Tag Archives: therapy

Tag Archives: therapy


Learn to develop healthy coping mechanisms

Everyday, we’re surrounded by people who are making a number of choices about how they want to “deal” with their anger, stress and sadness. Oftentimes, we begin seeing different coping mechanisms as a young child – and as we get older, we begin applying what we’ve seen around us to our own lives, because those coping mechanisms – whether healthy or unhealthy – seem to be normal. It’s not uncommon for many to find themselves battling with unhealthy, unproductive, downright harmful coping mechanisms well into adulthood – because coping isn’t something that’s talked about often.

What are Coping Mechanisms?

GoodTherapy.org, a website that pairs individuals with online therapists, define coping mechanisms as,

“…The strategies people often use in the face of stress and/or trauma to help manage painful or difficult emotions.”

There are a number of events that can cause us to utilize coping mechanisms, such as divorce, moving, getting married, having a child, buying a new home, losing a loved one and more. While some of these events may feel quite positive, they can still bring about lots of stress; and, if not handled appropriately, that stress can extend into something greater – such as a mental illnessor or even an addiction, especially if a person relies on a substance for too long. There are two types of coping mechanisms people tend to use:

Positive Coping Mechanisms

  • Support – relying on friends, family or coworkers to help a person feel confident about moving forward or to help navigate difficult situations
  • Relaxation – practicing healthy self-care activities, such as taking a hot shower, getting a massage, laying down and reading a book, etc.
  • Problem-solving – becoming an investigator of the problems a person is faced with – and focusing more intently on finding a solution rather than sinking in the problem
  • Humor – making efforts to laugh in the midst of stress as to gain some perspective and release some tension
  • Exercise – going to the gym to release cortisol, the stress hormone; working out has been physically proven to help reduce stress, anxiety, depression and other discomforting sensations
  • And more

Negative Coping Mechanisms

  • Escape – becoming socially isolated or withdrawing from friends and family; if escape is used as a coping mechanism, a person may allow themselves to become entrenched in reading a book, watching T.V. or spending time online
  • Unhealthy self-soothing – certain behaviors can become unhealthy if done in excess; for instance, food, alcohol, sex, video games and gambling can become unhealthy coping mechanisms if done often to soothe certain discomforting feelings
  • Numbing – some individuals may pursue behaviors such as alcohol or drugs, eating an excessive amount of food and more to “disconnect” from how they’re feeling; oftentimes, they’re aware of what they’re doing but they desperately want to get away from what’s going on inside
  • Compulsions – theft, reckless driving, physical abuse, gambling and more can become not only physically and mentally damaging, but can also bring about criminal implications as well
  • And more

How They Develop & How to Fix It

The Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior explains that those who struggle with addiction often struggle with maladaptive coping strategies; it could stem from denial, blame, guilt, trauma, abuse and much more. Thankfully, a person who grew up learning unhealthy coping mechanisms isn’t “stuck” in employing these strategies for the rest of their lives – in fact, addiction treatment includes exploring this area of a person’s life and helping them to identify and employ some of the healthier coping strategies when difficult thoughts, emotions or situations arise.

There are a few helpful behavioral therapy approaches that therapists can use to help a person transition from unhealthy to healthy coping mechanisms. These approaches may include:

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

An evidence-based practice, CBT helps clients identify unhealthy, unproductive thought patterns so they can explore how those thought patterns affect their behavior; over time, clients work closely with their therapist and through completing “at-home” assignments to begin choosing thoughts that are more rational, positive and productive for their lives.

Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)

Similar to CBT, DBT helps those in addiction recovery to come to grips with the “grey” areas of life; for some, life is viewed as black or white, but that leaves little room for all the nuances that occur from day to day. As Very Well Mind indicates, DBT is meant to help others live in the present moment while by learning about mindfulness, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness and emotion regulation.

Motivational enhancement therapy (MET)

For clients who are “on the fence” about whether or not to seek treatment, therapists can utilize MET to guide a client through the costs and benefits of seeking help.

12-Step support groups

Programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) give those in recovery the opportunity to follow a path that leads them to greater spiritual wellbeing; for many people this positive reinforcement emphasizes healthy coping mechanisms for them to use over time.

Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.

I’ve been playing music and telling stories in treatment centers for more years than I want to admit. But it has been decades. I’ve had a front row seat to how music effects the brain, the body and the spirit. It never ceases to amaze me when someone wakes up and starts their healing process right in front of our eyes.

I want to share a story that happened recently at Cumberland Heights where I work, and I call it, “The man who never wrote a song.”

It always starts with meeting them where they are musically speaking and spiritually speaking. What instrument can they play, and what are they comfortable doing. And where are they in honestly facing their disease and recovery. We start by playing together and talking about each other’s stories to see where the meeting place will be. This patient played guitar, but not for long, and was not real confident. But I made sure that he knew what he did know was good.

I asked this patient to start journaling about his thoughts and feelings and bring them next week to start writing a song. he said, ” I’ve never written a song, do you think I can?” I said, ” I know you can.”

The next week he brought some lyrics and we took pieces of those and added others and I started with some easy piano chords that he could join in on guitar with. We talked more about his powerlessness, and he said, “I ain’t going back!” That became the working title and the song flowed out of him after that. The voice he found was new to him and it was fun to see him smile about how well he could sing. We then recorded it in a rough fashion on a cell phone so we could remember what we did.

The following week we do a Spiritual Emphasis Day and often in the afternoon of that day patients get an opportunity to get up and do creative things in front of the whole population. This day “the man who never wrote a song” let alone perform in front of people, got up and did his song.

It was amazing to see him find things inside himself he never knew was there, and when the standing ovation faded, he was in tears. Here now stood a man who has made his first commitment to recovery and to the solution. It happens over and over again, and it is a testament to the power of the human spirit and music. I’m blessed to have had a front row seat.

Adolescent benefiting from 12-Step programsPrevious research has shown that treatment is best when it’s integrated – because everyone has unique histories, interests and learning processes. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) explains that comprehensive, personalized treatment works best for adolescents in addiction recovery and this often takes place amongst several components:

  • Behavioral therapies – such as counseling, psychotherapy, group therapy, etc.
  • Activities – such as horseback riding, rock climbing, canoeing and others
  • Group meals – so that adolescents can get to know other teens who are recovering
  • School assistance – which allows adolescents recovering to continue their education and not get behind
  • 12-Step programs – to provide a community in which adolescents can become a part of

12-Step programs can be incredibly effective for teens in recovery because it gives them an opportunity to connect with others while following a structured path towards healing. In 12-Step programs, teens can rebalance and restore their mental, physical and spiritual health; a 2015 study published by a student in the Harvard University Extension School found that greater involvement in 12-Step programs leads to lengthened sobriety. The 12-Step program is often supplemental to other forms of treatment, and it’s these various approaches to recovery that give a person a more personalized experience.

While being promoted to live a drug-free lifestyle, adolescents in recovery can work through deep-rooted issues in psychotherapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), for instance, is a therapy approach that helps individuals uncover negative thought processes and replace them with more positive, meaningful ones. Group therapy sessions – aside from the group discussions explored in 12-Step Programs – can help teens explore greater issues that have been at play in their lives – whether it relates to friends, home life, school, mental health concerns or something else.

One person shared their personal experience with a 12-Step program via Recovery and Me. Here is an excerpt from their story:

“I learned about the power of connection between one recovering person and another; where sharing experiences, strength and hope with each other provide examples and inspiration to continue ‘one day at a time’.”

The strength garnered from 12-Step programs, in addition to other treatment modalities, can only serve to strengthen an adolescent’s journey to recovery. The period of adolescence is already marked by a rollercoaster of emotions and development; teens can find strength in a safe community found through Cumberland Heights’ ARCH Academy.

 Adolescent Recovery of Cumberland Heights (ARCH) originally began in 1985 when there were few other adolescent programs like it in the country. In 2019, we’re expanding our continuum of services with ARCH Academy, a unique program located in Kingston Springs that offers 60 days to 6 months of residential care to adolescent boys ages 14-18 who are struggling with alcohol and/or drug addiction. This new program stems from Cumberland Heights, which has been around since 1966, and is located in Nashville, Tennessee. The adolescent age is a critical time for development, making this a crucial time of positive influence. For more information, call us today at 1-800-646-9998.

Why Goal-Oriented Thinking Will Get You Incredibly Far in Recovery

One of the biggest components you’ll have in recovery is trying to find out what your goals and motivations are. Addiction is a complex disease because it can involve so many different factors – your genetics, your personality, the way you grew up, your current environment, trauma you’d had in your life and more. As with any path we take, it’s best to have a long-term goal in mind for what we want to accomplish so that we know what we’re working towards. In the world of recovery, we’re often trying to find the factors that will bring us the most success – relapse prevention, support, attendance, sobriety and more – but the common theme here lies within one simple area: goal orientation.

Perspective is everything, and by keeping the bigger picture in mind, you’re able to work through challenges more effectively. Back in 2015, researchers wanted to learn more about 2 components of goal orientation – hope and self-efficacy (feeling confident in your own abilities to succeed) – and how those two factors play out in a person’s recovery. They found that both had an influence on a person’s levels of depression and anxiety, two mental health challenges that can definitely slow down the recovery process. What are some examples of goal-oriented thinking that you can use in your everyday life?

  • “I will establish a volunteer opportunity by the end of next week.”
  • “Today, I will meditate for 5 minutes.”
  • “By the end of the month, I will be able to meditate for 10 minutes each day.”
  • “By the end of the year, I will have made 3 new connections for building my recovery support network.”

When we set goals, it means that we believe we can achieve them – and it also means that we have the motivation to go after them, too. Spend some time thinking about what you want your goals in recovery to be. Then, create very direct, specific statements that really describe what your goals are. Make sure they have the following:

  • A realistic, achievable goal
  • A set time frame
  • A plan for how you’ll know you’ve achieved that goal

Both short-term and long-term goals are best so that you can take small steps daily that will really contribute to a bigger picture. If you find that you’ve completed some goals sooner than you realized, create new ones – you’ll be extremely proud to find that you’ve accomplished a lot throughout your recovery.

Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-campus, we are made up of 2 twelve-step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.

Call us today at 1-800-646-9998 to take the next step towards your happiness and health.

Your Ultimate Guide to Building a Life of Recovery

To step out of the world of addiction and into recovery is courageous and admirable. Recovery is a lifelong journey and involves a lot of twists and turns. Some days you’re going to feel as though you’ve got it all figured out – and other days, you’re going to wonder why you started doing this in the first place. These mixed feelings are common for anyone in recovery, and eventually will make you a stronger person as you learn to day things day by day.

If you ask anyone what their definition of recovery is, you’ll likely get a variety of answers. Recovery can be quite subjective, depending on a person’s individual goals, motivations and approach. While the personal view of recovery may change depending on the person, there are a number of dimensions that are pretty consistent, no matter whose recovery journey you look at:

  • Substance Use – no longer using
  • Treatment/Support – being in a program, having supportive people nearby
  • Psychological Health – feeling more confident, empowered and in-control
  • Physical Health – more activity/exercise, improved physical condition
  • Use of Time – more structure, more meaningful hobbies, less boredom
  • Education/Training/Employment – going back to school, volunteering, etc.
  • Income – more stability over finances, less debt
  • Housing – more security with a place to stay
  • Relationships – improved relationships with friends and family
  • Social Functioning – improved life skills and social interactions, more involvement
  • Offending/Antisocial Behavior – reduce/none at all anymore
  • Well-Being – less shame and guilt with more purpose, meaning and healthy self-esteem
  • Self-Identity/Awareness – improved perception of oneself
  • Spirituality – a sense of connection to the world, to God or to some other Higher Being

A few years ago, researchers really dived in to derive these elements that are considered foundational to recovery. Of course, each person’s journey is different, and you may have some elements that are stronger (or less apparent) than others over time. These dimensions are actually extremely useful for developing a happy, healthy life in general – not just when addiction is involved. Anyone can incorporate these elements more into their life. It really is a matter of finding what you need the most and what minor changes can be made to really make a positive difference in your life. Demi Lovato has expressed this exact concept by saying, “Recovery is something that you have to work on every single day, and it’s something that doesn’t get a day off.”


Take the leap towards bettering your happiness, health and overall life. You won’t regret it.

Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-campus, we are made up of 2 twelve-step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.

Call us today at 1-800-646-9998 to take the next step towards your recovery.


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