The support of community is key for all of us. Gina, a Newport Academy alumna, is on the path of healing and recovery—for the long term. And when she needs support, she knows just what to do.
“I pray and meditate, I call my sponsor, but I think the most important one is reaching out to my peers,” says Gina. “I can’t do this alone. They hold me accountable, they tell me the truth, even though I don’t want to hear it. But they also show me a lot of love, and they’re always there for me.”
Healing and the recovery process don’t end when treatment is over. In addition, for some, the real work starts once they leave treatment. Hence, having a community is crucial for success.
Watch Gina’s story.
The Support of Community and Peer Connections
The support of community is something Gina was seeking when she started treatment at Newport Academy. That’s why Gina is now an alumni coordinator, helping to bring her peers together.
Residential treatment centers for teens offer a unique start to community building. This is especially key after teen treatment. Multiple studies have shown that social relationships improve mental and physical health. The more support we have, the more resilient we are against stress.
Hence, connections are hugely important. Newport Academy’s alumni program provides Gina and her peers with continued support and outreach. Thus, we take great care to keep our alumni connected. Newport Academy is dedicated to supporting this community.
An Ongoing Process of Healing
The unconditional love and support that clients experience at Newport Academy continue when they leave us. As alumni of Newport Academy take the first courageous steps toward acclimating to a daily routine after treatment, we’re there for them—and we give them opportunities to be there for each other.
Peer support is one of the top indicators of success in an adolescent’s recovery from mental health or substance use issues. And our alumni program serves as a solid foundation for creating that peer support.
“Our alumni events maintain the bonds clients create in treatment,” says Caydin Sanders, Newport Academy’s Director of Referral Relations. “Therefore, they remind us all of the value of authentic connections and of tending to and honoring one’s highest self.”
Coping Skills Support Recovery
Along with reaching out for the support of community Gina has several activities she turns to when she feels stressed. These are meditation, slacklining, and swimming in the ocean. Furthermore, these activities help her feel relaxed and at home with herself.
Hence, such coping skills not only relieve emotional tension, they also calm the nervous system. When the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, the heart rate drops, blood pressure falls, and the breath becomes slower and deeper. Therefore, this is also known as the “rest-and-digest” or relaxation response.
Only one of the two systems (rest-and-digest or fight-or-flight) can be activated at any given time. Thus, learning how to activate the rest-and-digest system is the key to de-stressing. Moreover, it helps teens stay in the moment.
At Newport Academy, Gina learned “tools for life,” she says. Moreover, she learned how to be present in her experiences instead of focusing on regrets about the past or worries about the future. “If you take it one day at a time, or one task at a time, or one hour at a time, whatever you need, it brings a lot of comfort,” Gina says. “I can do this right now—just this day—and I’ll deal with tomorrow, tomorrow.”
The Benefits of Movement and Meditation
In addition, Gina’s coping skills are proven to have beneficial effects because exercise and meditation are both evidence-based tools for supporting mental health.
An increasing number of studies show that mindfulness meditation can help ease stress. Meditation encourages us to witness our emotions from a distance rather than getting caught up in them.
Moreover, physical activity, such as swimming and slacklining, increases the body’s production of endorphins. These are the brain’s “feel good” chemicals.
According to the American Psychological Association, exercise forces the body’s physiological systems to communicate much more closely than usual. Therefore, this creates greater efficiency in responding to stress. Furthermore, doing a physical activity you enjoy can increase feelings of mastery and self-confidence.
Our Teens Inspire Us
For Newport Academy staff, seeing teens like Gina achieve greater self-understanding and thriving is the biggest reward of this work.
“The Newport Academy team takes great pride in dedicating ourselves to healing families. It means everything to us,” says Founder and CEO Jamison Monroe.
Furthermore, we enable young people to move out of the darkness and into the light. Teens go on to live happy, fulfilling lives.
“We get to share hope and gratitude with our teens and their families, as we all see and experience that healing is possible,” says Chelsea. “I feel truly blessed to do this work and to share this journey with such amazing young people.”
J Health Soc Behav. 2010; 51(Suppl): S54–S66.
JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(3):357-368.