The Pursuit Of Happiness: National Recovery Month
By Sylvia Andreatto, S:US Substance Abuse Specialist
Who doesn’t want to be happy? Like anyone else, people experiencing behavioral health and substance abuse challenges deserve to lead a life of happiness. However, therapeutic approaches to recovery greatly focus on the negative influences of trauma, hardship and disappointment as a way to heal their psychological wounds. Although facing and repairing damage of the past is necessary as part of the behavioral health and substance abuse recovery process, it can also weigh heavily on individuals.
As a Substance Abuse Specialist for S:US’ Mental Health Services, I have encouraged a more positive approach to recovery. Together with others among S:US’ Wellness Works staff, we have launched a new series of support groups focused on helping participants find their inner happiness, despite their life challenges. These “Happiness Groups” are designed to improve individuals’ quality of life by encouraging them to define their personal vision of happiness with an optimistic outlook.
As we celebrate National Recovery Month in September, the Wellness Works team is applying out-of-the-box approaches to recovery. In its 25th year, Recovery Month spreads the positive message that behavioral health is essential to overall health, that prevention works, treatment is effective and people can and do recover. This year’s theme, Join the Voices of Recovery: Speak Up, Reach Out, which encourages people to openly speak up about mental and substance use disorders, promotes ways individuals can recognize behavioral health issues and reach out for help. On par with this theme, Happiness Group participants lean on one another for support by discussing their strengths, competencies and accomplishments and brainstorming ways to apply these to daily life.
Group topics emphasize remaining hopeful, shifting negative thoughts and judgmental attitudes, being compassionate and appreciative, and living in the moment. Each group topic is accompanied by practical exercises—such as developing gratitude lists, writing motivational letters, and offering peer support—and in-depth discussions in which participants share their perspectives and aspirations.
The Wellness Works team has also joined forces with S:US Art Therapist Sara Roizen to incorporate art as a tool to help individuals with behavioral health and substance abuse challenges discover inner happiness as a means to recovery. Sara engages participants in artistic projects that allow them to create their vision of happiness visually, helping them express their creativity as a way of releasing the burden of trauma they may carry with them.
Groups have received very positive feedback from participants, who describe them as refreshing. The group activities have helped them redefine what happiness means to them and realize that happiness isn’t a product of circumstance but rather a manifestation of their personal growth. For the remainder of Recovery Month and beyond, while the Wellness Works team continues to encourage individuals served by S:US to lead their lives positively, S:US will continue to educate the public about the societal benefits of recovery for mental and substance abuse disorders.