For people who have a mental illness or have experienced trauma, substance abuse is often a way to dull their pain. Without properly addressing the real source of anguish, any recovery programs will be short-lived as people return to maladaptive coping strategies that help them survive.
“When somebody has mental illness, trauma or both, they sometimes realize they can’t function and like to be numb. That’s where the substance use becomes a huge issue,” says Mechelle Boman, the director of marketing and client relations at Maple Mountain Recovery, a trauma-informed treatment center outside of Salt Lake City. “Ultimately we’re working on the underlying issues of addiction. When you fix those, the addiction doesn’t seem to be an issue.”
Maple Mountain, which is located in a 11,000 square-foot mansion in the Utah mountains, specializes in treating co-occurring disorders and trauma, helping many clients that have previously failed to reach sobriety establish a life in recovery.
“If things haven’t worked for people, we can help them out,” Boman says.
Maple Mountain does that by focusing first on the underlying health issues. The staff strives to get clients a proper diagnosis, in order to design a treatment plan that will serve them best.
“So many clients have had multiple diagnosis, so figuring out what the right diagnosis is is important,” Boman says. For clients with bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, major depression and other mental illnesses, the doctors on staff do genetic testing that helps determine what medications will control their symptoms the best.
“That takes the guessing out of what is going to work for the patient,” Boman said, adding that some people do not metabolize certain medications. Knowing this ahead of time can avoid the frustrating process of trying a medication that does not alleviate symptoms.
For all patients, the staff works to use non-addictive medications to stabilize the underlying health issue.
Many patients at Maple Mountain are also dealing with severe trauma, so the treatment center strives to create a safe and comfortable space where those people can heal.
“When people feel unsafe they don’t get vulnerable and open up about their issues,” Boman says. “Because of that, we have a very safe program with trauma-informed care.”
Staff has a flexible approach to their expectations of clients, allowing people to get better at a pace that feels comfortable for them, and does not become triggering. At the same time, clients meet individually with a therapist twice per week, and have access to proven treatments like Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), which has shown to provide immense relief to people with post-traumatic stress disorder, and neurofeedback.
Boman says that staff at the 16-bed co-ed facility are conscious of the group dynamic, and strive to accept clients that will create a positive environment in the home.
“There’s no one getting picked on and no bullying,” she says.
That community relationships are continued through a vibrant continuing care and alumni program that keep clients connected to Maple Mountain Recovery as they establish themselves in sobriety.
“I’ve had a lot of people say it feels like home,” Boman says. “Our alums will say ‘I can’t wait to come home, be in that space again.’”