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Monday, March 29, 2021

Gender-Specific Treatment & Why It's Important

For treatment to be the most effective, it is vital that programs and clinicians use interventions that are evidence-based, culturally considerate, and reflective of patients’ needs. In residential treatment, these factors are especially important to ensure that individuals are receiving the best standard of care and can truly heal. 

One important consideration is the aspects associated with gender and how this can influence treatment. Many of the common interventions used for residential substance use treatment were originally designed for men, therefore omitting important cultural and societal factors specific to women. Gender-specific treatment allows for residential settings to incorporate these unique factors and needs into treatment, therefore providing holistic and comprehensive care.

What is Gender-Specific Treatment?

Gender-Specific treatment is based on a model established by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in 2009. This treatment improvement protocol was implemented to research women in substance use treatment and determine their specific needs in order to establish a standard for gender-specific treatment. Some important topics include:
    • Acknowledging the socioeconomic differences between women and men
    • Recognizing the role of relationships: women with substance use disorders are more likely to have a spouse with a substance use disorder, be victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) and have less support from family than men.
    • Increasing awareness of reproductive health and address health concerns
    • Directing attention to parental and caretaking roles
    • Recognizing ascribed roles and gender expectations that affect societal attitudes
    • Maintaining a trauma-informed perspective: Women are more likely to have a history of trauma including childhood abuse and IPV. A trauma-informed perspective includes empowering women who are survivors of trauma, including offering choice and autonomy whenever possible and respecting personal boundaries.

What does Gender-Specific Treatment look like?

Gender-specific treatment can occur in an outpatient, residential, or inpatient setting. Some co-ed treatment programs may offer gender-specific groups. Typically, gender-specific residential programs will include men-only and women-only residences, therapies, and meetings.
While this may mean tailoring therapeutic interventions to include the specific needs and values of men, women, or those who are non-binary, gender-specific treatment may also include a curriculum designed specifically for that population. A pioneer in gender-specific treatment protocols is Dr. Stephanie Covington. She is a researcher and clinician who has developed multiple curricula for gender-specific substance use treatment. Some examples of her work include Helping Women Recover, Helping Men Recover, Beyond Trauma: A Healing Journey for Women, and Exploring Trauma: Brief Intervention for Men.

Why Gender-Specific Treatment Matters

Gender-specific treatment is an effective therapeutic model for men and women with substance use disorders. One reason why gender-specific treatment is important is that it reflects patient-centered care. This is considered to be a vital component of ethical treatment. Patient-centered care means that clinicians are responsive to patients’ values and needs and allow patient preferences to guide the treatment process. For gender-specific treatment, patient-centered care is embodied by recognizing the cultural and societal factors that influence gender and incorporating them into the recovery process, providing more comprehensive care and better outcomes.
Gender-specific treatment creates an environment that is safer to process, discuss, and heal from trauma. Trauma is highly correlated with substance use and is an important element of treatment. For men, trauma is often not talked about, dismissed and can be associated with weakness. Men may be less likely to share about trauma and abuse with women present, and a single-gender, trauma-informed environment can provide the safety and space to discuss sensitive topics. For women who have experienced trauma, often their perpetrators are men, and some feel they cannot discuss their trauma with men present. It could also be triggering and feel like an unsafe situation. Therefore gender-specific treatment is an effective strategy to uphold trauma-informed care.

Gender-Specific Treatment at The Haven

Addiction is universal and affects people of all ages, races, genders, and socioeconomic statuses. However, this does not mean that everyone experiences addiction the same. Offering treatment that is gender-specific creates a more inclusive, extensive, and effective environment. 
Gender-specific treatment recognizes the unique needs, values, and socio-cultural factors associated with one’s gender, therefore offering more specialized and tailored therapy. Gender-specific treatment can remove romantic and sexual distractions, allowing individuals to focus on their recovery and treatment. 
Individuals often feel more comfortable opening up with those of the same gender, allowing men and women to more easily share their feelings and experiences. This vulnerability creates a sense of trust, belonging, and closer peer relationships that strengthen one’s recovery network. By establishing a recovery environment that feels safe, individuals can feel empowered to flourish in their recovery.
To further discover the benefits of gender-specific addiction treatment, please contact The Haven at Pismo today.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Getting Out of Body With Your Trauma

Finding healthy outlets for processing trauma can feel overwhelming. The healing journey often feels like walking a maze of possibility and roadblocks, but think about how much easier that labyrinth would be to navigate if you had a map. Maybe you’ll still take a few wrong turns. Perhaps the way you arrive isn’t precisely as you thought you would, but the journey to get there feels a lot less overwhelming with a little guidance. There’s no singular right way to process trauma, but you don’t have to do it alone. Read on for some ideas on navigating your healing.

Write a letter 

Letter writing is a productive way to lead the charge in processing the experience and the emotions that come with it. In order to optimize healing, a focused purpose or theme will help you work through particular facets of your trauma. 

Several letter types can be beneficial in processing your experiences. A few of them are:

  • Gratitude letters can help you say thank you, even within the framework of pain. Reflect on the support you received, a decision or comment that a friend or pillar in your support system made, or a moment of individual empowerment. Describing your gratitude for those experiences and mapping the emotions you felt in the moment (and now reflecting on them) can be healing. 

  • Forgiveness letters. Whether you ask for or grant forgiveness, walking through the events that led to requiring it will help reprocess those moments through a more balanced perspective. Being honest about what you felt then and where you are now, re-telling the events, and clearly stating the forgiveness (be it a request or a grant) may offer closure. 

  • Writing a perspective letter without the intention of sending it can also be healing. This type of letter you write purely for the catharsis of the process. It will authentically explore your perspective in the moment of trauma up to where you are now, with little to no filter or reservation in expressing yourself honestly. 

No matter the type of letter you choose, it is essential to identify your audience. Whether it’s past you, present you, or someone else involved in the experiences you’re processing, give your healing some direction by addressing your letter to a recipient and addressing them throughout. 

Tell your story 

If the written word isn’t how you feel heard, try telling your story out loud. You can choose to record yourself so you retain control and can stop or start as required. Perhaps meeting with a group of trusted friends or peers who have experienced similar trauma (like a women’s addiction group, recovery support, or survivor’s guild) is an excellent place to start. There are various formats available to tell your story and reach an audience as large or small as you feel comfortable. 

You may choose to tell your story as a speech, a monologue, or even an open forum discussion where others can offer their own experiences. The important thing is that you tell your story authentically, and you feel supported in doing so. It’s challenging to open up, but you may find that you feel relief once there is openness around your trauma. Getting the chance to offer support or trade experiences with others who have been there may also be incredibly healing.

Practice self-care 

...And not just the fun kind. While it’s vital for you to spend time on activities that feel good and bring you joy, it’s also crucial that you devote time to yourself in other ways. Face your feelings honestly and openly without judgment, and spend time with them inside your head and body. Eat well, go to bed on time. These are fundamental building blocks of caring for yourself through trauma. However, there are more elements to looking after yourself than the basics. 

Avoidance can feel like the most natural way to get through the trauma. While it’s okay to avoid something long enough to survive it, it’s also necessary to face your feelings honestly to resolve them. Being a mirror for your own experiences can be difficult, so one of the most important things you can do is offer yourself grace. Be patient and forgiving of your emotions and your experiences. Remember, no one, not even you, is expected to get life right 100% of the time. Not now, and certainly not amid trauma.

Seek Support

Lean on those who want to help. Allowing yourself to rely on those you trust to walk you through healing is the greatest gift you can give not only yourself but your loved ones as well. Walking through trauma alongside those who can offer a framework of trust and healing will ensure the road you walk is one with accountability. Healing is not linear, nor is it all pleasant. Trusting those who have experience in trauma recovery like The Haven’s experts can help bring balance to your path.

You may not return to the person you were before trauma, but the growth you find in rebuilding is powerful even when it’s born from something difficult. But one thing is certain: you will recover. With the proper tools and support, you are already well on your way to healing from your trauma.

Monday, March 15, 2021

What Will My Daily Schedule Look like in Addiction Treatment?

The Haven at Pismo has a unique care program that spans the continuum of services and incorporates AA meetings, group and individual therapy, transitional living, and full-time support. We make sure you receive the care you need to create a better life. We will give you opportunities to take advantage of our resources and tools every day. Our day-to-day schedule is an integral part of building skills needed to create a similar foundation after leaving treatment.

Before we go into the daily schedule of your time at The Haven, let’s get an aerial view of your care timeline, click to learn more about these specific phases of treatment.
Our clients typically stay between 30 and 90 days. After an initial assessment, we will develop a comprehensive program that meets each individual’s specific needs.

We craft our schedule carefully to ensure that you have continual opportunities for growth throughout the day. Of course, depending on the treatment phase you are in and the goals we want to work on, your exact schedule may look different.

A schedule for an average day at The Haven at Pismo might look something like this:

Where Your Day Begins

We believe women and men have distinct emotional and physical needs that we must consider as we provide treatment. Women and men face different societal pressures and wrestle with substance abuse in gender-specific ways. At The Haven at Pismo, we have gender-specific inpatient treatment facilities. Depending on your gender, you may start your day at The Mesa House for Women or The Solana House for Men.

Miracle Morning

We know how crucial it is to begin the morning in a positive light, which is why we developed the “Miracle Morning.” The schedule involves the morning meeting that our counselors or PSS staff run and set intentions for our clients. We implement various meditations, discussions, and mind-clearing exercises to help continue positivity throughout the day.

Process Group

During process groups, you will get the chance to participate in group therapy, which can be a powerful tool for growth and change for anyone recovering from addiction. During the process groups, about 6-10 individuals will come together to share their struggles and concerns with typically one to two trained therapists. The power of this style of therapy comes from the unique opportunity to listen to different perspectives, hear others’ support, receive encouragement and feedback from other individuals, and a therapist in a confidential environment. During this time, your goal will be to take comfort in the support of these individuals and use their motivation for a better life to help you connect more meaningfully to yours.


Our facilities are home to a skilled culinary team that prepares each of our meals for our detox, residential, and partial hospitalization clients. We craft all meals with healthy cooking techniques, hearty presentation, and nutrient-dense ingredients. Our culinary team uses our location’s unique access to produce from local farms and orchards to provide farm-to-table, organic, and other natural options as a routine part of the Haven dining experience. We also accommodate special nutritional needs, food intolerances, or religious dietary concerns. Please communicate this with our staff.

Our nutritional guidance is an essential part of any customized rehab program to help reverse the damage addiction has put your body through. Our staff of dietitians and culinary specialists will help you reduce these addiction-related conditions:
  • Malnourishment
  • Immune system damage
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Skin disorders
  • Liver & kidney damage
  • Diabetes
Your culinary experience will not only educate you on how to fully nourish your body while enjoying delicious food at each meal.
Physical Activity

Part of the necessary healing in the recovery process is with the body, though not just with what you eat. Physical activity is vital to help keep mental sharpness and healthy working organs! We fill our afternoons with tons of activities available on the property or within close distance.

Here is a list to name a few with love to enjoy:
  • Freeform pools & hot tubs
  • Bocce ball
  • Surfing & kayaking
  • Kite & paddle boarding
  • Hiking & backpacking
  • Beach strolls
  • Sailing & fishing
  • Rock climbing & rappelling
  • Biking
  • Horseback riding
  • Golfing

Afternoon Groups

After you have gotten your bodies up and moving, you will come back in to begin the afternoon portion of meetings. Most group meetings are either life skills building or engaging therapeutic activities led by drug and alcohol counselors.

Some of our unique activities may include:

Art therapy:
Art therapy has become a keystone for counseling and support services. Our centers provide group sessions to draw, paint, or use other creative media like clay to increase true self-express and creativity. This modality can help you process your innermost feelings and be a great way to deepen your understanding of your purpose.

Stress Management Workshops: With our trained counselors teaching these techniques, you can be sure to enjoy a workshop learning how to tune in with your emotions. We love offering courses that will benefit you and providing skills you can take with you.

Personal Development Workshops: Explore fresh ways to develop social skills. Overcoming shyness to increase interpersonal skills can help you create a supportive circle of friends after recovery. We want you to discover your strengths as you navigate personal challenges and embrace heightened levels of confidence.

Sound therapy: This innovative alternative therapy works at a cellular level to initiate healing. Sound therapy uses varying pitches and vibrations to help improve chi, release negative emotions, alleviate pain and stress and balance the mind, body, and spirit.

Evening Meeting

Our evenings involve attending a group addiction meeting. Currently, this meeting is via Zoom because of COVID-19. When we can do so safely, these will go back to in-person meetings. This meeting offers our clients a chance to connect with others who have very similar experiences. Connecting with others is a great way to end the day and hear stories that confirm why you are searching for recovery.

Although this blog describes our program’s day-to-day outline, we want to be clear that each day is a new adventure at The Haven. Our staff and clients are here to enjoy the process of recovery. We know that this is an arduous process, so we provide such stimulating and unique experiences and programs for you to become immersed. 

The best way to determine which type of care that suits your situation is to contact a Haven at Pismo Recovery Advisor. Our knowledgeable staff will help you through the admissions process and help you stay committed to your restorative treatment! Call 805.202.3440 to verify insurance or discuss your substance abuse history now and see when you can begin the healing process.

Monday, March 8, 2021

How to Be a Supportive Friend To Someone Struggling With Addiction

Addiction is a disease that negatively affects all elements of life and the 
body. Anyone who has experienced this first, second, or even third-hand knows the devastating relationship outcomes of addiction. When someone you love and care about is struggling with addiction, it can be heart-wrenching. Watching a friend struggle with addiction is a kind of heartache all its own.

Being a supportive friend to someone struggling with addiction can be difficult but well worth the rewards. Here are four simple reminders that can help guide your friendship with someone struggling with addiction.
  • Genuinely Check-in Often
  • Provide Comfort & Support
  • Educate Yourself
  • Stay Positive

Check up on your friends.

A good friend cares about their friends’ well being and wants what’s best for their friends. Being a supportive friend to someone struggling with addiction means checking up on them often. Don’t be quaint and shallow with the check-in, either. Be genuine and throughout the conversation. Checking in consistently and with depth shows authentic support for someone struggling with addiction.

Ask about how they feel in that moment and what intense emotions they have experienced since the last conversation. Truly listen to their words and even the emotion in their voice. Dig deeper into the things that seem to bother them. Help them work through solutions when they are struggling. Sometimes just having someone who cares to talk to can be a day saver, and for someone struggling with addiction, it could quite literally be a lifesaver.

Comfort friends struggling with addiction.

When a friend needs extra attention or comfort to handle difficult situations and intense emotional times, a good friend will go the extra mile to help. Whether it is something small like a ride to a meeting or something more extensive like offering a place to stay—comfort and support look different depending on the people and the situation involved. Being a supportive friend to someone struggling with addiction means being reasonably available emotionally and physically.

Finding healthy ways to comfort and support close friends depends on the relationship history and individual needs. As with any friendship, unwritten rules and boundaries exist in the fine print of your relationship. It is essential to have conversations about what types of support friends are comfortable giving and receiving. The last thing you want to do is cross a line or push away a friend who struggles with addiction.

Educate yourself on addiction.

To provide healthy comfort and support as a friend to someone struggling with addiction, educating yourself on the disease can only benefit the relationship. Take the initiative to learn more about addiction and even about your friends’ specific challenges. There are lots of places to get more information about addiction; the internet is a great start. You can often get books and informational pamphlets from a local library or recovery center. You could even go to a meeting with your friend or on your own to learn more. Al-anon groups are available for families and friends of those living with addiction that can provide perspective and insight from others in a similar role.

Addiction is a complex disease, and it’s understandable not to know a lot right away. However, taking the time to understand addiction and how it affects people is incredibly beneficial. It also helps you be more aware of the signs and triggers associated with substance abuse. However you choose to educate yourself on addiction helps you, your friend, and your friendship.

Stay positive, even in the darkest times.

People in recovery and those struggling with addiction will experience emotional extremes. As a friend to someone struggling with addiction, it helps to stay grounded and positive for your friend even when they may be in a depressive mood. Avoid becoming overly optimistic to where they wouldn’t want to share their lows, but be a spark of light in their dark when they need it most.

Encouraging them shows you care and want your friend to hold on to the good, knowing that they will feel better soon. A part of healing is dealing with the downs of past and current traumas, and being a good friend means being able to hold their hand and remind them where their smile is. Finding your inner light is essential so that you can help your friends do the same.

No one said it was easy.

Being a supportive friend to someone who struggles with addiction may not be the most effortless friendship to maintain. Still, when you love and care about someone in your life, you will take the extra effort to support their well being. Someone struggling with addiction needs genuine friends more now than ever. A successful recovery will strongly depend on a healthy support team. The supportive environment offered at The Haven at Pismo provides someone struggling with addiction an ideal environment for recovery. If you or someone you know is that friend struggling with addiction, call our team of credentialed addiction specialists: 805.202.3440.

Monday, March 1, 2021

5 Relapse Prevention Tips To Use This Year

No matter where you are on your recovery journey, the use of healthy relapse prevention tactics is probably becoming something you do several times a day. Of course, everyone’s road to long-term abstinence looks different. No matter your story, there are some foundational relapse prevention tips that you can build into your life structure to support your recovery.

Let’s explore 5 Relapse Prevention Tips you can use in 2021 and beyond.

  1. Creating Healthy Habits
  2. Acceptance and Change
  3. Self Care and Personal Hygiene
  4. Awareness and Mindfulness
  5. Seek Support

Healthy Habits

Like those mentioned above, your ability to create healthy habits is how you strengthen the foundation of long-term sobriety. Changing your daily routines that trigger the urge to use is the priority—as is changing daily habits just to become a healthier person inside and out.

Science says it can take anywhere from 18 up to 254 days for a person to form a new habit. It takes an average of 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic. Remember to be easy on yourself, especially when trying to implement new routines. Even if you slip up (Link to Relapse vs. lapse), it’s the genuine effort and determination to return to your goal that will get you there.

Acceptance and Change

Prevention of relapse depends on your ability to effectively navigate the extremes of both acceptance and change. ‘Acceptance’ includes recognizing that there are things beyond your control and recognizing your struggle with the disease itself. Harnessing the power of ‘Change’ highlights your determination to develop yourself to align more with your goal.

A large part of acceptance requires the understanding that the threat of relapse is always looming. It can occur at any point during the recovery process. Acknowledging that you can only change what lies within your power gives serenity in progressing forward. When you choose not to focus on things that upset or disturb you and instead accept them, you can refocus on what you can change for the better.

Personal acceptance of behaviors and personality traits are necessary to improve and grow. Once in recovery, having a healthy self-image is essential to maintaining long-term abstinence. Part of that healthy self-image is practicing self-acceptance and self-development on a macro-level. As a relapse prevention tactic, someone in recovery must be able to, inside and out, see themselves as a good person who is making progress with the capability to control their reactions.

Self Care and Personal Hygiene

While creating a healthier self-image, increased attention to self-care becomes a major priority. Taking the time to develop and maintain a routine that includes many types of varying self-care practices will add to the likelihood of continued sobriety. Staying healthy improves your emotional state, which can, in turn, prevent relapse. Everyone’s self-care plan will be a little different, but there are some foundational elements.

While in recovery (and beyond), an individual should have a healthy diet, get adequate rest, engage in physical activities, and observe a high level of personal hygiene. By eating healthier and resting more, you receive more energy for physical activity and even experience increased emotional awareness. By maintaining a high level of personal hygiene, the body increases the “feel good” emotions that create a better self-image with higher confidence and determination. The positive feedback loop that takes place when “taking care of your body makes you feel good” and “feeling good makes everything better” is a no brainer.
Awareness and Mindfulness
In relapse prevention, awareness and mindfulness make up prominent parts of your self-care practice. Generally, being aware of your triggers and being tuned in to your surroundings requires mindfulness. For years, mindfulness meditation practices have been teaching individuals in recovery to become more self-aware—a useful relapse prevention tool. The more self-aware one is, the better one can cope with potential triggers that could lead to relapse.

Common Relapse Triggers :
  • Boredom
  • Stress
  • Money problems
  • Relationship issues
  • Certain sights and smells
  • Certain people or places
  • Falling into old habits
  • Powerful emotions
Mindfulness increases one’s presence in the current moment. Indirectly and directly, this can reduce anxiety, depression, fear, and other trauma symptoms. The act of staying present does not come easy to most, which is why it takes effort to enact and for it to become everyday practice. Breathwork is another tool for mindfulness and increased awareness. Incorporating meditative practices to suit your needs will be one of the most enlightening and helpful relapse prevention methods.
Seek Support

Avoiding relapse is more manageable when surrounded by a devoted support team. Even if you don’t feel you have a team, finding others to relate to in times of need could be lifesaving. A person in recovery can find the help they need from various participants in their support team. Whether from family members, friends, therapists, organizations like AA, religious groups, and recovery groups, many people want to see you succeed. The critical factor is being aware of and seeking that support.

The Haven at Pismo is a private treatment center for those needing a safe and serene setting to renew to their best. If you or someone you know needs support in their recovery, we currently offer the only detox and residential treatment on the Central Coast of California.