Historically, great change has been associated with fire. A great crucible, reforming lives beneath the purifying heat of flame. The sea however, with its unfathomable depths, hold a great mystery to the effects of change over time. After all, the phrase “sea change” originated from the power of the ocean to alter landscapes. Thanks to Shakespeare: an idiom that can cool the fan of flame, and still signify our lives taking shape in ways they would never have before, as we are reformed under the great heat or weight of tragedy.
John “Tripp” H. Smith, III and his wife Loretta are no strangers to that indescribable pressure. When their son Michael took his own life on November 10, 2007, their lives were altered forever. Despite being a successful young man in his earlier life, Michael had “devolved” into an unrecognizable person as a result of his depression, and subsequent dependence on chemical substance to help self-medicate his problems. After his passing, bound to create something beautiful, Tripp and his close friend Dr. Richard Granese, MD, a well-respected Orange County psychiatrist joined together to found A Mission for Michael, Inc. to help remember Michael, and carry his legacy forward: helping others escape the ravages of drug and alcohol through a dual diagnosis treatment.
A Mission for Michael (AMFM) offers a structured answer to what can be a wildly volatile and fluid situation. After their 45-90 day treatment program, patients transition to Sober Living and Outpatient: getting them back on their feet, refining that which is detrimental to their continued health and success. Based in South Orange County, AMFM programs are designed to treat individuals with co-occurring disorders. Dr. Granese notes “substance use disorders and mood and anxiety disorders that develop independently of intoxication, dependence and withdrawal are the most prevalent psychiatric disorders in the United States.” Helping to rebuild those individuals from foundation up helps ensure they will not relapse, and can dramatically assist in stabilizing their mental health illness. Operating the only recovery facility owned by a psychiatrist, Dr. Granese is doubly dedicated to tackling the issues he has seen first hand, with more and more regularity.
When sources like Mental Health America state that the number of individuals affected by mental health illnesses outpaces the populations of both New York and Florida, lines are drawn in the sand. We can reach out and assist, or let more than 40 million Americans persist in their downward spiral, towards an outbreak of devastation that is greater than many of us would like to imagine. “AMFM is not a 12-step based program, but we believe the 12-steps are another relapse prevention tool. We have found that working them in conjunction with therapy, psychiatric care, family participation, and small group therapy sets the patient up for success.” Often, however, the roots that Dr. Granese and his team are trying to reach are buried in a mess of underlying psychological factors and trauma that drives physical and emotional addiction.
A unique way of approaching such trauma is the “step-down” feature offered through the program. The patient begins intensively - then steadily drops down to less intensive treatment as they progress. Continuing with their therapist and psychiatrist every week, in conjunction with a weekly family group helps keep the individual accountable, to themselves and those they love. “We want to reduce the incidence of triggers that signal relapse, and a return to the addiction spiral.” With a team of mental health professionals ranging from Clinical Psychologists, Marriage and Family Therapists, Licensed Clinical Social Workers, etc. - all Masters or PhD level cross-trained psychotherapists, patients are in the immense care of folks who recognize the changes necessary to alter mental perceptions and distortions. “The psychological restructuring starts the client on a path of growth moving beyond the confines and entanglements of addiction. This continuum of care can provide the strong foundation necessary to build a base of recovery.”
When facing down anything beyond one’s own capability, a great humility is necessary. Big wave surfers, emergency medical personnel, firefighters, even educators can attest to the power of collected thinking when facing down unknown situations with potentially extreme consequences. Addiction, similarly, attacks from all directions, with remarkable disregard and abandon. “It’s a family disease”, Dr. Granese states. But what does that mean? Tripp and Loretta learned volumes from their son’s addictions and helped build into the treatment program a family humility that speaks to the entire system failing when one member falls apart at the seams.
But isn’t the addict the one with the problem? “The addiction is not only destroying the addict, it’s likely destroying the family too. You’re all involved in the addiction. Parents and loved ones can’t function: they worry, their job suffers, they fight and argue amongst themselves. They can’t take care of the rest of the family and their physical, emotional, and spiritual health suffers.” The family becomes addicted to their loved one’s addiction. Chaos, codependency, and a lack of boundaries all compound the issues at hand.
While patients are certainly encouraged after they leave treatment to continue working with a sponsor and start step work within a Sober Living Outpatient Intensive, families are also encouraged to learn steps and tools to help get out of the toxic and repetitive cycles of abuse. Stepping outside the manipulations and co-dependencies that have been formed help the patient discover how it feels to escape isolation, fear, and anxiety, and practice healthy self-care. “Sometimes, what we think of as ‘helping’ the addict is not helping at all,” Dr. Granese notes. “You can actually do more harm than good.”
With the presence of an ever changing healthcare system and the uncertainty of being able to receive quality care, AMFM is furthering its vision to include a separate intensive outpatient Mental Health track. This patient-centered outpatient program specializes in working with those suffering from an array of mental health diagnosis. The need for mental health treatment is expanding in Orange County and it is our aim to fill this increased need and be a center that strives for a healthier community.
“Patients get to choose not only the times that work for their own schedule, but most of all, they get to decide which groups yield the best personal results.” While a base level of care may look the same for everyone, a key component at AMFM are non-standard time allotments for treatment. Most programs, via insurance companies, place restrictions on a patient’s treatment. Conversely, each person’s needs are continually evaluated to carefully negotiate their duration of care. “This means attendees can slowly transition out at a time they feel confident and are not limited by the coverage of their insurance plan. We allow for complete rehabilitation and optimal individual success.” Designed for both individuals who are coming into care for the first time, and those taking the step-down approach to their treatment, AMFM’s Outpatient Program has found it’s patient’s success rates easily outpace those in other programs.
“Many individuals are successful starting with and remaining in outpatient. For some, outpatient can be a great indicator that a higher level of care is needed.” Every individual coming to the program, whether from another facility, or transitioning from AMFM’s 45-90 day program sees a psychiatrist. Each therapist in the program is an employee, not a contractor. “They are therefore highly committed to working as a team, and have high standards of care to maintain.” The outpatient program is led by Terrence Kelleman, a Licensed, Advanced Drug and Alcohol Counselor. 30 years of experience to back his title, a remarkably outgoing personality, and direct leadership style allows him to facilitate the most effective group meetings possible.
While in the program, patients are held accountable with the help of drug testing, yet they have also discovered that by testing for a myriad of toxicities, both man-made and natural, therapists within AMFM can help diagnose disorders or dysfunctions based on underlying contributors, like amino acid or zinc deficiencies. “Most care facilities treat symptoms: we look at root cause.” A holistic approach to each patient helps care for the person, as well as the addiction. “We want to get our patients out of the isolation and stigma of addiction- not just out from underneath the day to day problems they might be experiencing.” Nutrition, exercise, and accountability work together to create a whole picture of wellness for each patient that comes needing care. Strongly recommending patients to stay within the boundaries of a Sober Living Outpatient aftercare program is essential for anyone serious about recovery. “Many patients stay in aftercare for one year or more, increasing their chance of long-term sobriety.”
Addiction isn’t discriminating. It doesn’t single out specific personality types, or only the wealthy. Only the poverty stricken, only males. It doesn’t care. Originally starting as a recovery center that specifically dealt with men, and the unique issues they deal with, A Mission for Michael has now expanded to include treatment for women. “When it comes to treatment, there are definitely differences in how drugs affect women and men, and thus the treatment methods must take into account the social and biological factors that must be used.” Hormones, for example, affect brain chemistry, altering long term thought and behavior patterns for women, especially from a young age. There are varying societal pressures that contribute to expectations of success, maintaining relationships, and careers. “Unique stresses create expectations ripe for fostering anxious mental states where substance abuse thrives.”
In addition to expanding to accept women for treatment and having an intensive outpatient program for Mental Health, A Mission For Michael has also implemented an Integrative Wellness division to enhance treatment protocols.
“This means our clients have more resources than ever before available to help them achieve and maintain sobriety as well as to identify and learn possible root causes related to their addiction and mental illness,” says Lori R. Kelly, Ph.D., Director of Integrative Wellness. “If we have a thorough picture then we can develop a deeper understanding of what led the client to our door.”
Dr. Kelly explains that integrative wellness is the utilization of conventional and complementary approaches to the treatment of addiction and mental illness in a coordinated way in order to achieve optimal results. Digestive health issues, nutritional deficiencies, metabolic dysfunction and toxic chemical exposure are all factors, which contribute to symptoms and illness within the body.
“These areas are among those screened through our integrative analysis now available to our clients,” she says. “This provides an individualized treatment regimen that is unparalleled and encompasses the uniqueness of each person. Any deficiency or abnormality is addressed by our team through the use of natural products such as food, vitamins, minerals and probiotics along with mind-body practices including yoga, meditation and Pilates.
“My goal is for every client to evolve from a passive recipient, at the beginning of treatment to an active participant in their achievement of a healthy recovery and lifelong wellness.”
For more information, call (800) 807-0631 or visit www.amfmtreatment.com