Sobriety is a major pathway to good mental health, but it does not secure it. Instead, having your brain and body free and clear of addictive substances allows you to make the best choices necessary for mental health, and gives you the strength to do the necessary work. The trauma resulting from the pandemic and a year of social isolation have brought these issues into sharp focus, and this opens up important conversations by releasing the stigma around mental illness as a whole.
For some, the conversation could be around acknowledging a mental health issue, whether it is PTSD, bipolar disorder, depression, or something else. It’s common knowledge that undiagnosed and diagnosed mental health issues are often present in people who struggle with addiction. Acknowledging the presence of the issue allows for the beginning of healing–sound familiar?
Those in sober living homes, rehabilitation centers such as The Sunshine Coast Health Centre in British Columbia, or therapy already have an easy gateway to receiving help for a mental health issue. Opening up to a trusted person in this environment is the first step to receiving proper care for your particular issue.
Sobriety is impacted dramatically by unaddressed mental health issues. Once sobriety begins, there is a freedom from the immediate effects of drugs and alcohol but the the struggle with addiction remains. A true mental health issue does not resolve with a better attitude, a gratitude list or giving back– it persists despite the circumstances of your life and must be treated specifically in order to be managed effectively.
It’s known that there is a link between trauma and addiction, and trauma can lead to PTSD, panic disorder, and other severe mental issues. PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is the direct result of a trauma experience, and includes a variety of symptoms such as avoidance of movies or talk that triggers the traumatic memory, changes in mood, and nightmares. In sobriety, this barrage of negative emotions cannot be numbed with drink or drugs, and so must be managed with professional care.
Sunshine Coast Health Centre has been “developing licensed and accredited mental health programs with an extraordinary record of high-quality care since 2004, as they state on their website. Sunshine Coast HC recognizes that without treating existing mental health issues, a person’s sobriety is tenuous, regardless of how hard they work.
To address this truth, Sunshine Coast provides medical withdrawal (“detox”), psychiatric care, rTMS, meaning-centered psychotherapy, family counseling, and post-treatment coaching as part of their roster of evidence-based therapies.
Meaning-centered psychotherapy refers to the Sunshine Coast’s focus on meaning throughout their program’s modalities. Viktor Frankl founded logotherapy, a school of psychotherapy, which describes a search for a life meaning as the central human motivational force. While struggling with a mental health issue, the focus on meaning over happiness can be empowering and hopeful; happiness may be temporarily out of reach but creating meaning is not. Based on this work, Paul Wong created Meaning-Centred Therapy, which is the basis for the version Sunshine Coast uses.
The clinical staff at Sunshine Coast Health Centre is trained in numerous therapeutic techniques from Narrative Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy.
Narrative therapy falls under psychotherapy, and helps clients identify their values and the skills associated with those values and how their unique history can be used to further understand themselves and their path forward. This type of highly individual approach gives the patient knowledge of their unique abilities so they can build a stronger psyche and self-image.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a tried and true approach that focuses on challenging and replacing cognitive distortions and maladaptive behaviors; cognitive distortions are a common issue in sobriety, and it’s crucial to recognize these faulty thinking patterns, while addressing behavior reinforces a more positive thought process. CBT also works to improve emotional regulation and develop coping strategies for life issues.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is known to be specifically useful in those with substance use disorder. It is an evidence-based psychotherapy that originally was used to treat suicidal women with borderline personality disorder but is now also used in the treatment of mood disorders, self-harm and suicidal ideation, as well as substance use issues. This therapy relies heavily on techniques to manage and process painful emotions without destructive behaviors, and specific techniques to communicate with the people in your life.