As humans, we’re social creatures. Our mental, emotional and physical health largely depends on our connection to others. But loneliness is an epidemic in American society. Studies show that over 60% of people in the US struggle with feeling lonely – a trend that shows no signs of slowing. And the prevention measures resulting from COVID-19 make it even harder to maintain those connections that keep us well.
Rehab centers across the US have felt the impact of this, as they struggle to meet the growing needs of people seeking treatment. While some have done their best to move to all-virtual programming, others have closed their doors entirely.
If you’re looking for mental health or addiction treatment during COVID-19, you may be wondering what options are available. We’ll discuss the current state of rehab, as well as what we’re doing at The Sanctuary to ensure our clients safe, effective care. This includes:
- Enhanced safety measures
- Small client groups
- Continued commitment to in-person therapy
- Immune-boosting protocol
Loneliness and Your Health
Social isolation can pose some serious challenges to our mental health. “All our systems, including social, psychological and biological, have developed around social groups and interaction with one another,” says psychiatrist Zlatin Ivanov. “Social isolation in most cases would bring the negative effect of loneliness, anxiety, and sometimes depression.”
Studies show that perceived social isolation is linked to depression, anxiety and cognitive problems. And interestingly, it can also affect your immunity. Other recent research shows that the health effects of loneliness are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes per day.
So what does this mean for those who are already concerned about their mental health?
Increased Substance Abuse During Coronavirus
As you’ve probably heard, alcohol use drastically increased as a result of COVID-19. This happened as stay-at-home orders pushed people further into isolation over the course of the last year. Alcohol sales went up 54% nationwide; online sales increased 262% over the previous year. This is especially concerning as drinking heightens the negative effects of mental health issues stemming from social separation.
It may seem like tempting escape from the current state of the world. But the truth is that alcohol causes anxiety and depression. And with this rise in substance abuse also comes increased risk.
Recent reports show an upswing in overdose-related deaths over the past year. Most of these are a consequences of opioid use. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry, opioid-related cardiac arrests increased by 20% last spring. On the whole, overdoses caused by synthetic opioids in 2020 were the highest ever recorded over a 12-month period. The largest increase was between March and May. This corresponds with isolation measures enforced to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.
Higher Rates of Relapse
Isolation doesn’t just cause mental health problems – it also worsens preexisting ones. For people healing from drug and alcohol addiction, in-person support is crucial. And being alone at home, in today’s fear-charged environment, isn’t conducive to recovery.
Says Sarah Manfredo, who attended treatment at a behavioral health center in New Jersey, “People are relapsing left and right. The loneliness plays into it.”
This is concerning, as most people didn’t get the treatment they needed even before the pandemic began. The 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 21.7 million people in the US were in need of treatment for substance abuse. Of those, only 10% attended a recovery program.
How Rehabs are Changing Programming
Addiction treatment centers in the US are struggling to adjust as COVID-19 measures require them to change their programming. Some have started restricting family visits and stopped off-campus activities. Others social distance within their facilities. And still other, sadly, have had to shut down completely. The National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP) found in a recent survey of their members that over 30% have struggled to retain clients, while 10% have simply gone out of business.
The Shift to Virtual Treatment
Almost half of the rehabs that are still operating have gone completely virtual. The switch hasn’t been easy. The connections formed in group settings are a core component of rehab programming. Many centers now find themselves scramgling to create online programming where none existed before. And, these platforms must comply with regulatory standards for security and confidentiality.
Is Recovery Losing its Human Touch?
People at every stage of the recovery journey are affected by the loss of in-person support. For some, online sessions just don’t compare to the emotional connection they feel face-to-face. “I had this image of what the rest of my life would look like with communities I could relate to, meetings I could go to for in-person accountability,” said one program graduate. “Now I have to sit in my room by myself with a computer, which is how I got sick.”
The challenge this poses isn’t lost on treatment professionals. As NAATP CEO Marvin Ventrell says, “In the 80-year history since addiction treatment began, we’ve never experienced anything as challenging as this. You have to put people in social settings to heal, and COVID conspires against that.”
Addiction: “A Disease of Isolation”
It’s often said that addiction is a disease of isolation. That is, it’s largely caused by our feeling of aloneness. And, it strains our relationships in such a way that we are more alone. In the modern view of recovery, the opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety – it’s connection.
As humans, it gives us great relief to know that what we’re going through isn’t unique to us. And sharing those experiences with a group helps us know we’re not alone.
One addiction treatment client, Maureen, says: “What is more supportive than walking into a room and seeing a human you can touch? What’s been missing is body language, our ability to hug each other. All that stuff is important when people are going through the difficult experience of getting off drugs or alcohol.”
Addiction and Mental Health Treatment is an Essential Service
After decades of treating addiction, we understand the urgency of healing. At The Sanctuary, we’re committed to providing the highest level of care possible. And those who struggle with social isolation need that care now more than ever.
Our 90-day treatment program begins with 30 days of residential treatment. It offers vital healing from the effects of isolation, including:
- Calming space to begin your healing journey
- A secluded location with a small, family feel
- In-person individual and group therapy
- Enhanced health screening
- Immunity-boosting protocol
- Outdoor activities and immersion in nature
- Regular exercise and bodywork sessions
- Daily meditation
- Intensive aftercare
- Customizable options to meet your needs for safety
We will remain open and deliver our program in full until instructed otherwise.
Safety Protocol at The Sanctuary
We regularly review and update our programming to meet the Arizona Department of Health Services’ COVID-19 requirements All clients receive thorough screenings with medical staff upon intake. During this time you may also express any concerns, ask any questions and request anything you need to feel safe during your stay.
Small and Secluded
The Sanctuary, by design, benefits from reduced exposure to the general population. Our property sits on 22 acres of land surrounded by national forest. We’re on a county road, 30 minutes from the city of Sedona. Most of our practitioners and support staff live onsite.
We accept a maximum of 10 clients at a time. And as our program is four weeks long, turnover within client groups is minimal. That is, you’ll likely be with most of your peers for the majority of your time in treatment.
Live, Face-to-face Therapy Sessions
Our unique design allows us to preserve the integrity of your treatment experience. Clinical hours at The Sanctuary are far higher than in a typical rehab program. This remains unaffected by the current situation. Clients attend group therapy every morning, followed by at least two, one-on-one sessions per day. This high level of personal attention is part of what makes the Sanctuary recovery experience so impactful.
Good physical and mental health starts in your gut. We employ an in-depth nutrition program to reduce inflammation, rebalance your microbiome and strengthen your immunity. This includes:
- Detailed meal planning using locally grown, organic superfoods
- Regular consultations with a functional medicine doctor
- A personalized supplement regimen to repair your body and brain, as well as address any specific concerns
- Weekly classes led by a certified nutritionist
- Practical resources for recreating your new diet at home
Healing From the Effects of Isolation
Digging deep enough to access the issues underlying your addiction starts by calming your nervous system. This helps you switch out of fight-or-flight mode and into a more restorative statethat repairs your cells, strengthens your immunity and allows for change.
The Sanctuary provides ample opportunities to reconnect with nature, with others and with yourself.
Continued Support via Intensive Aftercare
Our 90-day program automatically includes 60 days of aftercare, which consists of:
- A transition packet that you’ll begin working on while still in treatment
- One, one-on-one recovery coaching call per week for eight weeks
- One group call per week for eight weeks
- Weekly alumni calls, available to you indefinitely
- Detailed resources on finding therapists, connecting with local resources and continuing the practices you learned in treatment
This is not a rushed or recent addition to our program. This integrated part of your journey takes place with therapists you already have a relationship with. It’s carefully designed to facilitate your transition to an empowered life back home.
The world will always change. But amidst uncertainty, we need to stay aware of what’s in our highest interest. And living through this unique time gives us an opportunity to reevaluate what’s essential in life.
What’s essential in your life?
If you’re ready to shift out of depression, anxiety, and substance use and into a new way of living, contact us today.
He is the Founder, Administrator, Counselor at the Sanctuary at Sedona. He has a BA in Political Science and is currently Senior teaching staff at Four Winds Society, an international school of energy medicine. His credentials also include being an Ordained Minister; a Certified Shamanic Breathwork® Facilitator; a Founding Member Society for Shamanic Practitioners; a Member of Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology; a Member of the National Institute for Holistic Addiction Studies. [email protected]
He is the Founder, Administrator, Counselor at the Sanctuary at Sedona.
He has a BA in Political Science and is currently Senior teaching staff at Four Winds Society, an international school of energy medicine. His credentials also include being an Ordained Minister; a Certified Shamanic Breathwork® Facilitator; a Founding Member Society for Shamanic Practitioners; a Member of Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology; a Member of the National Institute for Holistic Addiction Studies. [email protected]