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Yoga as Holistic Medicine for Depression

Yoga as Holistic Medicine for Depression

Author: Justin Mckibben

In the past, eastern medicines, theologies and practices have been observed by the western world with a heavy hint of speculation. There was a time science was limited as to what it could and could not prove through technical studies what scriptures like the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali or the Bhagavad Gita, both sacred and valued text in connection to Indian and Hindu philosophy, told us about the mind, body and spirit. However as time and science has caught up with the claims made in the ancient manuscripts we have discovered more of the remarkable catalogs of evidence to support eastern medicines and practices… especially yoga.

Yoga has become more mainstream over the last decade plus, and it would seem that since its inception into western culture there have been compiling examples of how gurus from hundreds or even thousands of years ago have actually been telling us all along about the healing power in the science of spirituality.

Today, health and human service providers across America have shown a mounting interest in using yoga as a form of holistic healing, especially as an option for treating people with mental health problems. There is a multitude of reasons why the aspects of yoga would benefit those struggling with depression.

  • Mindfulness and meditation
  • Exercising physical health promoting mental well-being
  • Emphasis on detachment from negativity and connection to higher self

The list goes on and on… let us make a few points about how yoga can be amazing medicine for depression.

UNC Yoga Study

A recent study published in the journal Trauma, Violence, & Abuse from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found there are some exceptionally encouraging benefits to using yoga to help address mental health disorders, specifically when coupled with other forms of holistic healing and intervention.

Rebecca Macy is a researcher who works with violence and trauma survivors. She also helped lead the study at the UNC School of Social Work on utilizing yoga to treat mental health disorders. In a statement about the study Macy said she was especially interested to really know what the evidence said; is yoga something healthcare providers should be suggesting to people who struggle with various mental health problems, such as:

Overall, the researchers determined that yoga holds a high potential for helping improve anxiety, depression, PTSD and/or the psychological consequences of trauma.

Depression, Posture and the Heart Chakra

Truthfully, any asana (posture) from the yoga practice has the potential to make a drastic difference when trying to overcome depression. Yoga engages the physical body to focus the mind and create space for intuitive introspection or spiritual reflection. Every pose can make a strong contribution to rewiring the patterns in the brain, while systematically utilizing an individual’s biology to alter their mindset.

That being said, I will promote one of my favorite types of asana when it comes to changing the mood- Heart Openers!

Research does show that sudden emotional stress can actually release hormones in the body that prevent the heart from pumping normally, which of course has an adverse ripple effect. So if we can scientifically say that emotions affect the body so acutely, it would only seem logical that the body could in fact be used to influence our emotions. If you open your heart, give it space to breathe and be beat, it might just surprise you.

Back-bends are some of the simple heart-opening poses that ease breathing and reduce stress by releasing tension held in the tissues of the whole chest and lung region of the body. A variety of back-bending postures are great heart-openers, here are just a few examples:

  • Bhujangasana- Cobra
  • Ustrasana- Camel
  • Anjaneyasana- Low Lunge
  • Urdhva Mukha Svanasana- Upward-facing Dog
  • Dhanurasana- Bow

Physiology has a very real impression on our psychology, and it has been said that opening the heart in some yoga poses has a way of letting positive energy make its way into our system. Warm up your body, warm up your heart and start to change the language of your life by engaging in yoga that heals.

Of course a yoga teacher and a believer in the power of yoga, I am a little biased… but that’s besides the point…

In yogi traditions the heart chakra, Anahata in Sanskrit, is located in the center of the chest at the heart level. Anahata is thought of as the wellspring of love, warmth, compassion, and joy that moves love through our lives. It is said to act as an integrating focal point of energy and as love is often thought of in most spiritual practices as the ultimate element of healing, the heart chakra is thought of as the healing center of the body. So when we talk about opening the heart we are tapping into the healing inside us all.

Mindfulness is Medicine

There has also been past research suggesting that mindfulness and meditation could be considered as alternatives to anti-depressant medications, or could also be used to combat the side-effects of medications.

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) may now offer a welcome alternative for people wishing to avoid long-term use of anti-depressants, and mindfulness and meditation are bread-and-butter with the practice of yoga.

The list goes on and on as to the benefits of practicing yoga for the individual struggling with mental health disorders such as severe anxiety or depression, and I could sit here and write all day about studies and strategies closely connecting yoga to incredible outcomes in recovery from mental health and addiction issues.

My personal experience itself can support the idea of using yoga to overcome depression, as I am someone who has struggled with anxiety, depression and addiction chronically in my lifetime. As someone now in long-term recovery I can say that one of the most amazing experiences I have been given is to practice yoga and cultivate an intimate understanding with how unifying the mind, body and spirit has helped me dramatically reduce anxiety attacks, overcome suicidal ideation, and even helped me find new passion and serenity while rebuilding a life devastated by drugs and alcohol. My testimony is just one of countless accounts of how yoga transforms lives in recovery, so if depression is an obstacle in your life yoga can be a means to overcome it.

At Palm Partners, we believe in treating and healing the mind, body and spirit as equally important and unified parts that make up the whole person, and yoga is one opportunity offered as part of an innovative and restorative personalized treatment plan to creating lasting change. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

 

Could An Electric Patch Cure PTSD?

 

patchtreatment

Author: Shernide Delva

Could an electric patch help treat, and even cure PTSD symptoms? Apparently so, and today we will explore how.

Recent research has found that an electric patch could actually help treat PTSD. The research was presented at several scholarly conferences and published in the journal Neuromodulation: Technology at the Neural Interface. The research revealed that trigeminal nerve stimulation holds promise for treating chronic PTSD.

Trigeminal nerve stimulation (TNS) is a form of neuromodulation treatment that uses external energy sources to make subtle changes in the brain’s electrical wiring. This is done using devices that are either implemented into the body or more commonly accessed through external equipment.

“Most patients with PTSD do get some benefit from existing treatments, but the great majority still have symptoms and suffer for years from those symptoms,” said Leuchter, who is also a staff psychiatrist at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System. “This could be a breakthrough for patients who have not been helped adequately by existing treatments.”

TNS has already been used for conditions such as epilepsy and depression. Now, TNS treatment for PTSD is showing immense promise. The first part of the study was conducted with civilian volunteers. However, scientists are now recruiting military veterans in the next phase of their research.

Using a patch, TNS harnesses currents from a 9-volt battery to power a patch that is placed on the user’s forehead. While the person sleeps, the patch sends a continual low-level current to the cranial nerves that run through the forehead. These currents are able to send signals to parts of the brain that help regulate mood, behavior and cognition.

Some specific areas of the brain targeted are the amygdala and medial prefrontal cortex, as well as the autonomic nervous system. Research shows that abnormal activity in these areas is the cause for PTSD. Therefore, TNS is meant to re-energize and heal these parts of the brain that are behaving irregularly.

“The chance to have an impact on debilitating diseases with this elegant and simple technology is very satisfying,” said Dr. Ian Cook, the study’s lead author.

Cook co-invented TNS at UCLA. Now, he is the chief medical officer at Los Angeles-based Neurosignma Inc., the company that  is licensing the technology and funding the research. For now, Neurosigma has been marketing the technology overseas and in the future, hopes to make TNS treatments available in the United States.

PTSD affects approximately 3.5 percent of the U.S population. PTSD is relatively new terminology and the condition has been called a host of other names, more commonly combat stress syndrome or shellshock. PTSD can affect anyone but is extremely common to veterans. An estimated 17 percent of active military personnel experience symptoms and 30 percent of veterans from Iraq have had symptoms of PTSD.

For this particular study, researchers recruited people with chronic PTSD and severe depression who were already being treated with psychotherapy, medication or both. The study subjects conducted their treatments wearing the patch for eight hours each night. After the study, the subjects were asked to complete a questionnaire.

The results were shocking. The severity of participant’s PTSD symptoms dropped by an average of more than 30 percent! Those with depression saw symptoms drop by more than 50 percent. In addition, one-quarter of the subjects with PTSD went completely into remission. The subjects said they felt able to participate more in their daily activities. The goal is to use these results to enter the next phase of the study. The more evident of efficacy, the better chance for this treatment option to be available to those who need it.

Next, the researchers will study 74 veterans who have served in the military since 9/11. Half will receive real treatment and half will be given a fake TNS patch. At the end, subjects who were using the fake patch will have the option of undergoing treatment with a real TNS patch which is great.  Overall, the results from this study will help TNS treatment work toward gaining credibility in the mass markets.

“PTSD is one of the invisible wounds of war,” Cook stated. “The scars are inside but they can be just as debilitating as visible scars. So it’s tremendous to be working on a contribution that could improve the lives of so many brave and courageous people who have made sacrifices for the good of our country.”

TNS treatment has been shown to be effective in treating drug-resistant epilepsy and treatment-resistant depression. As the treatment becomes more credible scientifically, the future shows promise for TNS to be a widely used treatment for PTSD. Those with mental health issues need to have better treatment options before they fall into unhealthy “solutions” like a full blown addiction. Addiction ins PTSD and depression sufferers is incredibly common.

If you are struggling, it is so important to get professional treatment. You never know what new innovation in technology and medicine could help successfully treat your condition. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

New Mental Health Movement Wants to Train Millions of Americans

New Mental Health Movement Wants to Train Millions of Americans

Author: Justin Mckibben

Mental health disorders, along with substance abuse and addiction, are increasingly ubiquitous among the population of the United States of America. Every day people are sick, suffering and dying due to untreated issues with mental health or drug use, and every day there are dedicated and compassionate individuals fighting to make a difference, but still too many are turning away from those who need help. Not because of cruelty, but because of stigma or lack of understanding the problem.

The National Council for Behavioral Health is hoping to break this cycle of misunderstanding, misinformation and untreated illness by changing the way mental health treatment works in America. The council has officially announced the launch of a new campaign, “Be 1 in a Million,” which was created in order to try and train 1 million people in Mental Health First Aid.

American Mental Health 

According to the National Council for Behavioral Health, one in four Americans will suffer from a mental illness or addiction every year. Recent studies have shown that more youth are becoming depressed.

  • There was a 1.2% increase in youth with depression
  • 3% increase in youth with severe depression between 2010 and 2013

Even more troubling then some of the most daunting statistics about the state of mental health in America is the deplorable rates at which people with serious disorders are going untreated. According to Mental Health America:

  • Nationally, 57% of adults with mental illness receive no treatment
  • In some states (Nevada and Hawaii), nearly 70% of adults with mental illness receive no treatment
  • 64% of youth with depression do not receive any treatment
  • Among youths with severe depression, 63% do not receive any outpatient services

Experts say that because of the lack of treatment, for those who struggle with a mental health disorder symptoms and impairment are likely to exacerbate over time, leading individuals to experience significant deterioration in quality of life.

New Mental Health Training Movement

The purpose of this new campaign for Mental Health First Aid training is to help fund scholarships for instructors who specialize in mental health and substance use, and provide grants to help instructors target more vulnerable US populations such as:

Thus far the National Council has already made a $1 million contribution to the campaign, which also received more than $15 million from Congress.

The crusade to combat mental health disorders has rallied the efforts of more than 500,000 people, including the First Lady Michelle Obama, trying to improve on the ways in which we identify someone who may be experiencing a mental health or substance abuse problem and how to encourage them to seek help.

To make a more pungent point on the prevalence of mental health issues Laira Roth, project manager for the National Council for Behavioral Health’s first aid course stated that compared to someone with a physical medical emergency,

“The truth of the matter is that you are more likely to encounter someone who is experiencing a behavioral health condition or crisis”

All over America various organizations have made a compassionate and resolute commitment to training people in Mental Health First Aid in the coming year. Bill DeBlasio, the Mayor of New York City, has pledged to train 250,000 New Yorkers for Mental Health First Aid, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention held more than 100 training sessions already this last year.

Making a Move for First Aid

The National Council for Behavioral Health is adamantly urging every American to get trained in Mental Health First Aid, seeing as how odds are in a nation so mixed with millions of people and cultures every single American citizen is more than likely to know someone with a mental health disorder. Linda Rosenberg, president and CEO of the National Council said,

“This training is relevant to all of us. When you complete the Mental Health First Aid training, you will know how to intervene with someone who is actively suicidal, or help someone who is having a panic attack. You will be able to support a veteran experiencing PTSD symptoms, or a college student with a serious eating disorder. You will be able to recognize a coworker who may be struggling with addiction or a friend who is feeling depressed.”

So the overall goal for this campaign this year is to inspire more people to be more actively involved and aware of how mental health and substance abuse issues impacts every life and community to some extent or another, and that as we shatter stigma and create compassion we should all be willing to make a difference.

For more information on how you could help a friend or family member in need, check out: www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org

Palm Partners understands the importance of mental health treatment when it comes to substance abuse, and dual diagnosis treatment is designed to acknowledge the overlapping nature of these disorders and create the right recovery plan to overcome the disease of addiction and confront issues with mental health. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135. We want to help, you are not alone.

 

Could EMDR Therapy be Effective for Addiction Treatment?

Could EMDR Therapy be Effective for Addiction Treatment?

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Shernide Delva

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma and psychological stress. The therapy was originally developed by American psychologist Francine Shapiro  in the late 1980s primarily as a treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Since the therapy has been able to help millions overcome psychological distress, the focus is now on whether EMDR therapy could be utilized to help addicts overcome their addictions and progress further into recovery.

But What is EMDR?                                                                                    

EMDR therapy is an eight-phase treatment which implements special eye movements to identify experiences that have overwhelmed the brain’s natural resilience or coping capacity.  Often, people who go through traumas such as war, rape assault, sexual abuse and others, have generated traumatic symptoms and harmful coping strategies.

When a person experiences a trauma, they usually acquire traumatic symptoms such as flashbacks, anxiety and insomnia. They may engage in isolating behavior and self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. Through EMDR therapy, patients are able to learn how to reprocess traumatic information until it is no longer psychologically disruptive.

In EMDR therapy, there are several phases of treatment. The initial phase is going through a client’s history followed by a preparation stage. In the Rapid Eye Movement phase, the person focuses on a traumatic or troubling memory and identifies the belief they have about themselves in relation to that negative memory. An example would be a woman who associates the trauma of her being rape to her being dirty. The EMDR therapy wants to shift the thought of rape signaling the “I am dirty” response and shift it to “I am a worthwhile good person in control of my life” response. By teaching the brain how to respond in a different way to trauma, the patient learns how to shift their view on their traumatic memories in a healthier way.

To allow this to occur, the person must go over the memory repetitively and focus on the external stimulus that creates bilateral eye movement. Our brains naturally signal eye movements as a response to emotional stimuli. However, overtime, our body’s ability to cope with pain weakens.  In EMDR therapy, the therapist may guide the client’s eye by moving their finger.

After each set of bilateral movements, the individual is asked how they feel. The process continues until the memory is no longer disturbing. Each session lasts about an hour. Many patients see significant improvement after just one session. It is believed that EMDR therapy is effective because it by-passes the areas of the brain that have become stuck due to trauma and prevents the left-side of the brain from self-soothing the right side of the brain.

How EMDR Could Help With Addiction

During EMDR therapy, patients learn to “process” memories in a way that leads to a peaceful resolution. When it comes to addiction, often people try to cope with trauma or psychological issues through abusing substances. Jamie Marich, PhD., believes that EMDR is a complete therapy that can be used to combat issues such as addiction.

“If we accept that unhealed traumatic wounds play a major role in causing or at the very least exacerbating the seriousness of substance use and addictive disorders, yes, EMDR therapy can be very effective.”

Marich continues by explaining the EMDR can be an effective relapse prevention/recovery enhancement strategy that truly targets trauma. Unhealed PTSD and other trauma-related disorder pose a clear relapse risk.  By learning a series of EMDR protocols, therapists are able to teach their clients how to target cravings and feelings and let go of the addictive manifestations brought on from trauma.

“Since the beginning of my journey with EMDR in 2004, I’ve long viewed it as an effective relapse prevention/recovery enhancement strategy that truly targets trauma. It’s been clear to me from the beginning of my own journey with recovery, and as a treatment provider, that unhealed PTSD and other trauma-related disorders pose a clear relapse risk.”

If successfully implemented, EMDR can play a major role in addiction treatment. Many people come into addiction treatment with PTSD and EMDR is an effective method of treating PTSD. Addicts are often traumatized by their past or from traumas that relate to their drug use. EMDR provides tools to treat the underlying problems.

Learning how to process past traumas can be extremely beneficial for those trying to overcome addiction. Substances are often used as a way to cope with underlying psychological distress. Learning to overcome the distress can help prevent relapse and aid in successful recovery. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

Does Childhood Trauma Change Our Brains?

Does Childhood Trauma Change Our Brains?

Author: Justin Mckibben

Some say that adversity for adolescence can be a trauma that catalyzes their future potential for sustainable mental health. Others would say that we cannot let our traumas define us, and that we have a conscious decision to make our own definitions out of our experiences. The stories we tell ourselves have the meaning we give them, and we can make the same stories into epitaphs of empowerment in a hero’s journey, or we can make them tales of turmoil that set us on a path to destruction.

But what if those experiences actually do a little more than alter our mood, what if they actually alter our brains?

In 1995, physicians Vincent Felitti and Robert Anda launched a large-scale epidemiological study probing the child and adolescent histories of 17,000 subjects with shocking results.

The ACE Study

In this study they compared childhood experiences to later adult health records, and in the process they discovered nearly 2/3 of individuals had encountered one or more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).

Felitti and Anda coined the term for ACEs to encompass the chronic, unpredictable, and stress-inducing events some children face, including:

  • Growing up with a depressed parent
  • Growing up with an alcoholic parent
  • Losing a parent to divorce or other causes
  • Enduring chronichumiliation
  • Emotional neglect
  • Sexual or physical abuse

The conclusion they came to was that the number of ACEs an individual experienced predicted the amount of medical care they would require as an adult with astounding accuracy, and some of these revelations were quite troubling:

  • Individuals who had faced 4 or more categories of ACEs were 2 times likely to be diagnosed with cancer
  • For each ACE Score a woman had, her risk of being hospitalized with an autoimmune disease rose by 20%
  • Someone with an ACE Score of 4 was 460% more likely to suffer from depressionthan someone with an ACE Score of 0.
  • An ACE Score greater than or equal to 6 shortened an individual’s lifespan by almost 20 years

The ACE Study tells us these traumatic childhood events predispose individuals to a variety of chronic conditions in adulthood.

Because Science

Today, in labs across the country, neuroscientists are peering into the once inscrutable brain-body connection, and breaking down, on a biochemical level, exactly how the stress we face when we’re young catches up with us when we’re adults, altering our bodies, our cells, and even our DNA, with startling results.

The more bewildering conclusions oblige us to take a second glance at how emotional and physical pain is interwoven in who we are.

Early Epigenetic Shifts

When thrust repeatedly into stress-inducing situations during childhood our physiological stress reaction shifts into overdrive, and we lose the ability to respond appropriately and effectively to future stressors. Not just over days or months, but decades later.

This is due to gene methylation, in which small chemical markers, or methyl groups, adhere to the genes involved in regulating the stress response. This reaction prevents these genes from doing their jobs. As the function of these genes is altered, the stress response becomes re-set on “high” for life.

With stress-response on “high alert” our bodies promote inflammation and disease. It can also cause us to be more prone to over-react to the everyday stressors of life, creating even more inflammation. In this process we are predisposed to a mass of chronic conditions, including:

  • Autoimmune disease
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Depression

This has all been determined through further research.

Destruction of Default Mode Network

Inside each of our brains, a network of neurocircuitry, commonly called the “default mode network,” stays actively uniting parts of the brain associated with memory and thought integration. This network is always on stand-by, ready to help us to figure out what to do next.

Ruth Lanius is a neuroscientist, professor of psychiatry, and director of the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Research Unit at the University of Ontario who stated:

“The dense connectivity in these areas of the brain help us to determine what’s relevant or not relevant, so that we can be ready for whatever our environment is going to ask of us,”

When facing childhood adversity and being habitually pushed into a state of fight-or-flight the default mode network starts to go offline so that it no longer helps to decipher what’s relevant, or what to do next.

According to Lanius, kids who’ve faced early trauma have less connectivity in the default mode network. Their brains don’t seem to enter that healthy stand-by state, and even decades after the initial traumatic patterns they may still have trouble reacting appropriately to the world around them and knowing what is important.

These are just two examples of how the concept of trauma literally rewiring the brain to react differently comes into play, which may seem like a huge let down, but the thing is these changes are not insurmountable obstacles.

Recovery in part means learning to get re-acclimated to the world and learning new coping mechanisms to help us combat the insufficient patterns we develop in our early lives. While ACEs may retrain the brain in unhealthy ways that are detrimental to the body, recovery doesn’t take brain surgery. At the end of the day we all have the capacity to retrain our brains and escape the stories we tell ourselves of our traumas, and build new paths to reconnect our minds with our life’s mission.

Mental illness, trauma and addiction quite often go hand in hand. The trauma we experience can contribute to the worst of our habits, but recovery is possible through effective trauma resolutions. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll free 1-800-951-6135

 

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