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Crestwood Behavioral Health


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The Healing Power of Drumming

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Drumming has been a tool used in many cultures for many things, from communication, holistic rituals, community gatherings, and healing.  People have had an intimate connection with the drum since discovering that the beat of the drum is analogous to the beat of the human heart.  As a universal, vibrational language, the drumbeat communes with the Earth and all of her creatures.

There have been numerous research studies conducted about the power of drumming and the significant effects it can have on the human spirit and body.  Drumming is now being used to help people with Alzheimer’s, children with autism, and teens with emotional dysregulation.  Large corporations have also used drumming to help employees focus attention and improve spirits.

Research further suggests that drumming can serve as a distraction from pain and grief by enabling communication between the cerebral hemispheres, using the physical transmission of rhythmic energy.  This allows one to connect with their own spirit at a deeper, more intimate level, making it easier to access feelings of insight, understanding, certainty, conviction and truth.

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Drum circles provide an opportunity to connect with groups of like-minded people, including those struggling to find their own personal resonance.  Individuals may make this connection by listening and feeling the pulse of the drum, and working out their own personal rhythm in contribution.

Sound vibrations have been known to resonate through every cell in the body, freeing energy blockages that can form as a result of unexpressed feelings and emotions.  Drumming helps emphasize self-expression, which can aid in an individual’s ability to address emotional health and issues with conflict and even violence.  Participants are given the opportunity to present and receive positive feedback.  It can help us find our center and become more mindful of the present.  Playing in a drum circle can create a magical paradox of moving from the awareness of being out of one’s body to being firmly grounded in the moment.  Group drumming can complement traditional talk therapy, providing a vehicle for personal transformation, as well as community building.

Pam Akins, LMFT, a Clinical Consultant at Crestwood American River Psychiatric Health Facility, said, “Witnessing the responses of our clients to participation in a drum circle has been a personal growth experience for me.  As a clinician, I have had to give up control of the circle and allow the drummers to take what was needed and give as they were able to.  The main attraction is the drum, center of the circle and the heart of healing.  In the PHF setting, some clients are active participants, while others may be observers, but it is evident that some type of shift occurs with everyone involved, even if only momentarily.”

“The most common initial response is that the client does not know how to play a drum or keep a rhythm, but, once an attempt is made, I can see the client respond to the beat that they create, and start to become increasingly more confident.  Instruments are eagerly shared and exchanged.  The circle creates unity and a sense of community among the participants.  Playing along and sharing their hearts, helps the group become centered and calm,” explained Pam.

The experience of conducting a drum circle at a PHF, with clients who are struggling with finding wholeness, has shown Pam and the staff the powerful, amazing and positive effect that beating on a hollowed wooden circle, covered by a tightly stretched membrane, can have.

Contributed by:
Pam Akins, LMFT, Clinical Consultant, Crestwood American River PHF
and
Nancy Soncrant, Campus Administrator, Crestwood American River


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Crestwood’s Core Values: Family

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The family unit is one of the most important and influential social groups.  At some point in each of our lives, we are part of a family. Today we have expanded our definition of family beyond the “nuclear” reference and many people have created their own meaningful definition of family in their own lives.

In serving people challenged by mental health issues, Crestwood recognizes how essential family can be to the process of recovery. One of Crestwood’s Core Values is Family, which means our company is committed to providing safe, secure and responsive mental health services to the entire family.  It is estimated that up to 70% of people living with mental health issues live with a family member.

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The needs of families for support, education, and information are evident.  At Crestwood American River, we seek out and actively engage with the family members of our clients, and have become acutely aware of the stress and conflict they are experiencing.  As a result, the American River campus offers a free-of-cost Family Support Group to help families navigate the systems designed to support their family member, provide an outlet for sharing, problem solving and processing of difficult feelings, and creating their own self-care plans.

Our Family Support Group was started in January 2015, and is led by Denise Thompson, MFTI, who is one of the Recovery Service Coordinators at the American River PHF.   The group is a psycho-educational community support group and is open to all family members of past and present clients.  The group is held bi-weekly without fail and members set the topics.  It is a safe, confidential place to share their healing journeys.  They share stories, learn coping skills and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) techniques, while connecting with each other. One member of the group, Jamie, is a key advocate for the creation of the group and has been regularly attending since it first began. When his family member was a client at Crestwood American River he asked for support, he asked for resources, and he volunteered to be a part of helping others in any way possible. “It is difficult to find the right words to describe the excruciating emotional pain created by seeing a loved one secluded in a mental health facility.  It is difficult as well to describe the gratitude after finding the desperate relief through the sessions offered by Crestwood,” explained Jamie. “When my family member began in the rehabilitation program at American River, my family and I, at that time, did not have support or knowledge of where to go.  All of this was done in order to make things easier for me, and to point us in the direction of the light at the end of the tunnel. Thank you for opening this door of opportunity and healing, which is a great step for me, and for giving me the strength to persist and succeed.”

At Crestwood American River we feel honored to support our clients and their families.  We believe by providing support and education to the families and the community, it leads to inclusion and reduces stigma.  This is what living our Crestwood Values is all about.

Contributed by:
Stacy Small, Clinical Director


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Providing a Beacon of Light

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Crestwood’s Psychiatric Health Facilities Providing a Beacon of Light in the Darkest Moments

There is no more significant moment than the moment when you feel the greatest despair, the moment when you cannot find any controls for your emotions and actions, the moment when you find yourself lost in the streets, homeless, hungry and frightened, the moment when you can no longer endure the life you are living. These times generally get you to the door of an ambulance, police car or crisis center. These are the crisis moments the clients who come to Crestwood’s Psychiatric Health Facilities (PHFs) find themselves in the midst of. This moment is pivotal and can be the beginning of a long and dark road of hospitalizations, or an opportunity to embark on a journey of recovery, serenity and peace.

Crestwood has become one of largest provider of PHFs in the state with programs at our American River, Bakersfield, Solano, Sacramento and San Jose campuses.  The PHFs are designed by and for individuals who are in the middle of crisis moments and need a soft place to land. The PHF environments are cozy, with soft wall paint hues of welcoming color and are decorated with carpet and home furnishings to eliminate the sterile hospital environment feel.  When a client first arrives at one of Crestwood’s PHFs they are greeted in a comfortable welcoming room and are provided with snacks and drinks.  Each client’s initial assessment occurs in this welcoming room and is conducted as a soft inquiry interview, rather than a long list of yes and no questions, which helps to calm the client and put them at ease.

Once a client has been welcomed, they are then provided with a tour of the rest of the environment. The PHFs are small programs, accommodating 10 to 16 individuals, yet each has a large, relaxing living room; dining room and kitchen; group rooms; sitting areas for just visiting; and a serenity room with chaise lounges, walls painted darker soft hues, art and music for contemplation, meditation and peace of mind. The bedrooms have homelike beds with comforters and enough space to allow freedom of movement and privacy.

The PHF programs are designed to be open, enabling clients to choose classes each day, as well as to take the time they need for individual healing rituals such as journaling, sharing stories and laughter. The evidence-based classes available to clients include Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) skills, Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP), and Cognitive Behavioral skills training in anger management, self- soothing, assertiveness training, medication awareness, and life-skills training. The creative arts are also provided as another recovery tool that each person can bring with them as they transition back to their home or community.

The support offered at Crestwood’s PHF programs is exceptional.  The psychiatrists are well-versed in recovery methods and a variety of recovery tools, including medication. The licensed clinical staff and nursing staff are trained in WRAP and have extensive training to avoid coercive treatment. The relationship each staff member has with each client is viewed as one of the most healing recovery tools. Another significant support that is available for clients is peers helping peers.

Clients are also provided with transition training to help prepare them to return home or to a new environment. Linkage to community-based providers is vital at this time, as well as family support and education. With the support of the PHFs’ service coordinators, each client is linked to services, understands their aftercare plan and has an idea of where to get help should another crisis arise.

So it is only with love, compassion, hope and ongoing support that the darkest moments can be transformed into the beginning of a sacred healing journey of recovery and peace.  The Crestwood PHFs provide clients who are in this time of crisis with a safe environment that is warm and welcoming and surrounded by others who have been in their shoes and who can hold hope until they are ready to hold it for themselves.

Contributed by: Patty Blum, PhD
Crestwood Vice President


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Providing Meaningful Roles

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American River Residential Services Providing Meaningful Roles for Their Residents

At American River Residential Services (ARRS), they provide residents with community housing and support services in a welcoming and motivating atmosphere, with the goal for each resident to be able to live independently when they graduate from the program. One important part of ARRS’ program in helping residents achieve their goal of independent living is Vocational Wellness.  Vocational Wellness acknowledges the need for creating meaningful roles through personal satisfaction and enrichment in one’s life, which is developed through learning job skills and building on positive activities. 

Vocational Wellness at ARRS begins with an assessment, followed by providing residents with assistance in applying for an identification card, obtaining a social security card, and completing paperwork. ARRS’ Program Director, Damela Barnes, initiates the next step in the Vocational Wellness program by encouraging residents to become a Dreamcatcher.  A Dreamcatcher is a resident who, after having gone through the initial process of participating in the Vocational Wellness program, agrees to go through vocational training by working in a part-time job.  Often times when residents are first approached about becoming a Dreamcatcher their responses range from, “I can’t work because I’m disabled,” to “I can’t do a job, it’s too hard,” and even “I receive an SSI check every month and I don’t need a job, I’m fine.”  But with positive encouragement from the staff, these same residents often agree to participate in the Dreamcatchers’ program and discover meaningful roles for themselves through the job experience.  An example of this is Tamara who says, “I enjoy being a Dreamcatcher.  I work three times a week and it’s really fun. I have been working for a month now and would like to continue.”

Dreamcatchers are assigned rewarding and positive work experiences in various job positions throughout the facility, such as kitchen assistants, housekeeping assistants, maintenance assistants, office assistants, recycling, and groundskeepers. Staff members, working in their respective departments, serve as mentors to the Dreamcatchers.

The Dreamcatchers’ program is very popular at ARRS, with at least half of their residents participating.  ARRS’ ultimate goal, by providing the resident Dreamcatchers with a simulated working environment within the facility, is that it will eventually help them transition into working in the community prior to graduating from the program.  It is extremely rewarding for the staff mentors to see this whole transformation unfold before their eyes. “The experience of working with residents and seeing them succeed is simply amazing and enriching and it all begins with providing residents with meaningful roles,” said Vernon Frayna, Program Coordinator at American River Residential Services and the PHF.

Many Dreamcatcher residents love the fact that they receive a paycheck with their name on it every two weeks.  “I work as an office assistant.  My job is very fulfilling and I like working with the staff,” said Traci, a Dreamcatcher.  “I am excited about my paycheck every two weeks.  And I look forward to a rewarding career as a full-time receptionist after I graduate from the program.”

Meaningful roles created through learning job skills and working at a job gives the Dreamcatchers a reason to get up in the morning, smile, and keep up with their hygiene and grooming, and associating with others.  Vernon observed, “Because they know that people believe in them, that makes them feel good about themselves.”

The Dreamcatcher residents are thriving, feel empowered, supported and understood at ARRS by being provided with meaningful roles. Vernon reflected, “One of the best compliments I have ever received from a Dreamcatcher at ARRS was, ‘Thank you for letting me do a job and for giving me hope.’”