"Solo, No More" - The Riverbank House Alcohol & Drug Treatment for Men Retrospect
Part of the work that I do when meeting with Individuals and Families impacted by Addictive Behavior often entails exploring treatment options for their loved ones. Finding the right program can be difficult and overwhelming. There are multitudes of questions and concerns. Is it worth the money? Why would I want to go there for help? Will my loved one find recovery? Inpatient or Outpatient? As a result, I carve out time in my practice to visit treatment programs, both in state and out-of-state, so I can do a preview prior to recommendation.
I recently visited "The Riverbank House," located in Laconia, New Hampshire to review their program for the Individuals and Families I work with here in Seattle, WA. Some families might ask, why would I send my loved one so far away for help? And in all honesty, I thought to myself - would I really recommend sending someone that far from home? And in one word my answer is, "YES."
Why the Riverbank House?
Community Promotes Recovery:
Riverbank House consists of multiple historic homes lining two sides of the Winnipesaukee River. It is not a clinical, sterile, lock down setting where residents are isolated from the larger community. Rather, residents are encouraged to learn how to live out their recovery both inside the therapeutic community and the community that surrounds them. Residents shared that a large part of their recovery is not only about learning how to stop addictive behaviors, but also how to live life again within the community e.g. social skills, life skills, emotional health, and education/vocational skills. Riverbank House promotes community by providing residents with opportunities to rebuild:
- Social Skills: Addictive behaviors thrive best when a person is solo, with no accountability and isolation from environments, friends, and family that would counteract addiction . Therefore, a key support that is provided for each new resident at the River House is a mentor for their duration of stay. The mentor is a more senior resident who is further along in their recovery and their job is to partner with the more junior resident. They introduce it as the concept, "Solo, No More." Part of an individuals recovery is learning how to live in community again - when you are in a therapeutic community with accountability and mentors, addictive behaviors cannot thrive.
- Life Skills: Practical life skills are challenging for individuals actively detoxing, which makes everyday tasks even more difficult. Having a safe environment with others to support and encourage you is key in learning that activities of daily life can be accomplished. Residents live in homes, typically 2 room mates to a room, where they have household responsibilities and a daily schedule to follow. Essentially, many are learning the basics on how to live life without substances - retrain their brain, bodies, and emotional selves that substances are undermining their daily life. Routine, mentoring relationships, accountability, and time help residents build these life skill muscles that have been idle, while they were in their addictive behavior.
- Emotional Health: The emotional and mental health of an individual struggling with addictive behaviors must be addressed in order to achieve recovery. An important part of the Riverbank Program is their philosophy that there are "many pathways to recovery," which encourages residents to be open to new ways of living by participating in meditation and mindfulness, process groups, yoga, 12-Step, SMART Recovery, Relapse Prevention, etc. Stopping the behavior is only one piece of recovery - understanding what, why, and how is the foundation that will help the individual sustain recovery. Therefore, these varying options provide residence an opportunity to explore what are the triggers that may lead to relapse? What tools can be used to cope with urges? Why did I engage in addictive behaviors? How can I sustain my recovery?
- Encouraging vocational/educational: Continuing education and finding employment is something residents also work on while at the Riverbank House when they have sustained 5 months or more sobriety. This is another key aspect to a residents recovery, because for many they may have lost employment or stopped education, as their addictive behaviors encompassed them. There are many employment opportunities and experienced provided: Woodworking, Construction & Landscaping, Karma Café & Art Gallery, Yoga & Fitness Instruction, etc. There is also a Lakes Region Community College minutes away for residents who would like to continue their education, while living in a sober environment.
Recovery Is Not A Sprint, It Is A Marathon:
I often share with clients who are grieving the loss of a loved one that there is no timeline on grieving. I also believe this to be true when talking about recovering from Addictive Behaviors for both the Individual and their Loved Ones. 28 days, 60 days, 90 days - Recovery is a life long commitment - it is a training program for all involved. Old behaviors need to be replaced with new ones that strengthen Recovery. And time is needed to build these skills, while healing the body, mind, and spirit.
Riverbank House "places no limit on the duration of stay." What this means is that residents are encouraged to stay longer than the initial commitment that residents make - some say, "I'll try it for 28 days," most stay beyond that initial commitment of 28 days and find that the length is key to their recovery. Effective treatment takes time, because it requires time for healing a persons whole self - mind, body, spirit. Experts and evidence based providers are finding that long term care and continued care promotes long term recovery. Click here for more information.
Areas for Growth:
There are some areas for growth that would enhance the program that I might suggest:
1.) Data Collection: It would be interesting to have some solid statistics of overall long-term recovery rates for residents based on length of stay e.g. 50% of residents who left at 28 days reported relapse or need for additional treatment? Relapse rates after treatment e.g. 80% of residents had long-term sobriety after treatment.
2.) 1:1 Weekly Counseling Sessions with Licensed Mental Health Provider: Process groups, Recovery Meetings, Mentorship are key aspects to recovery. However, it cannot replace individual counseling sessions where a resident can be provided a space to dive deeper into their emotional and mental health. My understanding is that residents can access mental health counseling, but it is not part of their weekly schedules. Weekly sessions would greatly enhance the program, where a licensed professional can lay eyes on the resident and conduct more in depth assessments, especially if the resident also has a dual diagnosis of substance abuse and mental health issues e.g. anxiety, depression, history of suicide, etc.