Addiction and mental illness are deeply complex challenges, and they are handled as such by the team at Sierra Tucson, says Antoinette Giedzinska, Ph.D., Director of Behavioral Medicine. To begin with, this means encouraging clients to think beyond stereotypes and bringing a comprehensive array of resources and treatments to bear in helping them to get better.
Is there a condition that you've had particular success in treating?
Our treatment philosophy is predicated on a belief that successful recovery is based on healing the whole person and not focusing solely on the disease or its symptoms. This integrative mental health approach captures the true essence of treatment at Sierra Tucson. Although we have five primary treatment programs—1) addictions with co-occurring psychiatric disorders, 2) mood disorders, 3) eating disorders, 4) trauma recovery, and 5) pain recovery—we approach each individual as a unique person who has likely been impacted by a multitude of challenges in their life, which contribute to the culmination of reasons why they would admit for residential treatment. After considering each individual, our treatment teams will tailor each patient's programming to best meet his or her needs, allowing us to successfully treat a wide range of conditions, and especially those that manifest with co-morbid issues.
Please share one or two other factors that distinguish your program.
Sierra Tucson successfully functions as a comprehensive integrative mental health facility. The following must be included in order to successfully offer an integrative approach: coordination; collaboration; communication. Sierra Tucson employs a complete medical model with a 24/7 nursing staff, primary therapists, and full-time medical and psychiatric physicians, in addition to a dedicated family program and a multitude of integrative practitioners, who are committed to this multi-disciplinary treatment approach. What this entails is nothing short of magic. For example, each department is responsible for contributing to the moving pieces that coordinate patient scheduling to maximize each day for a comprehensive therapeutic experience. And none of this can take place without the dedication of other support staff and departments, from risk management, to housekeeping, to psychiatric technicians—working together to achieve clinical excellence.
Please share a successful recovery story about which your team is especially proud.
A woman was brought to Sierra Tucson by her husband after an "accidental" overdose. She stated that she wanted her "suffering and stress" to "go away," so she took several medications at once to numb her feelings. Her Sierra Tucson psychiatrist diagnosed her with Major Depressive Disorder and referred her to our Psychology Department. During multiple assessments, which included the Bio/Neurofeedback team, who later brought in our naturopathic doctors, it was discovered that she had significant hormonal imbalances, likely contributing to her low energy, memory problems, and depression. These findings were reintegrated by her treating psychiatrist, and the medical team reassessed her psychotropic medications and incorporated naturopathic medicines. Due to this integrative approach, we were able to integrate a wider range of approaches to help her and assure her that she was not "going crazy," which she had expressed fear about upon admission.
Are there recent mental health trends you've noted that are not yet widely known?
Sierra Tucson uses a FDA-approved treatment for depression called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). Clinical studies have shown that patients who undergo this non-drug treatment reported significant improvement in depression symptoms and were symptom-free for up to one year. Because TMS Therapy is targeted, our patients do not experience negative side effects associated with antidepressants. TMS delivers focused magnetic pulses to targeted brain regions that regulate mood. These highly focused, MRI-strength pulses depolarize the neurons in these key areas that are underactive in depression, thereby promoting the release of neurotransmitters like serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. TMS Therapy is not a "quick fix" for treating depression, but one where patients are committed to specified protocols encompassing daily 40-minute treatments as part of Sierra Tucson's integrative mental health programming for depression.
Do you keep in touch with the people you serve, either formally or informally?
Upon admission, we begin helping residents plan their continuing care and educate them about our lifetime of alumni services available after discharge. We believe that participation in a 30-45-day program is only part of their recovery journey, since much of the actual work takes place in the real world. Discharged with their own personalized continuing care plan, residents are invited to participate in our Connect365 program, which offers ongoing recovery coaching and support for one year and includes a digital application with daily/weekly reminders; progress check-ins; and opportunities to practice life-skills learned while in treatment, along with Recovery Coaches who work with each individual to help bridge the gap after leaving residential treatment. Alumni relations coordinators make contact from discharge and help alumni stay involved and connected via informative workshops, dinners, renewals and retreats.
If you could make one change in the culture's perception of mental illness or substance abuse, what would it be?
Often, our culture blames individuals for everything wrong in their lives with assumptions that people are in treatment because they are not strong enough or are inherently flawed. The Nature versus Nurture debate is nothing new, yet many could benefit if mental health was viewed as a dynamic process that is influenced by multi-factorial processes. Life is messy, complex, and complicated; so are life's struggles, illnesses, and addictions. Treating mental illness from a holistic integrative treatment approach addresses the myriad of presenting symptoms. Addiction does not occur in a vacuum; therefore, recovery should not occur in one either. Coordination of integrative services, collaboration among integrative practitioners, and communication is a dedicated effort. When I observe individuals starting to think about themselves from an integrative mental health perspective, I witness profound and empowering insight.
For more information on this facility, visit: sierratucson.com