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Amber Peifer is an intern in Vinland’s residential chemical health program. She is currently earning a master’s degree for integrated behavioral health from the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities.
Why are you interested in chemical health?
I previously worked in student affairs, and many of my students had both chemical and mental health issues, so it became an interest.
Why were you interested in an internship at Vinland?
Vinland has a fantastic reputation for serving people with TBI and I am very interested in trauma. Vinland also has an excellent reputation in educating students.
What are your goals after graduation?
I want to develop a prolonged exposure therapy practice for patients with PTSD.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like to bake, knit, and waterski.
Where did you last go on vacation?
Where do you most want to travel, but have never been?
What is your favorite TV show, movie, or book?
In honor of Halloween, one of my favorite movies is Shaun of the Dead. As for TV, The Walking Dead is great, and any book by Stephen King.
If you were immortal for a day, what would you do?
Climb a huge mountain
What is your favorite quote?
“Go big or go home”
By Julia Ziegler, Marketing Intern
Essential oils have been around for thousands of years, yet they are just starting to gain attention in our modern world. Essential oils are concentrated extracts taken from the roots, leaves, seeds, or blossoms of a plant. Compared to modern, man-made pharmaceuticals, the idea of a natural remedy appeals to people. While only small amounts of research have been done on the biological effect of essential oils, in a culture where respected evidence is the leading focus of physicians and institutions, more research is in progress due to rising popularity.
Essential oils are used for a variety of purposes. They are known to cleanse and detoxify organs, strengthen the immune system, and offer emotional well-being. They can be inhaled through the nose or massaged into the skin — but all oils need be used with caution. Oils work by entering the body through the olfactory and limbic systems, as olfactory receptors are directly linked to the brain.
Kathleen Johnson, outpatient chemical health case manager, runs an aromatherapy group at Vinland. Kathleen is a strong believer in using essential oils in her everyday life, as well as with clients.
“Essential oils help boost moods and clear minds,” Kathleen said. “Lavender is known to calm the mind. Frankincense is good for meditating, calming, and spirituality. A blended oil called Thieves helps with cravings and urges, specifically nicotine.”
Lavender is a popular essential oil that has been used for centuries as a remedy for insomnia, anxiety, and depression. When the scent is inhaled, research shows lavender has sedative effects, slowing down the heart rate and putting one in a relaxed state. Frankincense is another century-old essential oil that was commonly burned as incense in ancient times. It is used to relieve anxiety and stress, as it inspires feelings of peace and heightens mental clarity.
Melissa Brickley, outpatient office associate, also supports essential oil use. She uses essential oils during her yoga classes with clients at Vinland.
“The most effective way to use essential oils for multiple people is by diffusing them and letting them purify the air,” Melissa said. “When essential oils are diffused, they remove toxins and balance the ions in the air. The oils I diffuse promote spirituality and meditation.”
The feedback from Vinland clients is positive. “A lot of clients say the oils work for improving their mood,” Kathleen said. “There were a few men who were brought to me because they were angry and upset. They were open to trying lavender oil for a calming effect, and they loved it and said it worked. One man kept coming back and asking for more.”
“I think there is a big shift in health care practices in general right now,” Melissa said about the growing popularity of essential oils. “Essential oils are something anyone can do. They are an easy, effective way for people to take charge of their own health.”
Disclaimer: The FDA has not evaluated or approved essential oils for medicinal use. This information is provided for educational purposes only. Please consult your physician before using essential oils.
Learn more about the research of essential oils at http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/treatment/aromatherapy
The National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare has created five Halloween-themed graphics that you can share to spread the word about mental illness awareness. These were created a few years ago, but they are still great! If you use the images, be sure to link back to www.thenationalcouncil.org.
Vinland will have a booth at the MARRCH Annual Conference, October 27 to 29 at the the St. Paul RiverCentre. Stop by our booth and say hello!
Physical Health and Proper Nutrition Are Key Components in Successful Recovery from Substance Abuse
After years of neglecting their health, many of Vinland’s clients arrive for treatment with their bodies in poor shape. A lifestyle of abusing harmful chemicals, involvement in accidents, and poor health choices result in a variety of health problems for many clients. Chronic pain, poor posture caused by bad health and low self-esteem, and high- or low-body weight are common issues facing Vinland’s clients.
The Therapeutic Exercise Program is a cornerstone of Vinland’s approach to substance abuse treatment. The purpose of the program is to address an individual’s poor nutrition and exercise choices, and to teach them effective and appropriate ways to care for their bodies. The main focus of the program is to help clients better perform activities of daily living. While improving a client’s physical appearance is not the main focus of the program, with exercise and postural training, physical appearance does improve.
“Physical health is important,” said Jeff Willert, Vinland’s Fitness & Wellness Manager. “If you feel better physically, then you feel better mentally. People are less likely to go back to using drugs and alcohol if they are taking care of themselves physically.”
Focus on Strengths
Each client receives a therapeutic exercise assessment at the beginning of treatment. The assessment determines a client’s current physical fitness level, providing a baseline for providing treatment and measuring improvements. The assessment measures upper body strength, lower body strength, balance, hand and eye coordination/brain speed, pain levels, body fat percentage, and lumbar extension and flexion to check disc pathology.
“We focus on a client’s strengths, their positives. They are tired of hearing about their negatives. People have more strengths than they realize. ”
Many clients are hard on themselves when they first enter treatment, but Jeff encourages clients not to judge their abilities in the therapeutic exercise center for the first few days.
“We take someone who is broken and we focus on their positives, and then they start to like the way they look and feel.”
Exercise and Mental Health
Exercise is well-known to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Research also shows that exercise can increase the amount of new nerve connections in the brain, which helps the brain heal from the negative effects of drug and alcohol abuse. As the body and mind return to a more natural state, many people in recovery find exercise also helps restore a normal sleep schedule.
“The therapeutic exercise program helps clients find meaning and purpose in their lives,” Jeff said. “It gives them confidence. Boredom is a threat to sobriety, and exercise gives people something to do. They are also more likely to volunteer or find work.”
Nutrition and Recovery
As part of the program, clients learn about proper nutrition. Nutrition is an important component to overall health, impacting a person’s mood, behavior, and mental health. The classes teach the basics of healthy nutrition, how poor nutrition can negatively impact medical conditions, and how to make healthy food choices.
All people who abuse alcohol and/or drugs experience some level of malnutrition. Recovery from substance abuse affects the body in a variety of ways, including metabolism, organ function, and mental well-being. Proper nutrition aides the healing process by supplying the body with the vitamins and minerals needed for energy and to build and maintain healthy organs.
“We are providing clients with the basic information they need to make healthy food choices when they leave Vinland,” Jeff said.
Last winter, John Piacquadio, a case manager in Vinland’s outpatient chemical health program, began voluteering with Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing (PHWFF), a national organization that teaches veterans about fly fishing. Many of the individuals who participate in PHWFF are dealing with substance abuse, mental illness, and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Thanks to his background in working with individuals facing similar issues, John was recently asked to take over the role of Program Lead for the Twin Cities chapter after the current lead retires.
“There’s something special about the whole process – from learning fly tying to catching fish,” John said. “The process helps people by indirectly working on mental health issues; it helps people talk when they wouldn’t before.”
Before joining Project Healing Waters, John was already fly tying with clients at Vinland’s outpatient chemical health program. Fly tying helps people with traumatic brain injuries work on their fine motor skills and executive planning (by following directions).
“Recreation therapy is so important. People need exposure to alternatives for drugs and alcohol. Fly fishing is great because it is not something you can win. You can never be perfect at fly fishing, but you can see progress.”
According to the organization’s website, the Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing program provides basic fly fishing, fly casting, fly tying and rod building classes, along with clinic participants ranging from beginners who have never fished before, to those with prior fly fishing and tying experience who are adapting their skills to their new abilities. All fly fishing and tying equipment is provided to the participants at no cost. Fishing trips are also provided free of charge to participants.
Project Healing Waters’ St. Cloud chapter was featured on KARE 11’s Land of 10,000 Stories last year. You can watch the video below.