“Words cannot express! Rimrock compassionately offered the help I needed and was the beginning of a very crucial life change and positive growth for the rest of my life. Thank you!”

Nicholas T.


Telehealth: Your Treatment Toolbox’s Newest Addition

Technology is something that we all have gotten more adept at using, whether we like it or not. “Zooming” is now a thing. I remember when I got a job after graduate school that required me to have a cell phone, I felt soooo sophisticated (it was a flip phone and there was an antenna that I pulled out for better reception). My relationship with tech goes back a little ways…

I can also remember when I was in elementary school and my dad really, really wanted a home computer for Christmas. My mom and I did get him a computer, but first we made him one out of cardboard with a drawn on keyboard. He was not impressed, but the look on his face was hilarious! As a high schooler, my dad insisted that I be proficient in typing; I had to practice typing more than I had to practice parallel parking (both of which I was pretty sure were ridiculous things to learn… no one would ever use typing as a skill and I was sure I’d be rich and famous and would have a driver. My dad did not buy either of my lines of reasoning). When I was in college, my parents wanted me to have my own laptop (not to date myself, but this was before it was normal to have your own computer). They had a “Gateway” (anyone else remember those cow-skin-black-and-white boxes???) delivered to me and I was the coolest kid in the dorm (until 11pm when I yelled at my dorm-mates to be quiet and go to bed).

My own kids (13-year old twin boys) are known as “digital natives.” Technology has been a part of their lives since the beginning. Using technology to connect, communicate and learn is not abnormal for them. Zoom, cell phones, tablets and computers are all integrated into their daily lives. Even before COVID-19, they used web-based programs in their school and knew how to use a tablet and laptop. Instead of an encyclopedia (or, God forbid, just not knowing something) we “Google” it. Where I used to play outside or read a book, they play X-box and want to be able to “game” with their friends. (Funny story: they really, really wanted an X-box for Christmas a couple years ago. I got a box and drew a huge “X” on it and gave it to them. The looks on their faces! Pretty sure they thought I was the dumbest mom on the planet. Even my husband, who is more anti-tech than I am, thought I was being cruel. We did get them a real X-box for Christmas that year, but I will forever remember the looks on their faces when I said, “You guys said you wanted an X-box! I thought that was what you wanted!” LOL. Priceless). They do not understand why I do not think they need iPhones; the argument “I didn’t have one when I was your age” only solicits them looking at me as if I am from Mars.

So, gung-ho technology! Maybe. Maybe not. Technology is a fabulous tool. It allows us to do many things easier, faster and (often) cheaper. But there is a price. It is often thought that technology impairs social growth and skills (my grandma used to say that TV “rots your brain”), but research has not born that out completely. Particularly for children with learning disabilities and autism, technology has actually provided useful tools to help children learn and communicate. I could argue that it may actually improve diversity and global awareness of issues: we are more aware of people on the other side of the world and even down our own street because we are all connected through the internet. We can connect with people that we’ve lost touch with via Facebook and buy our groceries without ever leaving our house. It has certainly made our lives more “normal” due to COVID-19. For the most part, we were still able to engage in work and school, even if it was in a modified way. It has allowed us to talk to our families since we cannot visit (although, I must say, after “Zooming” with patients all day, the very last thing I want to do is “Zoom” with my family… the only thing I want to do is “zoom” to bed and sleep!).

Technology has allowed me to seamlessly continue to see my clients; telehealth has been used for decades (although it is more prevalent in traditional medicine versus mental health and substance use treatment). Even prior to COVID-19, technology has allowed me to see clients that do not live in Billings. It also allows me to provide quality treatment to individuals living in rural Montana that do not have local access to mental health and/or substance use counselors. Now that it is more mainstream, I foresee us continuing to use technology (in the form of “telehealth”) to provide services, even within the Billings city limits. Telehealth practices are allowing us to integrate people from outside Billings into our group therapy that previously required travel to Billings. Families that needed to take days off of work and pay for gas and hotels in order to participate in our “Family Week” can now do so virtually. I’ve also had clients that live in Billings ask to continue to use telehealth for various reasons including cutting down on having to take time away from work and drive to my office, reducing fear of embarrassment that someone they know will see them walk into my office (we’ll save stigma for a different blog post), and feeling it is “easier” to share difficult things over a camera versus face-to-face. Technology is a great tool with many benefits, and I’m glad we have it. I also want us to use caution: a hammer is also a tool, but it is not always the tool that you should or would use.

For some people, telehealth is not the best venue for receiving care. Face-to-face therapy can still happen during COVID-19 when we take the recommended precautions. For some, a blend of face-to-face and telehealth is the best fit. It is imperative that we, as clinicians and consumers, assess the needs and match it appropriately with provided services. While technology is a huge benefit in our lives, we also need to be aware that it is not always the best fit. When I work with my clients, I want them to have a lot of “tools in their toolbox” to deal with the stressors and boredom of everyday life, not just a hammer.

If you would like more information on how the available telehealth and in-person options Rimrock offers to address substance use and mental health needs can help you or someone you love, please call 800-227-3953 or complete our online request form and a member of our staff will reach out to you. Normal admission hours are between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm Mountain Time, Monday through Friday. However, we do have staff available anytime to take your call.

Time for a Change

Last weekend, my family and I put in our garden. I need to warn you that none of us are gardeners. We did one last year and it was obvious that it was our first try at doing a garden… this year we learned a few things and did it a little differently. As I churned the soil (next year I think I will rent or buy a tiller…although, I must say my arms got quite a workout!!) I noticed pieces of last year’s garden: some random leaves, a stem from one of hail storm-decimated tomato plants, a plastic GI Joe toy (ok, we didn’t plant that but I do have two sons) and the roots of part of a squash plant. As I noticed these items, I thought about the process of growth and change and how this year’s garden will be better because of what we learned (GI Joe toy aside) from last year’s garden. So often, our current state and trajectory is shaped by the past: we change from and because of our past.

One of my biggest pet peeves as a counselor is when a client tells me that people (often, other counselors) have told them that they should “be over” something that has happened to them.  My clients will tell me that they feel defective and ashamed that something that happened decades ago still impacts their daily life. One client in particular shared with me that he was to the point of suicide because he was so shamed and embarrassed about how he felt. I told him that, given his past and what was done to him, his feelings (anger, shame, hurt, fear, rejection) were normal results of surviving what he had been through. I told him I felt honored that he trusted me enough to talk to me about it. It wasn’t until he was able to accept (which took a lot of time in my office, tears, snot & Kleenex) his feelings and experiences that he was able to move on. He was able to gain understanding of what had happened to him and decide what he wanted the rest of his life to look like. I am humbled by the amount of trust and courage that it took him to be willing to be uncomfortable and walk through his past with me. He would not be the kind, gentle and talented man he is today if he hadn’t been through his experiences and conquered the uncomfortable feelings that resulted. He was able to transform trauma, adversity and addiction into compassion, gratitude and resilience.

I think that many of us have contemplated what “the future” will look like post COVID-19. And will it ever really be “post COVID-19?” Does the past ever really go away? Or does it just become better integrated into our present and future? People often assume that “change” means that you somehow discard the past or what is wrong and you do something new and different. But can we ever really do that? How do I know what direction I want to go in if I do not allow my history to remind me of what not to do or what lessons have been learned? If I do not remember the pain and discomfort of the past, I lose the motivation required to continue moving forward. Many people I’ve talked to are thinking of the “post COVID-19” world in terms of a “New Year’s Resolution” and that this is a time to leave what we didn’t like or need in our past and use this difficult time to evoke change. Take this time of separation from our normal routines to re-evaluate what you want to be different moving forward. More time with family? Less time being consumed by work? Fewer commercially-driven Target runs? Are there new habits you want to cultivate? Vices you want to let go of? What do you need to make that happen?

I think we’ve all heard those conversations about “when things go back to normal” and I honestly do not think we will “go back normal.” Just as the debris from last year’s garden will fertilize this year’s garden, we will use this time to assess what we want to take forward into our futures. I look forward to the rest of the summer and seeing what grows in my garden.

If you’re ready to reach out and make a change, Rimrock is here for you. Our Admissions Department can be reached at (406) 248-3175 or (800) 227-3953. Normal admission hours are between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm Mountain Time, Monday through Friday. However, we do have staff available anytime to take your call.

New Treatment and Support Services Available in Eastern Montana

Receiving treatment and support for mental health issues and substance use disorder (SUD) can be challenging in rural areas. To help people living in eastern Montana, the clinical teams of Rimrock and Eastern Montana Community Mental Health Center (EMCMHC) are collaborating with local primary care providers in eastern Montana to identify patients who would benefit from support and treatment for mental health or substance use issues. Along with an entire continuum of services from detox to inpatient, short-term and long-term residential and outpatient services available to those in need in eastern Montana, Peer Support and Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) are two important new services available to help patients in rural areas work towards recovery.

Peer Support.  Peer Support Specialists are people with a shared lived experience of addiction and mental health challenges who can provide those struggling with SUD with guidance and knowledge they have earned by going through similar situations and coming out the other side. Peer Support Specialists put clients at ease knowing that they’re talking to somebody who’s been there and who understands what they’re going through. Our Peer Support Specialists have been where people in active addiction and in recovery currently find themselves and can help them navigate through challenges and celebrate success in a healthy way. By sharing their stories of addiction and recovery, Peer Support Specialists help others open up and share their own stories, which is an important step in recovery.

Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT).  Substance use disorder (SUD) is a chronic illness and needs to be treated as such. With a chronic illness, the goal is not a cure; it’s about creating an individualized treatment plan to best manage the illness. Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) is one option for those who struggle with SUD. MAT involves prescribing medications to help patients facing opioid and alcohol addiction in conjunction with a treatment plan that includes counseling and behavior therapy.

Those struggling with substance use disorder are often faced with increased exposure to criminal activity, risk for infectious disease and difficulty maintaining employment. By providing MAT as a treatment option, we can help patients achieve a life that is balanced and decreases their risk factors. As each individual is helped, so are their families and their communities, which makes Montana a healthier and safer place for everyone. MAT provides lifesaving benefits including decreasing the risk of overdose and creating a foundation for managing the chronic illness of substance use disorder. MAT is administered in conjunction with counseling and behavior therapies to provide patients with the tools they need to work towards a successful recovery.

Through the partnership between Rimrock and EMCMHC,   patients can more easily have their specific needs evaluated to develop a unique treatment plan that will address those needs, giving them a second chance and offering the gift of improving their quality of life. If you or someone you know can benefit from this support, please complete our online request form or call us for help  at (406) 248-3175 or (800) 227-3953. Normal admission hours are between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm Mountain Time, Monday through Friday. However, staff is available to take your call 24/7.

Stay Home, But Stay Connected

I am a card-carrying introvert. This surprises many people as I talk and interact with people as a profession, but when I’m not at work, I am a hermit. So you might think that “social distancing” is easy for me (and let me insert this….it is not “social” distancing, it is “physical” distancing….more on that in a minute), but even I am a bit unnerved by how COVID-19 has had a ripple effect on our social connections.

If I hone in on how COVID-19 has specifically impacted my small corner of the world, I feel unsettled and grateful at the same time. I am unnerved to walk into Albertsons and see that there are completely empty shelves; I feel surreal to see a Billings Police Officer patrolling the aisles of Costco; I feel sad for my children and them missing out on their social relationships with their friends at school. I even feel a little sad for my cat who is wondering why all the humans are around her so much…..At the same time I am knee-buckling grateful that I have food and warmth and shelter.

On the professional side, my clients (and coworkers, honestly) are struggling with the looming question mark of when this might end. Several of them have concerns about being able to pay their bills as COVID-19 has impaired their ability to work. Some are struggling to connect with me since they cannot come into my office (even using telehealth, 90% of our communication is non-verbal…those little nuances, tics and inflections that do not transfer completely with technology). Some are early in their recovery and are finding that their continuing support system in the form of 12-step meetings has morphed from being able to see, touch and smell the experience, strength and joy that come from The Rooms to having to rely on a voice over the phone or a small image on a Skyped computer screen.

The truth is, our brains thrive off of interaction from those around us, even for us introverts. From a human development perspective, one of the key ingredients in healthy brain development in infants and children is interaction with other human beings. As tiny humans, infants and children learn communication, empathy, trust and their place in the world based on contact and interface with others. As adults, that scaffolding of personality and perspective continues to evolve and develop. In many ways, our emotional health relies on our connection to others; there is a reason that “solitary confinement” is considered punishment. In order to be healthy, our brain needs emotional interaction and social connection.

The opposite of addiction is connection. When we are connected to each other and have safety and trust we are less likely to gravitate towards unhealthy use of substances. In his book The Social Animal, David Brooks writes “…this is a story of fellowship. Because when you look deeper into the unconscious, the separations between individuals begin to get fuzzy. It becomes ever more obvious that the swirls that make up our own minds are shared swirls. We become who we are in connection with other people becoming who they are.” So how do we continue to be mentally healthy while practicing physical distancing? The obvious answers come to us from technology: if COVID-19 had struck even 10 years ago, we would be struggling more than we are now. Technology has blessed us with being able to hear and see each other from across the world and across the street. While it does not replace the physical connection (see a study by Harry Harlow about infant rhesus monkeys for more on the importance of touch….but that’s for a different blog), technology has allowed us to grocery shop, work and socialize from the comfort (if not verging on claustrophobic) and safety of our homes.

Perhaps the message and silver-lining from all of this (in addition to being an introvert I am also a resilient optimist….give me lemons and will not only make lemonade but also a meringue pie….) is to remember that we are lucky: despite physical distancing we are able to continue to do many of the same things we have previously, just differently. It may also be a reminder to reset and focus ourselves on our family and homes instead of all those other worldly distractions. Perhaps instead of feeling annoyed and frustrated about the chaos of our lives, this is a time to remember what is going well for us. I stumbled across this poem on social media that reflects our current mood and situation:

“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.

And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.”

            Kitty O’Meara “And the People Stayed Home” (March, 2020)

So, stay home but stay connected. Love your family and be reminded of the good things we do have in this world. Be grateful for the technology that allows us to stay together while being apart. Physically distance while socially connecting. Take care of each other.

References:

Brooks, D. (2012). The Social Animal. Random House; New York, NY.

O’Meara, K. (2020). And the People Stayed Home. Blog: The Daily Round, March 2020.

 

Click here for resources to help you cope with COVID-19.

We are here for you 24/7: Call 800-227-3953 or complete our online request form.

Concerned about COVID-19?

All visitation has been suspended at Rimrock due to COVID-19.

Thank you for helping us protect the health and safety of our community.

We recognize the challenges that we are all facing with COVID-19 and we want to provide accurate, helpful information as well as support for those struggling during these trying times. Please read this information provided by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) we’d like to share to provide answers to your questions and help you cope with uncertainty. For help with maintaining sobriety during this time, please read this article from East Bay Times or this LA Times article with information on how to stay connected during this time.

Sobriety in the time of coronavirus: ‘Stay connected, even if remotely’
<READ HERE>

Amid coronavirus, recovery community urges: Even if you skip 12-step meetings, stay connected.<READ HERE>

NAMI (CORONAVIRUS) INFORMATION AND RESOURCES

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