCC), Peer Support Services are open to those who have a qualifying serious mental illness diagnosis that is severe and persistent, and who are referred to the program by a qualified doctor, nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant or psychologist.

Building strong ties to the community is a fundamental part of a recovery journey, and yet obtaining clinical assistance and acquiring a clear plan of treatment – including an accurate diagnosis – can also cause a person to feel separated and different from those around them. This is true even of their own family members, who may or may not be a part of a person’s recovery journey. Each person’s experiences and life histories create both strengths that can be used in recovery, and barriers to be overcome or managed. Each person must find their time to combat the stigmas regarding mental health that exist in our society.

Yet any steps to engage in stamping out stigma and moving toward advocacy must be made in a way that supports the recovery journey, without threatening it during vulnerable moments. Peer support specialists can provide safe discussions about ways to disclose, when to disclose, and how to determine which people to offer the chance to share a recovery journey, while encouraging a peer to discuss such issues with their mental health provider. They can provide information and perspectives on good and bad experiences, and act as a sounding board for processing the feedback a person receives. One peer support specialist at CCC noted that her role involves “going out and embracing other peers with non-judgment, and helping them be in the community and function in the community.”

Trying to maintain or regain ties to the community without access to others who have or are making a recovery journey can increase isolation, worsen symptoms, or stall progress in various stages. Working through a long period without change can be as difficult as managing periods of ups and downs in progress. Being able to work with someone who can help you set wellness goals, and even meet you out in the community to accompany you as a companion, friend, and advocate as you try to accomplish those goals, can help maintain hope, resiliency, and the recognition of forward progress on the path to recovery.

According to an article in Mental Health America , “Peer specialists model recovery, teach skills and offer supports to help people experiencing mental health challenges lead meaningful lives in the community. Peer specialists promote recovery; enhance hope and social networking through role modeling and activation; and supplement existing treatment with education, empowerment, and aid in system navigation.” This is not limited to navigating the health care system. Several peer support specialists from CCC said they provide support and assistance to clients by putting them in contact with other agencies that may help with housing or household needs, by working with them as they complete forms for food stamps, energy assistance programs, and employment services. One noted that many people don’t know what may be available to them, and that “you can’t recover if your basic needs aren’t being met.”

The needs of those accessing peer support services reach into the full range of the choices for wellness. Activities for meeting wellness goals have included things as wide ranging as helping a peer bathe a dog, helping put up or take down a Christmas tree, meeting peers at libraries or at a community event to meet social wellness goals, meeting at the park to help with fitness goals, and accompanying peers to meetings with doctors or medical care givers as an emotional support, as well as having discussions prior to such meetings to help peers outline goals, questions, and needs for the meeting. Peer support specialists can also assist those learning to manage public transportation if needed.  

In her article “ Peer Specialists are Not Clinicians ,” Patricia Deegan notes that the relationship between peers and peer support specialists includes a focus on “learning together rather than assessing or prescribing help.” The whole interaction is guided by the goals of the peer. Asking good questions, actively listening to the peer, and reinforcing the ideas a client has about those goals are all part of a peer specialist’s role. Knowing when to advise a peer to ask a clinician or a doctor a specific question, or for help in determining positive, realistic goals is also part of the job.

Pennsylvania Recovery and Resiliency notes that peer support services are “designed to promote empowerment, self-determination, understanding, coping skills, and resiliency through mentoring and service coordination supports that allow individuals with severe and persistent mental illness and co-occurring disorders to achieve personal wellness and cope with the stressors and barriers encountered when recovering.” Additionally, “Peer support is designed on the principles of consumer choice and the active involvement of persons in their own recovery process. Peer support practice is guided by the belief that people . . .  need opportunities to identify and choose for themselves their desired roles with regard to living, learning, working and social interaction in the community.”

While the scope of a peer support specialist’s role can be far reaching, it is guided by goals set out by the peer and is designed to help support the peer’s growing independence. CCC’s peer support specialists complete 75 hours of training prior to certification, and are responsible for meeting continuing education goals throughout the year. One noted that setting and modeling appropriate boundaries is challenging because their goal is to encourage the patient, not to do things or to speak for them.

Specialists provide support, encouragement, shared experiences, and true compassion and empathy. One specialist at CCC noted that with a peer support specialist “you have someone who can say they really get it. But you [the peer] have to be in the place when you’re ready to work.” Another noted, “We’ve been where you are.”  

Peer support services differ from traditional mental health services in some basic ways. It is a self-referring program focused on equality among participants (both peers and peer support specialists). The program provides a non-judgmental atmosphere, and the informality of the interaction between peers and peer support specialists avoids the artificial barriers such as those between “consumers” and “professionals.” Some of the program goals include individual choice in recovery, personal wellness or being as healthy as a person can be, self-advocacy, making friends that can be counted on, dealing with the stressors of finding and keeping a job, increasing self-esteem, and contacting community resources.

If you are interested in joining the community of peers, have your mental or behavioral healthcare provider or other doctor or qualifying medical provider refer you to the Community Counseling Center’s Peer Support Services program.

If you are interested in become a peer support specialist as you continue on your recovery journey, contact Susan Pozner at Community Counseling Center of Mercer County at 724-981-7141 or toll free at 866-853-7758 and TTY: at 724-981-4327. For more information about Community Counseling Center of Mercer County visit our website or our Facebook page .

 

 

Resources

“Defining Peer Support.” (n.d.)  Pennsylvania Recovery and Resiliency. Retrieved from http://164.156.7.185/parecovery/services_peer.shtml#psi

 Deegan, Patricia E.,  Ph.D. (21 June, 2017) “Peer Specialists are Not Clinicians.” PDA Blog. Retrieved from https://www.patdeegan.com/blog/posts/peer-specialists-are-not-clinicians

Interviews with Peer Support Specialists. (2 October, 2017) Community Counseling Center.

“Peer Specialists.” (n.d.) Mental Health America. Retrieved from http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/peer-services

 

MHA

By 7016369785 06 Dec, 2017
Seasonal depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or the "winter blues," is a subtype of depression or bipolar disorder that occurs and ends around the same time every year. Seasonal depression typically occurs when the seasons change and most symptoms begin in the fall and continue into the winter months. However, seasonal depression can occur in the summer or spring, although this is less common. [ 1 , 2 ,3 , 5 ]
By 7016369785 06 Nov, 2017

The Light Beneath Their Feet

 

This film may not necessarily be known by many, but it is perhaps one of the most realistic movies produced in almost documentary genre while it is also quite moving in its flow.


The mental health related flicks may be viewed through four items within the line of their realistic silver screen presentations:

 

1) Mental health concept and illness

 

2) Patients with mental health

 

3) Behavioral Health workers and

 

4) Behavioral Health settings

 

This film is successful in achieving realistic presentation of all these four items.

 

The story is simple enough that it may remind the patients and therapists of their own lives related to taking care of a person who has a mentally illness.

 

The leading characters consist of a mother and her daughter.

 

The mother is a patient with bipolar disorder. Provided she takes her medication regularly and visits her psychiatrist frequently, she appears to be maintaining the non-psychotic status, even productive when employed by the settings that would not be expecting her to engage in complex tasks.

 

Unfortunately, like some if not many patients with bipolar disorder, she does not want to continue taking her medication regularly. She chooses to stop taking it and then becomes psychotic which leads to her hospitalization.

 

Her daughter is a high school senior and a very good student who had been making plans to apply for her dream university. It would be a higher educational setting far away as long as her desired outcomes would be workable. She would need to be accepted by the university and find someone to take care of her mother in her absence. They do not have other family members and friends are reluctant to get involved in her mother’s prospective care as they do not know how to handle an individual with behavioral disturbances.

 

Therefore the movie displays two people struggling with their own situations while dearly loving each other. The mom struggled with endless manic and depressive episodes and the daughter struggled with the decision to go for her education or not to go and stay at home and take care of her mother.

 

I will take liberty to state a few things regarding the ending, since these will not be spoilers as the movie ends with no outcome! The screenplay leaves the outcome to the audience's discretion as the daughter joins her mom in their room in the last scene. The End. We do not know whether she says goodbye or lets her mom know that she is staying to take care of her.


This is an excellent film for sharing with a respective community with regard to anti-stigma efforts and educating the public about mental health.

 

This is also an excellent movie for educating behavioral health students, interns and residents along with rehabilitative program and patient groups while stopping the film from time to time and asking what is going on.  What would the participants do if they were in the shoes of the mother and daughter? This would generate and maintain a good discussion and debate.

 

It is a behavioral health gem and a bittersweet mother and daughter relationship presentation. It is relevant for many real patients, their families and therapists who have similar clients.

 

M. F. Ulus, MD


By 7016369785 25 Oct, 2017
Facing human trafficking, mental illness and addiction, respectively, Abby Long, Jason Sterling and Heidi Mikulin all can vividly recall those dark moments in their lives when they wanted to die.

Survivors now, they shared their stories Wednesday night at the continuing Mercer COPE town halls, in the hopes that those in attendance would take something away from what they’ve learned.

For Abby Long — who was born to alcoholic parents in Russia and adopted to the United States at the age of 10, only to find herself in a family where a brother repeatedly sexually assaulted her — the takeaway should be that there are signs that someone has been the victim of human trafficking.

“My issue was I started to cut early,” she said.

“I could deal with the physical pain, but not everything I was feeling inside,” said Sterling, who also turned to cutting as he struggled with mental illness and alcoholism.

He shared his story because he understands what it looked like from the world’s perspective when he was in his deepest struggles, but few understand what was going on inside.

“It’s a living hell inside your own head,” he said of mental illness.

His father left at a young age, and Sterling said he spent a long time, especially after his father’s death, trying to understand why his father left. Through Sterling’s challenges, he faced criminal charges and two divorces, as he tried to numb the pain, find a loving wife, and understand why
so many things around him fell apart.

With a diagnosis that included bipolar and borderline disorders, he started to make some
headway as he started attending a church where he found Celebrate Recovery — a program that
tackles all forms of life’s challenges from addiction to gambling and divorce — which brought
“people into my life who accepted me as I was,” he said.

“What is the solution?” Sterling said. “Honestly, I don’t know, but I know what helped me —
Love, compassion and education.”

Long shared similar advice for those trying to help people facing struggles similar to hers.

“Don’t put it on the back burner,” she said. “Show them love; don’t judge them.”

For those with someone in their life battling addiction, Mikulin had some additional insight.

Having faced addiction herself, she recalls trying to help someone that she loved battle those
demons. She said she tried to shove what she’d learned down their throats.

“That never works,” she said. “If you love someone who’s addicted, step back.”

She remembers the things her mother said and did that helped her.

Her mother wouldn’t give her money, but “if you’re hungry, I’ll feed you,” her mother told her.

She offered for Mikulin to stay in her home, but any time her mother and father left, she had to
go with them.

“And if you don’t want to go with us, you can sit outside with locked doors,” Mikulin recalls.

Mikulin is a pastor now, but struggled for decades with addiction. Included in that battle was an
accident Oct. 15, 2007, when she was driving past an accident involving a semi on Interstate 79,
didn’t see the driver outside his cab, and struck him with her vehicle.

“I remember performing CPR on him and knowing in my heart of hearts that he was already
gone,” she said. “And wanting to die myself.”

Things began to turn around in jail, where she met a chaplain and began attending church.

Through the legal process, she was confronted with the family of the man who had died, an
experience for which she says she’s grateful.

“I got to look at them and tell them with great sincerity how sorry I was,” she said. “I told them I
would never say no to telling the story of what happened that day.”

She keeps telling the story, she says, in hopes of preventing a least one person who shouldn’t get behind the wheel from doing so.

Scotty Clary, a drug and alcohol counselor from the Mercer County Behavioral Health Commission, shared information on juvenile marijuana abuse, including longterm effects that can include dropping out of school, potential opiate abuse and financial difficulties.
By 7016369785 25 Oct, 2017
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By 7016369785 20 Oct, 2017
By Holly Patterson
By 7016369785 10 Oct, 2017

SHARON — According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 15 percent of women who have recently given birth suffer from postpartum depression.

This year’s Stamp Out Stigma (SOS) at Penn State Shenango will feature a presentation on the subject at its fourth annual SOS event to be held from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 18, in the Great Hall of Sharon Hall located on Vine Avenue in downtown Sharon.

The event is free and open to the public.

The hour-long program will also include a discussion on why health and fitness are vital to a person’s mental well-being led by Penn State Shenango Counselor Tony Paglia, as well as a special message on love and unity in the face of the horrible tragedies that have recently occurred in our country by Jack Luchette, a Penn State alumnus and the lead organizer of the annual event.

“At Penn State Shenango, we approach student health from a holistic perspective, and we seek to serve students with programming and resources that will promote their health in the areas of mind, body, and spirit,” Paglia said. “This semester, we are excited to offer our students on-campus yoga classes with instructor Debbie Harrington. We believe that by reducing stigma and encouraging our students to take better care of their physical and mental health, they will be more successful in meeting their academic and personal goals.”

The presenters at this year’s SOS event, in addition to Paglia and Luchette, include Community Counseling Center of Mercer County Community Outreach and Development Director Fern Torok, and special guest Penn State Shenango Human Development and Family Studies Lecturer and Licensed Clinical Social Worker Kara Mild, who will be speaking about postpartum depression and the stigma associated with the mood disorder.

“The Community Counseling Center has conducted 97 distinct Stamp Out Stigma presentations with over 117,000 people during the past several years,” Torok said. “We are excited to be part of the Shenango campus’ event again this year.”

For more information, call Paglia at 724-983- 2841.


By 7016369785 05 Oct, 2017

Gossip has been around since the beginning of man and women. However, a lot of people take gossip way too far in life, which can cause terrible events to unroll onto that person. Looking back, I myself was involved in several horrible rumors and lies. Now for me that did nothing to me, I shrugged them off, laughed, and cheered registering their petty lies useless. This is a mechanism that I have created over time. The same cannot be said about other individuals, the lies can emotionally harm someone especially if the rumor isn’t true. The Gossip Effect explains how and what the effect of gossiping can have on someone. For example, in high school a women or a man could be verbally abused by others daily. They might say something like “You are ugly, how could anyone date you!” this inappropriate comment will spread throughout the school like wild fire aka (Gossip). As it goes through one person it will get told slightly different every single time it is told to a new person it is altered. Eventually the comment previous-ly said could be something like this, “Oh, I heard she is pregnant” or “I heard they do drugs almost every day”. From my point of view, I take all these comments and think, “Hmm, how could someone their age be so childish. Ha-ha.” Laughing is the best medicine, my advice to all of you is laugh at those comments, don’t let them get to you. Now I understand you can take it personally or even get angry and lash out at the accused. STOP, think it over and think of the consequences and then calm down and smile and don’t care about those petty comments. Odds are you want to hurt them or make them experience the same pain as yourself. However, if you really want to hurt them, don’t let those insults get to you. Shrug them off and smile, laugh a few times and walk away from the situation. Thank them for their time and continue your beautiful day, don’t let anything get to you. If you are looking to learn how to just shrug it off then practice in your mind and head, play a scenario over and over again practicing. Let me tell you, you are beautiful and you are awesome regardless of what anyone says. Look into the mirror every morning and smile at yourself and say one good thing about your-self, could be your smile, or your personality. Love yourself, once you accept these facts, those petty gossips will mean nothing. Gossip isn’t just insulting someone, gossip is when someone tells everyone else without your knowledge of it. Keep those private conversations to your-self, it should always be confidential. You are awesome and as long as you keep seeing good traits and staying true to one self.

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