The Benefits of Using Equine Therapy in Mental Health Treatment

Animals can provide great emotional support for human beings. Beyond the loving pet-owner relationship that many of us have experienced, animals are also used in therapeutic settings to help clients navigate challenging emotional experiences.

As the name indicates equine-assisted therapy incorporates horses into the therapeutic process. “People engage in activities such as grooming, feeding, and leading a horse while being supervised by a mental health professional,” explained Jodi Clarke, MA, LPC/MHSP on Verywell Mind in January. “Goals of this form of therapy [include] helping people develop skills such as emotional regulation, self-confidence, and responsibility. With mature horses weighing anywhere in the range of 900 to 2,000 pounds or more, it might feel a bit intimidating to have such a large, majestic creature participating in your therapy sessions. However, equine-assisted therapy is growing in popularity due to its experiential approach and some burgeoning evidence of its effectiveness.”

Bernadette Robinson, MA, is Colorado Recovery’s transitional and independent living coordinator. She supervises equine therapy sessions for our clients at the Colorado Therapeutic Riding Center (CTRC) in Longmont, CO. Colorado Recovery teamed up with CTRC in 2022 to be able to offer this service to clients. The Colorado Therapeutic Riding Center is the oldest therapeutic riding center in the Centennial State and has been operating since 1980. 

“Each client creates a special bond with their assigned horse,” says Robinson, “gaining trust, learning boundaries, nourishing a connection.” Working with horses “provides a sense of accomplishment as each client grows more comfortable and confident around the animals.”

On its 39-acre campus, CTRC offers therapeutic horsemanship, equine-assisted therapies, and equine-assisted mental health services. “The horses are really the modality of treatment,” says CTRC’s executive director Michele Bruhn. “Clients are not necessarily learning how to ride a horse as our therapists work on different goals for each individual client. We evaluate our clients’ affect and body structure and then match the right type of horse with that person.” All CTRC instructors are certified through Path International.  

“Some of the activities, such as guiding their horse around various obstacles, can represent a powerful metaphor for overcoming their own personal obstacles in their individual recovery process,” explains Robinson. “Overcoming fear was a big obstacle for me, personally. I’m historically terrified of horses. I had to face my own fear and move through it in order to be at CTRC with our clients.” 

For clients who don’t like to share a lot about themselves and their personal lives, equine therapy may provide an outlet to be vulnerable. “It’s a safe place to be vulnerable,” says Robinson.  

Engaging activities such as working with horses are all part of the groundbreaking approach to mental health treatment pioneered by the late Colorado Recovery founder Richard Warner. Recovery from serious mental illness requires that patients retain a sense of empowerment—a belief in their ability to take charge of their lives and manage the complex challenges of their illness.

At Colorado Recovery it is our mission to help adults with serious mental health issues stabilize their illness, minimize symptoms, improve functioning, and enhance each person’s social inclusion, quality of life, and sense of meaning in life.

If you have questions about our recovery model or our services to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and similar mental illnesses, call us at 720-218-4068 to discuss treatment options for you or the person you would like to help.

Alcohol Awareness Important For People With Mental Illness

April is Alcohol Awareness Month, an opportunity to update your knowledge about alcohol use disorder (AUD) and the adverse impact of alcohol misuse on health and society. Alcohol-related problems continue to take a heavy toll on individuals, families, and communities.

Researchers estimate that each year there are more than 178,000 alcohol-related deaths, making alcohol a leading preventable cause of death in the United States. In addition, more than 200 disease and injury-related conditions are associated with alcohol misuse.

Alcohol use disorder frequently occurs in people with serious mental illness (SMI), such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, and can exacerbate their psychiatric, medical, and family problems. “Many of the people with serious mental illnesses whom we provide services for misuse alcohol or other addictive substances,” confirms Colorado Recovery’s clinical therapist Julie Owen, MA, LPC. “Once we are able to stabilize the psychosis aspect with therapy and medication we can also start to address any alcohol misuse.”

Like other people with an alcohol use disorder, patients with a serious mental illness are frequently self-medicating with addictive substances such as alcohol. “People who suffer from psychotic episodes often have voices in their heads, there’s a lot of thinking happening in their minds that is difficult for them to shut off,” explains Owen. “That’s very hard to live with 24/7. So they’re reaching for something they can do to calm down those voices and slow the noise in their heads. And sometimes alcohol is the thing they are reaching for.“

Reaching for a readily available “remedy” such as alcohol may happen before a person has been diagnosed with a mental health condition and prescribed medications by a medical professional. Not seeking psychiatric help and proceeding with self-medication can be a dangerous path. “Initially, it might have worked to some extent but over time the alcohol actually worsens the mental health issues,” says Owen. “So, it ends up exacerbating those issues as opposed to providing relief.”

Even when patients with SMI are stabilized with medications and therapy, they often still experience social anxiety. “They feel that other people view them as ‘weird’ and different or they fear they may say the wrong thing and embarrass themselves,” explains Owen. “So sometimes alcohol is used to lower inhibitions and help them feel more comfortable in certain social settings—become the life of the party rather than someone too afraid to chat.”

As with other people, repeated and frequent use of alcohol may lead to symptoms such as tolerance—the need to drink more to achieve the same effect or craving, a strong desire or urge to use alcohol. “With our patients, alcohol can really exacerbate the symptoms of their mental health condition and will eventually make everything much, much worse,” Owen says.

“We have quite a few clients who go to meetings and some who work with sponsors in 12-Step programs,” says Owen. “We encourage a sobriety-first approach. I do a group once a week where we talk about various support strategies around sobriety as well as introducing some other therapeutic techniques to help with both mental illness and alcohol use.”

Colorado Recovery clients are encouraged to become part of a community supporting each other, including going to meetings together. “They prepare meals together that don’t involve alcohol, they play cards and other games together without drinking alcohol, and generally begin to experience aspects of life sober,” says Owen. “That is sometimes the most powerful element of the healing process.”

Clients also go on hikes together, there is a movie night, and we offer other activities that allow people to connect with each other and meet needs that previously led to attempts to fill those needs with alcohol use.

Our mission is to help adults with serious mental health issues stabilize their illness, minimize symptoms, improve functioning, and enhance each person’s social inclusion, quality of life, and sense of meaning in life.

If you have questions about our recovery model or our services to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and similar mental illnesses, call us at 720-218-4068 to discuss treatment options for you or the person you would like to help.

Colorado Recovery: A One-stop Shop to Move Forward!

At Colorado Recovery, clients learn how to live successfully with their mental illness in an atmosphere of caring support.

Here at Colorado Recovery caring support looks like an experienced, educated staff, and a treatment model of inclusion in which our clients are active participants in their ongoing care and treatment teams. With the outpatient Supportive Transitional Living and psychiatric rehabilitation services available through our program, we focus on client’s finding meaningful work and developing the ability to live independently in the community. Individualized outpatient treatment modalities support clients who have achieved stability to integrate within the community.

“We are here to help our clients move forward and achieve their goals,” says clinical therapist Julie Owen, MA, LPC. “We provide the stabilizing medications, skills and resources they need to manage their illness successfully.”

One-stop Shop

The team at Colorado Recovery offers a wide variety of services including vocational counseling and life skill coaching. We can help clients with motivation and setting up routines.

“We believe that we have the opportunity to offer a variety of necessary services to help our clients move towards independence. These services not only include case management and vocational services, but we offer health management with our on staff nursing, so we can administer medications if needed,” explains executive director Terry Stiven, MA, LPC. “We can give injections if needed, we can set up the labs, we can make sure that labs are done. As a team, we can help provide all of that.”

It’s not easy for people with serious mental health conditions such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder to find a place that provides a vocational counselor, a case manager, individual and group therapy, and other services in a single facility.

“You may not need a case manager every day but if something comes up with insurance or Medicaid or Social Security disability payments, we have the staff who can help with that,” says Stiven. “The team can also help with grocery shopping or setting up medical appointments, sometimes even accompanying them to a doctor’s appointment.”

Colorado Recovery clients are usually comfortable here. “It’s nice that they can get almost everything they need at Colorado Recovery, rather than coming here for therapy and then having to go to a hospital for their injection,” says Owen. “Here they encounter familiar faces. It’s easy for them to talk with us and they can do the whole range of requirements in one place.”

Client Choice

Colorado Recovery offers clients choices. “You don’t have to go to all our groups, you can decide whether you want a social-connection type group one day or acceptance and commitment therapy, or maybe just join in for a meal in the evening,” Stiven explains. “And if there were an episode of instability we would know how to help and surround that person with more service options.”

In any given week, clients can decide what pieces they want to participate in, depending on their current situation. “Recently, we had a client who felt pretty isolated. He chose to come to several groups and is now in the transitional living program,” Owen says. “Other clients may decide to participate in our outdoors excursions.”

Making choices for themselves about their needs and how to best manage them is very empowering for people with mental illness.

“As part of the Warner model, we don’t dictate a lot of “have to’s”: telling them ‘you have to go to this, you have to show up for that.’ They have a say in their plan, an opportunity to think things through and make choices about their lives,” says Owen. “That’s very empowering. That’s a pretty strong piece of living independently which is our ultimate goal for them. They’re working on making decisions for themselves while they are with us, and as a result, they have the necessary skills as they move forward.”

Colorado Recovery offers outpatient care for people with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other severe mental illnesses in a community-integrated treatment environment designed to meet those needs. We are also accepting admissions at the transitional living level for those who may have attended another program but are interested in support while living more independently.

Our mission is to help adults with serious mental health issues stabilize their illness, minimize symptoms, improve functioning, and enhance each person’s social inclusion, quality of life, and sense of meaning in life.

If you have questions about our recovery model or our services to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and similar mental illnesses, call us at 720-218-4068 to discuss treatment options for you or the person you would like to help.

World Bipolar Day

World Bipolar Day 2024World Bipolar Day is celebrated each year on March 30, the birthday of Vincent van Gogh, who was diagnosed years after his death in 1890 as likely having had bipolar disorder (BD).

BD, formerly called manic depression, is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings including emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression).

World Bipolar Day intends to raise awareness of bipolar disorders and eliminate social stigma. Through international collaboration, the goal of World Bipolar Day is to provide accurate information about bipolar disorders that will educate and improve sensitivity toward the illness.

World Bipolar Day is an opportunity to show those living with the day-to-day challenges of this condition they are not alone, they have your support, and that there is always hope.

It’s a day when the BD community can come together to celebrate with friends, family, research communities, and organizations. World Bipolar Day is an opportunity to remember our strength, our resilience, and our successes, as well as acknowledge that much work remains ahead.

Bipolar disorder may cause dramatic shifts in a person’s mood, energy, and ability to think clearly. People with bipolar experience high and low moods—known as mania and depression—which differ from the typical ups and downs most people experience.

The average age of onset is around the age of 25, but it can occur in the teens, or more uncommonly, in childhood. The condition affects men and women equally, with about three percent of the US population diagnosed with bipolar disorder and nearly 83 percent of cases classified as severe.

If left untreated, bipolar disorder usually worsens. However, with a good treatment plan including psychotherapy, medications, a healthy lifestyle, a regular schedule, and early identification of symptoms, many people live well with the condition.

Symptoms and their severity can vary. A person with bipolar disorder may have distinct manic or depressed states but may also have extended periods—sometimes years—without symptoms. A person can also experience both extremes simultaneously or in rapid sequence.

Several Types of Bipolar Disorders and Related Conditions

Bipolar I disorder: the person had at least one manic episode that may be preceded or followed by hypomanic or major depressive episodes. In some cases, mania may trigger a break from reality (psychosis).

Bipolar II disorder: the person had at least one major depressive episode and at least one hypomanic episode, but you’ve never had a manic episode.

Cyclothymic Disorder or cyclothymia: a person who had at least two years—or one year in children and teenagers—of many periods of hypomania symptoms and periods of depressive symptoms (though less severe than major depression).

Bipolar disorder, “other specified” and “unspecified”: when a person does not meet the criteria for bipolar I, II or cyclothymia but has still experienced periods of clinically significant abnormal mood elevation.

Bipolar disorder is best treated with a combination of medications and psychotherapy. Medications can provide effective treatment during the acute episode and prevent future episodes from occurring. Psychotherapy can help in ways that medications can’t and can be an important adjunct to medication.

The late Colorado Recovery founder Richard Warner dedicated most of his life to fighting the stigmatization of people with mental illness. Colorado Recovery has been utilizing the Warner method to empower adults with mental illness for many years now.

Our program approaches mental healthcare based on a path of self-reliance through developed practiced skills. Recognizing the importance of empowerment for recovery, our non-institutionalized philosophy engages patients in increasing community participation.

Our treatment facility provides services needed to address schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other serious mental illnesses. Call us at 720-218-4068 to discuss treatment options for you or the person you would like to help.

Good Things Happen When Clients Take the Initiative

Colorado Recovery approaches mental healthcare based on a path to self-reliance through developing practical skills. Our approach to care is about nurturing an environment of inclusivity, socialization, and community building. Clients are encouraged to take part in activities out in the community to achieve a certain degree of social independence.

Recreational activities include snowshoeing through Colorado’s spectacular winter landscape, movie nights, talent shows, trips to the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, and even go-kart excursions.

Peter Kamback is Colorado Recovery’s vocational rehabilitation specialist and Community organizer. We base a lot of our community activities off of the “Club House” model. He organizes, participates, and supervises many of these therapeutic activities. He is particularly proud of clients who take the initiative themselves.

Colorado Recovery client James (not his real name) recently suggested making candles with the group. “He did a great job coming up with this idea on his own,” praised Kamback. “It shows initiative to interact with others in a structured and productive way. He did prepare all the materials himself before he came over to lead the group.”

Introducing new interests and subjects is a great way for clients to make connections with one another and boost self-confidence. “It was great to see and hear his excitement when he described the process of candle-making to his fellow clients,” Kamback says. “This is something he enjoyed doing on his own and it was wonderful that he wanted to share it with others. As a result of his enthusiasm for this subject, others were stimulated to consider and share things they were interested in as well.”

This was a different experience from being part of a group led by someone else, requiring more focus and attention. “He did need some guidance when it came to coordinating all of our efforts. But this was also a learning experience for him,” says Kamback. “In his mind, James had it all figured out for himself, but he hadn’t quite worked out all the details of dividing tasks and keeping everyone engaged. So, it was a great opportunity for him to work on his leadership qualities. He paid attention to the other clients if they had questions along the way. He knew when he was needed and when he could let others proceed on their own. He also took the lead when it was unclear what to do next in the process.”

James is a pleasant, conversational person which helped a lot with this activity. However, he did not fully anticipate the limitations of the materials and tools he had at the time. “This is something that often happens when introducing a new idea or exercise to clients,” explains Kamback. “At one point there was nothing left for anyone to do but wait for the wax to cool. I’m not sure James considered this part of the process or knew how to end the activity but everyone went along with it fine.”

The candle-making experience yielded some good things for James to think about should he decide to lead another group activity in the future. He certainly acquired some new tools to better equip himself and others for ventures to come. “Overall, he did a great job,” says Kamback.

Creative socializing activities like candle-making as part of a group are all part of the groundbreaking approach to mental health treatment pioneered by the late Colorado Recovery founder Richard Warner. Recovery from serious mental illness requires that patients retain a sense of empowerment—a belief in their ability to take charge of their lives and manage the complex challenges of their illness.

At Colorado Recovery it is our mission to help adults with serious mental health issues stabilize their illness, minimize symptoms, improve functioning, and enhance each person’s social inclusion, quality of life, and sense of meaning in life.

If you have questions about our recovery model or our services to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and similar mental illnesses, call us at 720-218-4068 to discuss treatment options for you or the person you would like to help.

Independent Living: The Path to Self-Reliance

One of the main objectives of the Colorado Recovery program is for patients to achieve a certain degree of social independence.

Our recovery model is a holistic, patient-centered approach to mental healthcare. This model is based on the simple premise that it is possible to recover from a mental health condition. Not that long ago, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and similar severe mental health conditions were considered chronic and beyond the reach of any meaningful recovery.

PROVIDING SUPPORT AND ENCOURAGEMENT

The recovery model counteracts feelings of disempowerment and worthlessness in the patient. Its key tenets—“optimism about recovery from schizophrenia, the importance of access to employment, and the value of empowerment of user/consumers in the recovery process—are supported by scientific research,” wrote the late Colorado Recovery founder Richard Warner in 2009. “Attempts to reduce the internalized stigma of mental illness should enhance the recovery process.”

Indeed, stereotypes, discrimination, and internalized stigma can be big problems for people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and similar conditions. Stigma tends to discourage our clients, preventing them from going out in the world and trying new things. Even food shopping or going out on a walk can appear daunting.

“On their own, many would not even go for a walk,” says Peter Kamback MFA, a vocational rehabilitation specialist and community organizer for Colorado Recovery. “With me there, I encourage them to go out and take these small steps on social interactions with people in the community. Even just a greeting look at a passerby becomes less intimidating with me around. If they see me saying ‘Hello’ to a stranger, they become more comfortable with it.”

Social support outside a therapy group setting can definitely improve recovery outcomes. “Going to the store, walking around in a public space, just having someone there to support them can go a long way,” says Kamback. “If they see that the person next to them can do it, they start thinking, ‘I can do it, too.’ Colorado Recovery specializes in that kind of support.”

Getting clients to vocalize their goals can be difficult, so just being there for them and offering support is crucial. “Getting to a point where they feel they can have a normal conversation and just be themselves is really important,” says Kamback. “Then, they can try to delve more deeply into what we can help them with, what their interests and goals are.”

The healing power of connection can not be overstated. “You establish a rapport with a client and all of a sudden they are willing to come out of their apartment,” says clinical therapist Julie Owen, MA, LPC. “This kind of accepting, non-judgmental relationship often makes them try something they haven’t been willing to try before. Because of the relationships we have here with our clients, we can take them to a museum or bowling—even go-karts.”

SOCIAL RECOVERY

“Social recovery includes the components of interdependence with others, connectedness, recovery capital, and social capital, as well as the impact of collective culture and the structural elements of our socio-economic-political system,” wrote Professor of Social Inclusion and Wellbeing Shulamit Ramon in 2018. “To add to the complexity, the impact of each element on one’s identity, in interaction with how one is seen by others, needs to be taken into account.”

Professor Ramon points out that social recovery was initially described by Dr. Warner in his book Recovery from Schizophrenia as economic and residential independence with low social disruption but has since been expanded to refer to people’s ability to lead meaningful and contributing lives as active citizens.

According to Warner, acceptance of mental illness (insight) with an internal locus of control can lead to empowerment and good outcomes while acceptance of mental illness with an external locus of control (internalized stigma, controlled by others) leads to poor outcomes.

Beginning with a careful assessment, the team at Colorado Recovery evaluates what level of support is needed to create an environment of success for our clients. “Our patients are some of the most courageous human beings I have ever seen,” says Owen.

At Colorado Recovery, it is our mission to help adults with serious mental health issues stabilize their illness, minimize symptoms, improve functioning, and enhance each person’s social inclusion, quality of life, and sense of meaning in life. Clients continue to be connected clinically while in the independent living program which allows them to benefit from our dynamic levels of care and receive the best possible support.

If you have questions about our services to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and similar mental illnesses, call us at 720-218-4068 to discuss treatment options for you or the person you would like to help.

What Causes Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, and disabling psychiatric disorder that affects approximately two million Americans in any given year. Schizophrenia is a psychosis—that is to say, it is a severe mental disorder in which the person’s emotions, thinking, judgment, and grasp of reality are so disturbed that functioning is seriously impaired.

But what causes this condition? The answer to that question has eluded medical science for a long time. “Whether you love someone with the mental illness or have seen it depicted in movies and pop culture, you might find yourself wondering what causes schizophrenia,” wrote Kelly Burch in a recent article on Verywell Health. “Unfortunately, scientists don’t know exactly what causes this mental illness.”

Despite extensive research, the causes of schizophrenia remain unclear. “There is no single organic defect or infectious agent which causes schizophrenia, but a variety of factors increase the illness—among them genetics and obstetric complications,” wrote the late Colorado Recovery founder Richard Warner, MD, in his influential book The Environment of Schizophrenia. In the book, Dr. Warner drew upon the “knowledge of the environmental factors that affect schizophrenia” to suggest “changes which could decrease the rate of occurrence of the illness, improve its course, and enhance the quality of life of sufferers and their relatives.”

“Environmental factors, including some that occur while in the womb, can also contribute to developing schizophrenia,” confirmed Burch in her explainer. “Some research suggests that using drugs, particularly during the teen years, can increase risk for schizophrenia. However, people who are predisposed to schizophrenia may also be at a higher risk of developing substance use disorder. Drug use alone cannot trigger schizophrenia, and drug use during the teenage years cannot be blamed for causing the illness.”

There is however a strong genetic link to developing schizophrenia, which is why the disease often runs in families. According to Burch, about 80 percent of the chance of developing schizophrenia can be explained by genes. “Relatives of people with schizophrenia have a greater risk of developing the illness, the risk being progressively higher among those who are more genetically similar to the person with schizophrenia,” wrote Dr. Warner in The Environment of Schizophrenia.

Research into genetic factors continues. A team of researchers recently developed a new way to study how genes may cause schizophrenia and other neurodevelopmental disorders by growing tiny brain-like structures in the lab and tweaking their DNA.

While new diagnostic tools may play significant roles in the treatment of schizophrenia, meaningful recovery also requires that patients experience a sense of empowerment—a belief in their ability to take charge of their lives and manage the complex demands and consequences of such illnesses.

In any case, genetics seems to be only part of the story. “Since the identical twin of a person with schizophrenia only has a 50 percent risk of developing the illness, we know that genetics alone do not explain why someone gets the illness,” wrote Dr. Warner. “Other powerful factors have to play a part; one of these factors is problems of pregnancy and delivery. The risk for people born with obstetric complications, such as prolonged labor, is double the risk for those born with none.”

“Scientists don’t believe there’s one gene that is responsible for schizophrenia,” reported Burch on the genetic correlation. “Instead, they think there are many genes at play. However, they don’t have a full understanding of what genes impact the risk for schizophrenia.”

Dr. Warner considered schizophrenia primarily a bio-psycho-social disorder significantly affected by the environment surrounding the person with the mental health condition on multiple levels.

Colorado Recovery has been utilizing the Warner method to empower adults with mental illness for many years now. Our program approaches mental healthcare based on a path of self-reliance through developed practiced skills. We recognize the importance of empowerment for recovery, offering transitional living and outpatient levels of care, engaging patients in increasing community participation.

Our treatment facility provides the services needed to address schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other serious mental illnesses. Call us at 720-218-4068 to discuss treatment options for you or the person you would like to help.

 

The Mental Health Benefits of Snowshoeing

Being in nature always provides an opportunity to slow down, breathe deeper, and open up to the beauty of our surroundings and the world at large.

“When we embark on a hike we must attune our senses to the world around us,” says Peter Kamback, a vocational rehabilitation specialist and community organizer for Colorado Recovery. “There is so much on which to focus our attention that it becomes harder to focus our mental attention on ourselves, our problems, and our concerns.”

This is especially true in the Colorado winter when you’re traversing the snow-covered landscape on snowshoes. “We must be careful where to place each step in front of us,” Kamback reminds us. “We also must be aware of others in our group. And from time to time we may be able to appreciate the beauty of our natural surroundings.”

While a Rocky Mountain winter landscape might seem daunting to some, when navigating the complexities of mental health conditions like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or anxiety, strapping on snowshoes can offer a path to healing and empowerment.

“In the realm of mental health treatment, nature-based therapies have gained significant recognition for their profound impact on emotional well-being,” explains Colorado Recovery’s executive director Terry Stiven. “Snowshoeing, in particular, presents a unique
opportunity for our clients to immerse themselves in the beauty and peacefulness of winter landscapes.”

“It’s important to get people out of their comfort zone,” she says. “Many of our clients have not seen these kinds of mountains before, so some of them get a little nervous and wonder ‘What if I can’t do this?’ It’s a great opportunity to work on any anxiety or fears they may have.”

It’s not only the snowshoeing itself—clients also learn to prepare and organize for the trip. It’s about getting out of the house and not only for an hour-long therapy session but pretty much for the whole day.

“We must prepare for the cold temperature, the conditions of the trail, the weather, and to some extent the unknown of what will be experienced,” says Kamback. “This preparation includes physical accommodations such as the snowshoe equipment and proper attire, but also some mental preparation for the environment we will encounter.”

Great skills to develop for anybody. “Taking these steps helps us prepare for what we may encounter and experience in our lives,” explains Kamback. “These trips are a great way to employ the courage to accept a challenging situation. As fun and rewarding as a snowshoeing excursion may be, it is also a challenging experience. We can gain a sense of accomplishment from these experiences.”

Snowshoeing offers many physical and mental health benefits. It promotes cardiovascular health, improves balance and coordination, and strengthens muscles and endurance. And most importantly, it offers a respite from the constant chatter of the mind.

“For those battling mental illness, feelings of isolation and alienation can be overwhelming,” explains Stiven. “Snowshoeing on the other hand can foster a sense of community and connection. It allows everyone to share their experiences, support one another, and form meaningful connections. Snowshoeing is not merely a leisurely activity, it is an adventure that challenges our clients to push beyond their comfort zones and discover their inner strength. The sense of accomplishment can be life-changing.”

Being part of a group means looking out for one another. “We remember that we are part of something larger than ourselves,” says Kamback. “Perhaps we would not endeavor to challenge ourselves on our own, but comfort and support come with group activities. We also have the chance to notice others enjoying themselves; becoming relaxed and opening up.”

Hiking with or without snowshoes is a wonderful exercise—for body and mind.

“These trips are a great way to boost mental fortitude and build up self-confidence,” says Kamback. “Clients may find new interests to pursue or new skills to develop. It can come as a great comfort to know that in the chaos of our lives, we have the option to slow down and recognize that there is beauty in the world and that there are meaningful things worth doing.”

At Colorado Recovery, it is our mission to help adults with serious mental health issues stabilize their illness, minimize symptoms, improve functioning, and enhance each person’s social inclusion, quality of life, and sense of meaning in life. In an atmosphere of caring support, clients learn about their condition and how to live successfully with it in a supportive environment.

If you have questions about our services to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and similar mental illnesses, call us at 720-218-4068 to discuss treatment options for you or the person you would like to help.

 

 

 

 

Go-Karts and Social Recovery

Recovery is a term frequently used by people with mental health issues to describe their efforts to live meaningful and satisfying lives. Colorado Recovery approaches mental healthcare based on a path of self-reliance through developed practiced skills. This non-institutionalized social recovery offers comprehensive levels of care supported by an expert medical and clinical team, engaging patients in increasing community participation.

Colorado Recovery’s approach to care is about nurturing an environment of inclusivity, socialization, and community building. Clients are encouraged to go out and take part in activities out in the community. We want our patients to achieve a certain degree of social independence.

Social recreational activities include hikes through Colorado’s spectacular landscape, movie nights, talent shows, cooking together and trips to the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art

Peter Kamback MFA, is a vocational rehabilitation specialist and community organizer for Colorado Recovery. He recently took overjoyed clients on an excursion to drive go-karts.

“This was a free event for clients, new or old, who have been with Colorado Recovery at some point,” he says. “Our community is always expanding and older clients have the chance to meet new folks and vice versa.”

These outings are designed to be fun and engaging while also providing opportunities for relationship-building, conflict resolution, and teamwork. “They allow our clients to forget about themselves and their mental health issues for a while,” says Kamback. “Some of the best ways to achieve that involve games and a sense of play.  When our folks are taken out of their element they often feel more relaxed, which allows them to be more social.  It is a wonderful sight to see smiles on faces and hear laughter and excitement in their voices.”  

Go-karts are not a cure, of course—it is a temporary, time-limited activity. But it is a great way for clients to feel comfortable and get to know each other. “The friendly spirit of competition can be the key to connection and to remind them that they are capable of having fun and enjoying what life has to offer,” says Kamback. “This is also a great opportunity to overcome personal barriers and express individual qualities.”  

There are many other activities we pursue at Colorado Recovery that facilitate social recovery and connection to people in the community. We also always encourage clients to suggest activities and outings they are interested in and excited about.   

A go-kart adventure, trips to the art museum, hikes, movie nights, community meals and other socializing activities are all part of the groundbreaking approach to mental health treatment pioneered by Colorado Recovery founder Richard Warner. Recovery from serious mental illness requires that patients retain a sense of empowerment—a belief in their ability to take charge of their lives and manage the complex challenges of their illness.

At Colorado Recovery it is our mission to help adults with serious mental health issues stabilize their illness, minimize symptoms, improve functioning, and enhance each person’s social inclusion, quality of life, and sense of meaning in life.

If you have questions about our recovery model or our services to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and similar mental illnesses, call us at 720-218-4068 to discuss treatment options for you or the person you would like to help.

How the Recovery Model Helps Point the Way Forward

The recovery model is a holistic, patient-centered approach to mental healthcare. It has been the foundation of Colorado Recovery’s non-institutional approach to living with mental health disorders for years.

Colorado Recovery founder Richard Warner used empirical evidence to challenge the previously prevailing view of schizophrenia and other disorders, which suggested that psychosis was strongly characterized by poor clinical and social outcomes. Since then, epidemiological, sociological, psychological, and biological research has made many aspects of that outdated model unsustainable.

“A central tenet of the recovery model is that empowerment of the user is important in achieving a good outcome in serious mental illness,” wrote Dr. Warner in 2010. “To understand why this may be so, it is important to appreciate that people with mental illness may feel disempowered, not only as a result of involuntary confinement or paternalistic treatment but also by their own acceptance of the stereotype of a person with mental illness.”

“The recovery model aims to help people with mental illnesses and distress to look beyond mere survival and existence,” wrote psychiatry professor K. S. Jacob in 2015. “It encourages them to move forward and set new goals. It supports the view that they should get on with their lives, do things, and develop relationships that give their lives meaning.”

MOVING FORWARD WITH COLORADO RECOVERY

“We are here to help our clients move forward and achieve their goals,” says clinical therapist Julie Owen, MA, LPC. “We are here to help provide what might be needed. For a lot of our clients that’s going to be working through the fear of being stuck when they don’t want to be stuck anymore. They may be willing to take a small step toward something they might like to have in their life. We want to help them build the courage to take that step themselves.”

Feeling a sense of empowerment and achievement is a crucial element of moving forward in treating a serious mental illness. “It’s important to convey a sense of moving forward,” says Owen. “It’s a new year and we’re asking them ‘What would you like to try?’ and ‘What would you like to do in your life that you haven’t done yet?’ From there, we begin to explore what’s keeping them from taking that step. What is holding them back?”

In many cases, people with mental illness have been held back by the fear of being stigmatized. Empowering and encouraging clients is essential to overcome the many prejudices that too many Americans still carry with them: the stereotype that makes them believe a person with a mental illness is incapable, unpredictable, even violent, and worthless.

“There’s always the fear that it may not work out for them and we’re here to help them work through that,” says Owen.

Colorado Recovery offers outpatient care for people with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other severe mental illnesses in a community-integrated treatment environment designed to meet those needs. We are also accepting admissions at the transitional living level for those who may have attended another program but are interested in support while living more independently.

Our mission is to help adults with serious mental health issues stabilize their illness, minimize symptoms, improve functioning, and enhance each person’s social inclusion, quality of life, and sense of meaning in life.

If you have questions about our recovery model or our services to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and similar mental illnesses, call us at 720-218-4068 to discuss treatment options for you or the person you would like to help.