Meet Our Intern John

John Ambrose is a chemical health intern at Vinland’s residential facility in Loretto. He is a Community Counseling major, with a focus in Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counseling (LADC), at Winona State University. He will graduate in spring of 2016.

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Why are you interested in your field of study?

I enjoy seeing people get better. People getting into counseling are interested in helping people, but it’s important to know you can’t do that – you can only help people see how they can help themselves.

Why were you interested in an internship at Vinland?

I went to an internship fair in January and I was intrigued by the holistic plan at Vinland. There isn’t just a focus on substance abuse but they also create an optimal environment with the spiritual, nutrition, and exercise aspects. I’m interested in the whole body approach, especially with people who have more than a substance abuse issue, such as those with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or mental health diagnoses, since you can then treat them from multiple angles.

What are your goals after graduation?

Get a job someplace with an interesting population and where I feel I can help out, but that also is challenging and where I will learn.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I’m a runner – I’m training for the Twin Cities Urban Trail Marathon (it will be my second marathon).

What’s your favorite place you’ve ever been?

I have three. The Grand Canyon because you can witness the majesty. Sequoia National Park because it is hard to put your mind around how something that grows so slow can grow so big – it puts existence as a human into perspective. Also, oceans in general.

If you could meet anyone in the world, who would you meet?

David Lynch – I’m a big fan of his movies, and because he meditates.

What is your spirit animal?

A rabbit because I’m really busy but I enjoy “bouncing around.”

What is your favorite book, movie, and/or TV show?

“Dancing With Cats” is my favorite book – it’s a picture book of people dancing with cats. Lost Highway is my favorite movie. And Bachelorette is my favorite show, this season at least.

What song best describes your life?

“Livin in America” by James Brown

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Meet Our Intern Emily

Emily Simso is a marketing intern at Vinland’s residential site in Loretto. She is a Biology Major, Dance Minor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and will graduate in May, 2017.

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Why are you interested in your field of study?

I’m planning to attend medical school after undergrad with the hope of pursuing a career focused on public health and improving international healthcare systems. Plus, I just really like science.

Why were you interested in an internship at Vinland?

Mental health is oftentimes ignored or underfunded in our healthcare system and I like seeing how Vinland fits into the picture as a treatment facility. I also like the holistic approach at Vinland.

What are your goals after graduation?

To do a year of post-graduate service in the Pacific Northwest (possibly JVC NW or Community Health Corps) and then go to medical school (hopefully UCLA).

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love being outside (hiking, canoeing, kayaking), spending time with friends, and reading!

What’s your favorite place you’ve ever been?

Sydney, Australia!

If you could meet anyone in the world, who would you meet?

Paul Farmer because of the work he does with international public health and the emphasis he places on the intersectionality of social justice issues.

What is your spirit animal?

A manatee – they just like hanging out with their friends and are pretty mellow

What is your favorite book, movie, TV show?

My favorite book is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and my favorite TV show is Grey’s Anatomy.

What song best describes your life?

“The Only Place” by Best Coast – it’s really upbeat and about loving life on the west coast!

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Yoga Helps Individuals with Mental Health Issues

By Emily Simso, Marketing Intern

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In recent years, there has been an increase in yoga’s popularity in the United States. While many herald yoga for its physical benefits, recent studies have found that it aids mental health in a variety of areas as well.

Yoga has effects similar to antidepressants and psychotherapy, meaning it may provide an alternative treatment method for individuals dealing with mental health issues. Researchers from Duke University Medical Center found that yoga helps individuals suffering from mild depression, sleep problems, schizophrenia, and ADHD. Overall, they believe this is possible because yoga may increase neurotransmitters in the brain, lower inflammation, and reduce oxidative stress. In a 2006 study, individuals with depression reported lower cortisol levels (the neurotransmitter correlated to stress) after doing yoga for seven days. Patients with schizophrenia have shown reduced aggression and increased compliance after eight weeks of yoga, along with greater social functioning after a longer trial period.

Another study found that yoga aids individuals who suffer from anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by encouraging a sense of control. The deep breathing portions of yoga help individuals reduce stress through the mindfulness and control required. Similarly, yoga can assist those with bipolar disorder to reduce stress and calm manic episodes by decreasing depressing thoughts and increasing thought clarity.

Vinland Center offers yoga classes for our residential and outpatient chemical health programs. The classes serve as an introduction to yoga and many of the clients, though some are reluctant at first, greatly enjoy the program. Several individuals have commented that yoga help them de-stress, focus, and generally “feel better.”

Carole Steffl, a certified adaptive yoga instructor,  leads the classes at the residential program. She begins each session with a discussion about modifications to the yoga positions, since she says her biggest challenge is the “wide variety of physical abilities” in any given class. Carole adapts movements depending on who is in the session and always “listens to the bodies” of her students to create safe positions so everyone can participate. While some clients are more interested than others, several decide to pursue yoga after their time at Vinland. When Carole follows up with clients six months after their graduation, some are still taking classes.

Vinland’s outpatient facility offers yoga sessions that focus on providing a “self-soothing” experience through dim light, aromatherapy, and a “no right or wrong way of participating” attitude. Kathleen Johnson is a chemical health case manager in the outpatient program who is certified in complementary and alternative medicine. She also does yoga in her groups, and she says yoga helps clients manage their stress and anxiety levels. Additionally, she uses yoga during one-on-one sessions to help clients unwind.

Yoga shows great potential as an alternative therapeutic remedy and as more studies are done, it will hopefully be adopted in more healthcare centers. Until then, Vinland will keep spreading the calming joy one “Namaste” at a time.

Sources: Frontiers in Psychiatry, October 2012; Journal of Depression Research and Treatment, 2012

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Chemical Health Webinar

Webinar IconVinland is pleased to announce the next webinar in our chemical health webinar series. The series offers valuable information on chemical health services for individuals living with cognitive disabilities. The free webinars are held quarterly, with recordings available for viewing on our website here.

Registration is currently open for the next webinar in the series. Registered attendees will receive 1 CEU credit.

Building Resiliency for Clients with Mental Health, Cognitive and Substance Use Disorders
Presented by Rick Krueger, MA, LPCC, LADC, CBIS, Clinical Director at Vinland Center
When: Tuesday, August 4, 2015
Time: 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
Cost: FREE
Register: Click Here
Overview: Resiliency is a person’s ability to “bounce back” after stressful life events. Research has proven there are several factors that improve an individual’s resiliency. By knowing what contributes to resiliency, clinicians can work with individuals facing mental health, cognitive and substance use disorders to improve their chances for successfully handling life’s stresses.
  • Learn definitions of resiliency as it relates to individuals with mental health disorders
  • Define internal versus external risk factors in resiliency in mental health
  • Define internal versus external protective factors in mental health
  • Explore concept of an individual’s demands versus resources in meeting life’s challenges
  • Explore ways to lower demands and increase individual resources
Speaker: Rick Krueger has worked in the area of mental health and substance abuse treatment for over 25 years. He has presented on the treatment of addictive disease, group therapy, relapse prevention, and cognitive disability. His most current trainings have addressed co-occurring disorders of substance abuse, mental illness and cognitive disabilities, building resiliency, and trauma-informed services.
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Drug Courts in Minnesota


The first Drug Court in Minnesota was in Hennepin County in 1996. Since then, the program has expanded to over 40 specialty courts in more than 30 counties across the state. The goals of Drug Courts are for offenders to complete the prescribed treatment program and to abstain from repeating the behavior in the future.

Drug Courts began in 1989 when researchers in Florida found that while 53% of individuals in state prison have substance abuse problems, only 15% receive treatment. Drug Courts use legal and social pressures, instead of only incarceration and probation, to create effective programs so participants can have positive futures as engaged community members.

According to the Minnesota Judicial Branch, Drug Courts are more effective at stopping repeat offenses; producing healthier, law abiding citizens; improving public safety by reducing crime 8-26% in the community; and saving taxpayer dollars (the savings of a program graduate are approximately five times the cost of an individual not enrolled in the Drug Court system). While incarceration may be used throughout the treatment process to discourage undesirable behaviors, graduates generally spend less time in jail than those not enrolled in the program, saving $3,000-$13,000 per client. 

Drug Courts emphasize that their success depends upon a variety of factors. First, multiple individuals need to be involved in the participant’s treatment program, including the judge, coordinator, treatment representative, prosecutor, defense attorney, and a law enforcement representative. They must all be present at status hearings and staff meetings for necessary support and consistency. Participants are also more successful if they follow the policy of staying clean for a minimum of 90 straight days during their treatment period. While it is required for individuals enrolled in the program to stay drug and alcohol free, many relapse during the program. Administrators use frequent drug tests to monitor the progress of each participant to reach this goal. Finally, Drug Courts must provide resources to graduates after their treatment, such as relapse prevention, gender-specific services, mental health treatment, parenting classes, family counseling, anger management, health and dental services, and residential care.

Minnesota’s Drug Court system reports that only 26% of participants face new charges after 2.5 years (compared to the 41% of the control group) and lower conviction rates (17% compared to 32%) upon completion of the program. Graduates are also more likely to later be employed, get further education, gain a valid driver’s license, and pay child support. After the program, graduates relapse at rates ranging from 40-60%, a significant decrease from the 90% relapse rate of individuals not enrolled in the program.

However, there are a few topics that could be addressed within the Drug Court system. Individuals with the most serious addictions or those using the hardest drugs tend to receive less effective treatment than those who only recently began using drugs. Therefore, new treatment plans could be created to ensure that all participants complete the program regardless of their history. There also tends to be a time lag between when a participant is assigned to the program and when they are admitted. While it is recommended that this period last no more than 30 days, it can go longer due to lack of available space in the treatment facilities, leading to an increased risk of relapse. This can happen even in Minnesota, where it is recommended that this transition happen immediately. More treatment centers may be needed to make the program as effective as possible.

Overall, Minnesotan Drug Courts have shown success in reducing recidivism and substance abuse at a lowered cost to the taxpayer. They provide a worthwhile alternative to traditional incarceration due to their emphasis on social engagement and responsibility. While there are a few questions that need solutions, Drug Courts are becoming an important facet of our criminal justice system.

Sources:,, and

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Quilts Provide Comfort on the Recovery Journey

Lakeshore Weekly News wrote an article about Vinland Center’s quilt donation program, highlighting the work of the Trinity Lutheran Church Quilters. To learn more, click here.


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Help Fund the Our Father’s Lutheran Church Quilting Group


Our Father’s Lutheran Church is an ongoing donor to Vinland Center’s quilt donation program. Over the past two years, they have donated five quilts to our program with more continuously being made. However, their sewing machines currently need replacing. Help fund their group so they can keep creating beautiful quilts for our clients! They will use the donations to purchase three new machines and quilting materials. You can donate at their gofundme site by visiting:

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