Relapse prevention and sustainable recovery from substance use disorder requires a roadmap. According to Serenity Acres Treatment Center Clinical Director David Semanco, it’s important to begin treatment with the end goal in mind.

“At Serenity Acres, we begin the treatment of each patient with a plan for their continuing care after they’ve left our facility,” Semanco says. “All clinical efforts are guided according to the outcome desired: sustainable recovery.”

To that end, since its founding Serenity Acres has emphasized individualized, one-on-one mental health and addiction counseling — an approach for which our treatment center is still best known. Serenity Acres is proud of that foundation and remains dedicated to one-on-one therapy as an important mode of therapy today.

But sometimes, Semanco maintains, careful collection of evidence demands a course correction.

“Since I came to Serenity Acres,” Semanco says, “my clinical colleagues and I have evaluated the balance of individual therapy sessions to rigorous group therapy.

“The therapeutic format patients will most frequently encounter after they leave our facility, such as 12 Step and outpatient treatment programs, will be group-oriented in nature,” Semanco continues. “Unlike 12 Step programs, residential clinical group therapy encourages interaction, even confrontation, between participants.

“We realized that patients’ continuing care goals [including relapse prevention] would be enhanced by adding more opportunities for group therapy to the weekly treatment regimen, co-ed group therapy in particular,” Semanco says. “By adding more clinically-guided, co-ed group therapy to our own program, we not only reduce patients’ emotional dependence upon their individual therapy counselors, we also put patients’ issues under the scrutiny of a peer group.”

In this more intense setting, there are fewer places for addiction and mental illness to “hide.” Interpersonal dynamics help patients to keep each other honest. Patients can then bring that honesty into their continuing care groups, most of which will also be co-ed.

We want to help our patients become more comfortable with working through their issues alongside members of the opposite sex. We live in a world were men and women need to learn to interact with grace and understanding. Like too many of us, patients frequently lack the tools to achieve this ideal, and this fault can contribute to their other problems with chemical dependency and mental illness. Relapse risks therefore increase.

Co-ed group therapy helps to show them a better way.

“There remain many opportunities for our patients to address gender-specific issues in gender-specific groups on a daily basis,” Semanco points out.  “Additionally, patients will continue to have several individual counseling sessions with their addiction counselors and mental health therapists each week.  Striking the balance appropriate to each patient is key.”

We know that each patient has different needs, but we also know that by establishing best practices, we can help our patients become fully functioning members of the broader society. Our destination is a mental state that is neither over-reactive, nor under-reactive. A place where problems are dealt with openly and honestly, rather than paved over with chemicals. A way of life where relapse prevention is possible.

The road is long and hard – but it’s worth the trip.