“If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking.” – Zen proverb
Substance abuse problems often derail or destroy educational plans. All too often, young people enter treatment programs after having one (or even several) lost semesters at college. This “wasted money” often angers parents and fills the young person with shame and regret. At SOBA College Recovery, our goal is not only to help people get clean and sober, but to thrive in life. We view education as an essential part in preparing for life in the 21st century.
Our case managers help students apply or reenroll in school. Students can take classes online at their previous college, start at Middlesex County College (which is a block from our Bayard Street offices), or apply to Rutgers. Once enrolled, students are required to go to our unique College Success group.
College Success helps students work on their time management, resumes, study skills, and manage their work flow by entering all of their assignments into a calendar. Additionally, students are encouraged to go to office hours with their professors and to look for at least one club or organization to join on campus.
Family Education Group
This is a group specifically for the family members, loved ones and friends of clients at SOBA College Recovery. Group members learn about boundaries, self-care, communication and how to best help their loved one. The concepts of enabling are discussed at length. The parents of young adults receive the wisdom and experience from other families that have been dealing with these issues for an even longer period of time. Family members are also taught and encouraged to attend Al-Anon or Nar-Anon.
Family members are welcome and encouraged to attend the meetings. The group helps address family issues surrounding the topic of mental health and addiction disorders. It also provides strategies for the entire family system to benefit from the client’s recovery.
Addiction and Recovery Education Group
All too often, clients are told that they are an “addict” or “alcoholic” without anyone ever explaining what are the criteria for a diagnoses of substance misuse disorder and what are the different kinds of treatments. This psychoeducation group is one of the backbones of any quality treatment program. Clients are educated on the diagnosis of addiction, how substances affect the brain, what makes a good sponsor, different types of meetings, spirituality, traps in early recovery and some basic coping skills.
A group for men that addresses issues that are difficult or inappropriate to be brought up in a mixed group. This is a process group and members usually bring up issues including abuse, sex, health problems, fears or other topics that may invoke shame or embarrassment.
A group for women that addresses issues that are difficult or inappropriate to be brought up in a mixed group. This is a process group and members usually bring up issues including abuse, sex, health problems, fears or other topics that may invoke shame or embarrassment.
This group attempts to make treatment stick by helping clients develop a long term plan to remain clean and sober after they have completed treatment. The rooms of 12-step programs discuss “people, places, and things,” but “things” is neither descriptive nor accurate. At College Recovery, we encourage clients to identify thoughts, emotions, events/situations and physical triggers that have lead (or threatened to lead) to relapse. Physical triggers can include songs, smells, or tastes. After working on their trigger list, clients develop their prevention plan, which includes avoiding triggers and replacing those triggers with new people/places/events.
Health & Wellness
This is a series of comprehensive groups that were developed by SOBA to help maximize clients’ health by educating and discussing the importance of healthy eating, regular exercise, and sleep hygiene.
This is a manualized group that helps clients identify where their anger has caused them problems in the past. We examine family, school, work, relationship and legal repercussions caused by angry outbursts. Outbursts include verbal, written and physical actions. Counselors use Cognitive Behavioral Therapeutic techniques to help clients identify their anger triggers and develop new, less damaging ways of handling their anger.
Interpersonal Effectiveness Group
Healthy relationships are the dominant topic in this group. We explore how people recognize emotions, communicate and behave towards others. Boundaries will be discussed on a weekly basis. How one picks friends and romantic partners is a central theme – clients are asked to write down what kind of qualities and behaviors they want out of a romantic partner. Lessons in effective communication are provided, which includes practice with “I” statements, identifying emotions and learning to provide others with the desired behavior in a non-threatening way.
Stages of Change Group
This group is built on the groundbreaking work of Prochaska and DiClemente. Their Trans-theoretical model helps clinicians meet clients where they are – for example, some clients do not think they have a substance abuse or mental health problem; rather than be confrontational, counselors know that these clients are in the precontemplative stage of change and that psychoeducation is needed. Other clients are further along and need help making better plans or learning how to execute those plans.
The Dialectic in Recovery
The Dialectic in Recovery is a group that utilizes principles and concepts gleaned from Dialectical Behavioral Therapy It is a skills training group which teaches behavioral modification. This is integral for the client’s healthy development of positive behaviors, rules and belief systems and covers four dimensions: interpersonal effectiveness, emotional regulation, mindfulness, and distress tolerance. The material for this group is based on concepts from the evidence-based practice of Dialectical Behavior Therapy, a technique that helps people who have significant social problems or relating to others. This is very common among people who have abused drugs and/or alcohol for a long time.
This is another manualized, evidence based group. It was designed for people with substance misuse disorders who also have co-occurring disorders, such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder or ADHD. It was developed during the height of the cocaine epidemic by a number of high-level university professors and researchers.
Motivational Enhancement Group
This is a group based on the therapeutic method developed by William Miller in the late 1990s called motivational interviewing. It was a tool that was exclusively created for people with substance abuse problems. It is extremely effective in moving clients along through the stages of change.
A number of substance misuse disorders and mental health problems find their roots in trauma. It could be childhood abuse, sexual assault, losing a close loved one, witnessing a death, surviving an overdose or a number of other difficult and/or disturbing experiences. All of College Recovery’s case managers and therapists were trained in trauma work by world-renowned trainer Eric Arauz, the founder of the Trauma Institute of NJ.
Coping with Emotions
If someone starts using substances at the age of 15 and then stops when they are 23, they have the physical age of a 23 year old while having the emotional skills of a 15 year old. Clients need to develop new and healthy coping skills to deal with emotions that were suppressed during active addiction. This group’s curriculum teaches clients the necessary tools to handle their emotions in order to sustain a life of sobriety and mental stability. This group utilizes workbooks which address negative thinking patterns and distorted emotions. The ultimate goal of this group is to teach clients how to monitor and self-regulate their emotions.
Self Esteem Group
At one point during their substance using days or in early recovery, most individuals have said something like “I’m a loser” or “I’m an idiot” or “Life sucks” or “I’m a piece of crap.” These are verbal phrases that one often repeats and creates a negative but self-fulfilling mindset. This group helps clients identify their negative thought and verbal patterns. To develop self-esteem, one needs to do esteemable things consistently for a long period of time. This group helps them begin that process.
Seeking Safety Group
This is a manualized group based on a treatment curriculum for clients with a history of abuse and/or trauma. It is unique in that it doesn’t require clients to narrate their trauma, which often upsets both them and other group members. To learn more about it, go to the Seeking Safety website here.
Manipulating Behaviors Group
Manipulation is simply defined as changing someone else’s emotional state in order to change their behaviors. Intimidation is a form of this (causing someone to feel afraid). Using guilt is another form (“you weren’t around!”). It is easiest to manipulate those that are closest to us, because we know which buttons to push. Clients with substance misuse disorders effectively manipulated their family members in order to get money or be excused from family events or functions (often through causing huge fights). Even when one gets clean, he or she still often engages in manipulating behaviors. This group helps clients identify just how damaging those behaviors are to relationships and works on developing new ways to achieve goals in a more healthy fashion.
Mental Health Education Group
Even more so than with substance misuse disorders, people are often diagnosed and given a label without ever knowing the basis for that diagnosis. Our therapists have met clients who say “I’m bipolar” or “I’m borderline, anxious and depressed” before ever saying their name, where they are from or what they like to do. This is negative labeling and the result of poor medical training and care. In this group, our therapists provide a history and explanation of different diagnoses and spend time explaining the different types of treatments for each diagnosis.
Writing for Recovery Group
Through the use of journal prompts, clients are guided through therapeutic topics to increase awareness of self.
Art Expression Group
Through the process of creative expression, clients reflect on their mental and emotional well-being.
Music Expression Group
Through the use of music, clients identify, recognize and share their cognitive and emotional response.
This group explores the values of decency and ethics, while addressing spirituality, one of the three main components of well-being. This group also explores the meaning and potential effectiveness of spirituality in the recovery process. Whether someone is Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Agnostic or an Atheist, the basic concept of spirituality can be defined by one word: connection. In this group, we help clients find a connection. That connection could be to the religion of their youth, their family, their hometown, the beach, nature or something else. We avoid a one-size-fits-all notion of spirituality and absolutely do not force an ethos onto our clients.
Meditation groups at SOBA College Recovery are mindfulness based. Though the principles inherent in mindfulness practice stem from Zen Buddhism, they have been widely adopted by the treatment community and have formed the basis for various empirically supported treatments such as Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Because meditation groups at SOBA College Recovery emphasize secular mindfulness—the practice of paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally—all participants stand to benefit, regardless of their spiritual or religious beliefs. Through the cultivation of a mindfulness practice we begin to experience the present moment as it really is. In doing so, we develop the ability to step away from habitual, often unconscious emotional and physiological reactions to everyday events, allowing us to respond wisely to stressors, rather than react.
A typical meditation session at SOBA College Recovery includes a mindfulness exercise, a guided or silent meditation period, and mindful movement.
All of this only helps our outpatients with their substance abuse treatment.