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Treating Addiction with Boats and Brains
The limbic system and prefrontal cortex are engaged continuously with each other to shape our actions. The limbic system craves instant gratification, while our prefrontal cortex delays or denies these impulses when necessary. For people with issues related to addiction, the limbic system dominates their mental state. As a result, they are usually more emotional and have low impulse control.
Because the limbic system dominates their mental state, people who struggle with addiction often have a prefrontal cortex that lacks functionality. In addition to low impulse control, this can cause problems in other domains due to the many functions the prefrontal cortex is intended to perform -- especially where it concerns interpersonal relationships. Dr. Dan Siegel hypothesized that there are nine critical functions of the prefrontal cortex including empathy, morality, and communication that, when dysregulated, creates a poor social animal. For people with addiction, a lack of meaningful social connections increases the chances of using, abusing, and relapsing. TreeHouse Recovery, seeks to strengthen the prefrontal cortex as a means to sobriety.
ABIT & The Prefrontal Cortex
One well-established method in ABIT is the surf passage challenge which features seven men, the ocean, and an inflatable rubber boat similar to the ones used in NAVY SEAL training. The men must work together to lift the boat and carry it to the beach shoreline. Once in the water, the team must paddle over a wave, ride another wave back to shore, and bring the boat back up the beach. According to Dr. Dan Siegel, a professor at the UCLA School of Medicine, doing this activity works multiple parts of the prefrontal cortex.
The men must carry a large boat but control their breathing to conserve energy. This requires what Dan Siegel calls body regulation. It is the ability to use breathing to regulate heart rate and other functions to return to peace after stress. The men must work in unison, paddle together, and walk in-step, which Dan Siegel calls attuned communication -- the capacity to mirror and feel another human being.
ABIT Is Not About Boats, It’s About Brains
ABIT participants do an emotional check-in using a scale of 1-10 for how they are feeling and an identical check-out after a session or exercise. These exercises demand a self-awareness of how one is and was feeling so that a comparison can be drawn. Dan Siegel calls this insight or self-awareness. Checking out at a higher number shows patients that their brain is a product of chemistry that they can control.
Does ABIT work?
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ABIT and the tree house recovery family
ABIT works on communication, empathy, trust, and leadership because meaningful relationships rely on these abilities. And having meaningful relationships is what it takes to stay sober. McMillen states that one of the keys to beating his addiction is learning how to trust and connect with other men.
See more results from former Tree House Recovery clients.
The Tree House Recovery Method
The man who walks out of Tree House Recovery is typically in the best physical shape of his life. He is happier and healthier. He is his best possible self: someone who knows how to cope with anything life throws at him.
Every member of the admissions team is a sober Tree House Recovery graduate. Call one of them today at (855) 202-2138 to see how joining the THR family can help you be your best possible self.
"I wanted to facilitate a level of comfort with who someone is as a person. So they can say I don't care what people think of me. I am me, I am proud of it, and I am going to stand tall for whatever that looks like. This is the type of man that I aspired to be."' - Justin McMillen