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Healing the Whole Man

A young man in his twenties or thirties who’s struggling with a substance use disorder often has a lot going on all at once. He might be at risk of losing his place at school or his job, his relationships in shreds, his financial future in peril, and there could be legal troubles in the mix as well.

We’ve seen again and again that trying to fix one thing works for a moment, but ultimately puts even greater pressure on the other elements of his life caught in the chaos. These men will do their best to cope, but that often means relying on the only thing that’s ever really worked: leaning hard on his substance of choice. And if you’re someone who loves this young man, it means intervening before it’s too late to mitigate the consequences.

When our admissions and clinical team begin speaking with families, even before we’ve admitted a young man, the conversations we have quickly escalate far beyond substance use in terms of “what, how much, how often?” We ask about his work life or his school life, about his childhood and teenage years, about his relationships with family, friends, and partners.

Our goal is to paint a detailed picture of a young man—not just a substance use disorder

When formulating a plan to support a young man struggling with a substance use disorder, we look at the whole man. We recognize that his struggles at work or school, in relationships, with money, with the law, and with a substance use disorder are important pieces of the bigger picture.

When we talk about Dual Diagnosis and co-occurring or co-morbid disorders, we’re talking about addressing the mental and/or behavioral health issues that can go hand in hand with addiction. Anxiety, depression, trauma and more can necessitate a young man seeking out coping mechanisms to deal with intolerable feelings and internal experiences. As he goes through life it becomes a pervasive and destructive cycle that interferes with everything meaningful in his life.

When we look at Voyage men through the lens of co-occurring disorders we can see that helping him to get sober, while vital, is only one piece of the puzzle. Sobriety can give a man much-needed clarity and an opportunity for insight to himself but it can also feel wildly threatening, like being stripped of your armor and sent into battle unarmed.

Intake interviews and assessment

It’s our job, as his clinical team, to help him identify what he’s doing battle with, and our investigation begins in pre-admission calls and a bio-psycho-social intake assessment that digs into the nuance of his experience.

We rely on family members and those closest to him to share their experiences of how they’ve been affected by his disorder, and we’ll call upon previous clinical service providers to share their insight. In this way, before he’s even crossed the threshold of our facility we’ve begun to build a powerful narrative of his struggle, that will inform our treatment plan.

Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory

We also apply the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), a sophisticated standardized psychometric test for personality and psychosocial disorders in adults. This test is worth noting for a few reasons. First, it transcends bias. Reports from family members, observations from clinicians and self-reporting can all be influenced by that individual’s own bias. Secondly, this assessment can only be administered and interpreted by a psychologist with specialized training. Thirdly, Voyage has a specially trained psychologist on staff who administers this test to all of our patients, giving our treatment team invaluable insight into our patients.

High clinician to patient ratio

Our exclusive 15 bed facility is staffed by five full-time therapists. Our uncharacteristically high clinician-to-patient ratio affords our team a lot of observation and interaction with our patient. Each therapist also spends a lot of time talking to the family and other loved ones, understanding their experience of his behavior as well as other pre-existing or historical family issues might be relevant.

Developing a deep rapport with both the patient and his family members allows our clinical team to extract vital details of experience. We’re able to develop a clear and nuanced profile of each patient, getting to know him and his family intimately, and being able to provide acutely customized treatment and support.

Observation outside clinical care

Our entire program is intentionally designed to give men freedom to be themselves, and our team the ability to observe them both in and out of a clinical environment. Our innovative and engaging experiential program gives our team an opportunity to observe and interact with our patients in the context of fun, physicality and community. Our therapists will accompany patients on hikes, snorkeling trips, paddling trips, and fishing excursions. It’s a valuable opportunity to see how our men approach new challenges, how they interact with the other men of the house, and how they process experiences in real time.

The result is an advanced, evidence-based and innovative approach to Dual Diagnosis assessment and treatment. Voyage men benefit from clinical support, compassion, and brotherhood in an environment that doesn’t have any vestige of an institution or a hospital.

The Voyage Recovery program treats each man as a whole, and includes his family in his healing process. Understanding how a man’s history and past experiences play a role in the way he copes with stresses and triggers today helps us see beyond a handful of symptoms to the vital connections between his disorder and his coping mechanisms.


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