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Monday, March 30, 2020

Grieving the Loss of Your Addiction

At some point in life, everyone will experience the loss of someone they know: a parent, sibling, close friend, coworker, or beloved pet. We understand the despair, hopelessness, anger, and loneliness that accompanies the loss, and we understand that this is a part of life. 

When others are grieving, it is customary to offer them support and time to heal. This is born from our capacity for empathy for what they’re going through: How would I deal with this situation? What would I want to feel best supported?

However, it remains difficult at times to understand what we do not know or have not experienced firsthand; such as the pain of their specific loss in all its nuance. For the non-addicted population, the sort of loss associated with the ending of an addiction may seem incomprehensible.

However, what we know is that the difficulty of “losing” or overcoming an addiction can actually be very similar to the pain and reorganization of life experienced when we lose someone that we love. Knowing this, we can begin to have empathy for the process that we’re asking of our addicted loved ones. 

Exploring the Stages of Grief and of Change

This concept is not an entirely new idea, as Kubler-Ross’ well-known “Stages of Grief” have been compared to Prochaska and Diclemente’s Transtheoretical model, or “Stages of Change” with remarkable success, as in the work of Chambers and Wallingford. These stage models appear to complement one another in their discussion of how the loss of an addiction affects an individual similar to the loss of important figures in their life. 

In a complementary way, this is also dependent upon initially viewing one’s attachment to their substance of choice as similar to that of a primary relationship. Here too, the parallels are remarkable. With early stages of infatuation complete with arousal, euphoria, an increased preoccupation with the other, and desire to spend increasing amounts of time “with” them, later stages in the relationship are marked by periods of dysphoric separation, rife with a sense of loss and longing to regain access to the beloved.

Stages of Change

The “Stages of Change” model has been shaping the way that the treatment community views and explains the process by which individuals overcome addiction for the past 40 years. Its introduction by Prochaska and Diclemente was of the singular purpose to answer the question, “What are the steps required to make a behavioral change?” 

Whether the behavioral change means quitting smoking, deciding to pursue recovery from substances or harmful behavioral patterns or even implementing a new diet plan, this model is useful in its ability to help identify one’s readiness for change and to identify a path forward. Clinicians use this model to work with clients at their readiness level and suggest individualized and tailored interventions.

The stages of change are:

    1. Precontemplation
    2. Contemplation
    3. Preparation
    4. Action
    5. Maintenance

Stages of Grief

Applying the Kubler-Ross stages of grief to the process of overcoming one’s addiction may be a more relatable and understandable way of framing this sort of loss. With special attention to the emotional tasks necessary in working through and coming to terms with a loss, individuals may move throughout these stages in less sequential order. 

The Stages of Grief are:
      1. Denial
      2. Anger
      3. Bargaining 
      4. Depression 
      5. Acceptance 

Step by Step

  1. As with an individual in active denial of their loss, someone in the precontemplation stage of change has not yet come to terms with the reality of their situation, namely that they have a problem, and that in order to avoid consequences, something needs to change. Although they may be facing some consequences already, they may refuse to acknowledge the connection to their addiction or deny the scope of the difficulty.
  2. Those in the second stage may be beginning to understand the consequences of their behavior, as well as the magnitude of what is being asked of them. As they are in contemplation of the task before them, they may respond in anger, longing for the days when they could live in ignorance of the consequences. 
  3. As those in the third stage’s preparations begin to take shape, they make choices about how they will move forward, often bargaining with themselves or attempting to make concessions, despite knowing what must occur in order to fully recover. 
  4. Putting the plan into action may bring up associated memories that require finally confronting the reality of the loss. Whether we consider this stage to be a “depression”, in actuality, we are responding to the loss and confronting the new reality on a daily basis. Walking through this stage requires a steadfast determination and commitment to the creation of our new reality. 
  5. The final stages of maintenance and acceptance denote the realization of that new reality and suggest that the loss has been finally integrated into one’s understanding of themselves. 

Treatment at The Haven at Pismo

If you recognize yourself or someone you know in the above-mentioned stages, it may be time to seek treatment from California’s premier central coast provider. Our staff is equipped with the knowledge to help your loved one progress through their recovery and find acceptance in a life free of addictive patterns.  

With individualized treatment, we work to create a plan that works for you and your family. Call today at 1-805-202-3440 for a complimentary and confidential assessment.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Learning to Communicate Effectively

Since we were infants, most of us have had the ability to hear. As we grow older and become children, we are told to “listen” frequently. Listen to our parents, our teachers, our friends, and our family. What we are not told as young children is that hearing and listening, better yet, “active listening” is totally different. 

On the same note, we begin babbling as babies and our first words are typically the highlight of our parents’ day, week, or year. We continue to speak throughout our lives, whether or not our parents remained as attuned to what we have to say, although often we pick up some bad habits along the way that are not ultimately helpful to us. 

Without having the proper knowledge on how to listen and speak our minds properly, can we really know if we are communicating effectively? For all of us, and those in recovery especially, learning to communicate effectively can be the difference between feeling numb to our emotions, and having the courage to speak them aloud. 

How to Listen

The first, and maybe the most important part of listening, is actually caring what the other person is saying. Without a vested interest, the mind can wander into several different directions, none of which are focused on the speaker’s piece of mind. 

What often occurs is that many of us are busy formulating our responses to the speaker’s comments while they are still talking. Due to the fact that we are trying to think of something clever, helpful, or important to say when the speaker is finished talking, we have actually missed both verbal and non-verbal cues that the speaker is sharing. 

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

-Stephen R. Covey 

What is Active Listening?

Active listening is made up of several steps including:
  • Attention (focusing on what the speaker is saying)
  • Presenting a nonjudgmental attitude (being open to new perspectives)
  • Reflecting (trying to paraphrase key points)
  • Clarifying (if you need further explanation)
  • Summarizing (restating the main themes)
  • Sharing (if appropriate, share a similar experience that is related to the speakers’)

Becoming a Better Listener

While reading through this, it might be easy to think that these skills feel too formulaic or basic to be helpful for the types of conversations you’re having with your partner or friends. However, as with most things, it is important to master the basics before you heighten the stakes. Make it a point to limit potential distractions; putting down your cell phone or turning off the television while listening. Also important is that you pay attention to your body language and even train yourself to have consistent and more focused eye contact.

Something that many of us may struggle with while beginning to listen more effectively is accepting silence. Oftentimes, we fight against the silence as it may make us uncomfortable, but it can provide the time needed to process what the speaker is saying. Effective communication should be more like a game of catch, where the recipient takes their time before returning the play, rather than a game of rapid-fire ping pong. 

The Flip Side: How to Speak

Most of what we know is that communicating effectively really leads us back to listening. Although there are proper things to do while speaking, effective communication does truly come from our ability to take on one another’s perspectives. 

A tip to remember when in conflict is to use what is referred to as an “I statement.” An “I statement” simply refers to the way in which a statement is framed. It allows you to express your feelings in a way that is neutral and focuses on the current emotion, rather than placing blame on the person in front of you. An “I statement” allows you to portray your feelings from your perspective. 

An example of this would be “I feel hurt when you do not express gratitude when the house has been cleaned because it took a lot of time for me to get all of this done. I would prefer it if you would say ‘thank you’”. An “I statement” is not meant to resolve a conflict indefinitely, but it does allow for a conversation to begin in a calm and thoughtful manner. 


A part of communication that has become widely discussed in recent years, in large part due to the work of Brene Brown, is vulnerability. The idea of vulnerability probably scares most of us, as it means that we are choosing to share our feelings with others, rather than bury or hide from them. This means opening ourselves up to judgment, opening ourselves up to the possibility of being told we are wrong, even opening ourselves up to what we may consider failure. 

The reason that vulnerability has become a widely powerful and largely discussed topic in relation to communication is because of its impact on building strong connections. Vulnerability is an integral part of speaking to others as it means we are putting our real feelings on display, admitting we may not know what to do, and asking for feedback. 

As a friend, family member, partner, or employer/employee, a valuable part of communication is vulnerability-- authentically being yourself and allowing your feelings to be heard, and hopefully actively listened to, by others. 

Learning Life Skills at The Haven

The skills involved in using effective communication are beneficial at all stages of treatment, whether you’re just starting out and encouraged by the call to vulnerability, or you are just beginning to picture your life after treatment, and are concerned about how to approach loved ones back home. 

Please reach out to us today to learn more about our central California location and the programs and services we offer that make The Haven the perfect place to renew to your best today.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Action Plan Update

Protecting the health and wellness of our employees and clients is of the utmost importance to The Haven at Pismo.  Our leadership team and medical staff are taking every precaution to proactively prevent the exposure and transmission of Coronavirus (COVID-19) at all our company’s locations.
Below we have outlined our action plan in response to Coronavirus (COVID-19). We will continue to monitor the situation and update our response to ensure that we are taking every measure to protect our employees and clients.

The CDC outlines the following signs and symptoms as potential indicators of Coronavirus (COVID-19):
  • Fever of 100.4F
  • Cough
  • Sore Throat
  • Runny Nose
  • Shortness of Breath

Admissions Screening Protocol

The Haven has developed a screening tool in accordance with the guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
All potential clients seeking admission to The Haven will be screened for signs and symptoms of Coronavirus (COVID-19) utilizing The Haven’s Coronavirus Screening Questionnaire.
Any client exhibiting signs and symptoms of the illness or endorsing risk factors identified by the CDC will be denied admission to our programs.

Coronavirus Infection Control Plan: Our medical team has developed a comprehensive Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Control Plan. This action plan includes the following interventions.

Staff and Client Education  

The Haven has developed educational materials in accordance with the CDC’s recommendations to equip staff and clients with the tools necessary to prevent transmission of Coronavirus (COVID-19).  These measures include guidelines for proper hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, disinfecting and maintaining a sanitized community environment, and monitoring clients and staff for signs and symptoms of potential infection.

Coronavirus Symptoms Screening Tool

The Haven has implemented a protocol to continually assess clients for potential infection to prevent the potential transmission of disease. Our staff will assess our clients every shift for signs and symptoms of infection utilizing The Haven’s Coronavirus Symptoms Screening Tool to promote early identification of potential infection and prevention of transmission.

Potential Coronavirus Exposure Protocol

The Haven has implemented a Potential Coronavirus Exposure Protocol to prevent disease transmission if an individual exhibits signs or symptoms of Coronavirus (COVID-19). This protocol has been adopted throughout our organization to protect our staff, potential clients, and those clients under our care.

The Haven will continue to monitor Coronavirus (COVID-19) developments and updates, including community exposure statistics, recommendations by the Center for Disease Control and World Health Organization, and guidelines provided by the California Department of Public Health to ensure that we are following best-practices to protect and promote the health and wellness of our staff and clients.

Employee Precautions

If you know or have reason to believe that you have come into contact with an individual who has tested positive for Coronavirus (COVID-19), do not come to work. Notify your supervisor and monitor yourself for symptoms of infection per the CDC guidelines.

If you have a temperature of 100.4F, do not come to work. Notify your supervisor and monitor yourself for symptoms of infection per the CDC guidelines.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Diving Deeper: What Makes Group Therapy Successful?

Group therapy is a core component in recovery and essential to many treatment centers’ programming. This can be upsetting and nerve-racking to some who cannot imagine sharing their stories to a room of strangers! Although it can be frightening, there is a method and solid reasoning as to why groups are used so frequently as a tool in recovery, in addition to personal sessions.

Therapy groups have many beneficial elements that are stronger than individual therapy or are simply unique to the group experience. Dr. Irvin Yalom, an emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University, has done extensive work and research in the effectiveness of group therapy and he developed 11 Curative Factors that are often present in group counseling. These can be summarized in the concepts of “connection” and “healing” through “putting it into practice” and having a ready-made community for you to practice the skills learned throughout treatment.


The most notable difference with group therapy is the ability to connect with other people on a mutual journey. A comfort to some is experiencing this idea of the Universality of their struggle while sharing and hearing the stories of others. This means that group members are able to connect events in their life to similar ongoings in the lives of others and concretely experiencing the realization that no one is alone in their experience. Those in recovery soon learn that they are not alone and that their experience of cravings, resentments, and guilt are all relatable.
Benefitting from the lived experiences shared by each member also leaves room for Imparting Information to occur. Sharing knowledge can also be done by the facilitator where the group can discuss their new insights together.

These two factors can help build Group Cohesiveness, where there is a feeling of acceptance and a sense of belonging to the group.  This cohesion is the foundation for life-changing therapy to occur.


Group therapy additionally provides the opportunity for Catharsis when individuals begin to disclose challenges and pent up emotional wounds. Sharing with more than one person can provide an experience of relief when there is safety in the group.
The act of revealing oneself fully to another and still being accepted may be the major vehicle of therapeutic help.” Irvin D. Yalom, The Gift of Therapy: An Open Letter to a New Generation of Therapists and Their Patients
On the alternative end from sharing, is receiving and being open to the experience of others which can promote Altruism. This comes from helping other group members, oftentimes simply by listening. Giving space for others to feel accepted and supported can help both parties increase personal self-worth and value.
Being involved in a group is a real-life experience of being a part of something larger than oneself. Yalom suggests that Existential Factors are able to be explored in that space. These factors delve deeper into how we create meaning in our life, our acceptance of life’s inevitable suffering, owning our responsibilities to make our own choices, and many other philosophical concerns.
Seeing this healing process unfold and feeling a sense of connection additionally can foster an Instillation of Hope. Group members offer one another a chance to believe that life can change and that recovery is possible. Often in active addiction, people may feel like they cannot stay sober or wonder if it is even possible for them. Witnessing the stories of group members can give a sense of hope for others.

Putting it to Practice

Group therapy is able to work in the “here and now” so what you learn in individual sessions, or in the group can be applied almost immediately with other group members. A likely first step to this is Imitative Behavior. A group member is able to observe the lives of others and chose to mimic coping strategies or modify other helpful characteristics for their own recovery.

On a deeper level, sometimes different group members may remind you of your father, an earlier version of yourself, or someone from your past who was a part of a negative event and you may experience healing through Corrective Recapitulation. This gives space to ‘rewrite’ your experiences safely by having a healing moment with another group member under the guidance of the group facilitator.

In addition, having access to multiple other people makes it a great space to practice Socializing Techniques. There are scenarios in which a group member could learn tolerance for the actions of another, empathy for another’s pain, or conflict resolution in working through a disagreement.  

Overall, this connection gives the opportunity for Interpersonal Learning. Don’t we all wonder how we come across to other people? Group can be a place for members to provide feedback on another member’s relational traits. This presents an opportunity to explore patterns and practice new ways of relating to others within the safety and support of other group members. This is invaluable knowledge to take into real-world relationships.

Taking the Plunge into Group Therapy at the Haven

Participating in a therapy group is a courageous leap of vulnerability. There may be times where the work is uncomfortable or that you are unsure of what to do next, but that is a part of the learning process. There is true power in group interactions to be a space for learning and healing in real-time. 

Groups offered at the Haven are an important aspect of treatment, in nearly all phases of treatment. Contact us today to learn how group therapy fits into your individualized treatment plan!