Marvin: I’m Marvin.

Burr Cook: I’m Burr.

Marvin: And this is the Balboa Horizons Podcast. Today we have Burr Cook here who’s our Executive Director of Balboa Horizons. And Burr, let me ask you, Balboa Horizons is recognized as one of the most successful treatment programs in the country. What do you attribute to that success?

Burr Cook: Well Marvin, everything starts with screening and assessment of the clients that come in to Balboa. We want to make sure that any client coming in to Balboa is going to be able to get their clinical needs met and be able to be in treatment for an appropriate length of time, we want to make sure that the programs match to the client. But, the bigger picture is the staff at Balboa, when you get a clinically sophisticated staff, compassionate and caring and willing to of the extra mile and be in it for the long haul with clients that have so many challenges going on it makes all the difference in the world. So, that screening, assessment, getting the clients in here, meeting their clinical needs and keeping them in treatment for an appropriate length of time, particularly with the young adults that we see. That long term treatment model has proven to be the most successful.

Marvin: So, why is that? Why longer term treatment? Why do you think that modality is necessary for young adults.

Burr Cook: Okay. Well, addiction’s a chronic disease and oftentimes with anybody coming in to treatment we’re seeing a family history of addiction, lots of challenges, co-occurring disorders, anxiety, depression, bipolar, trauma certainly. So, these things, they can’t be addressed in 30 days. Many of our clients, particularly clients that are coming in with an opiate addiction, they’re still having post-acute withdrawal symptoms for quite a while and withdrawal symptoms for weeks. So, that 30 day model, we threw that out the window a long time ago.
The other thing is, with young adults in particular, you have to address the lifestyle issues. It takes time, you know, when you take away somebody’s primary coping mechanism, it takes time to replace those coping mechanisms and also, to get clients to start utilizing these alternative stress reducing therapies that we promote here.

Marvin: Let’s talk about some of those stress reducing activities that we do.

Burr Cook: Sure. In addition to cognitive, behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy. Teaching clients to emotionally regulate and manage stress we use gong meditation here, music therapy here, music has such an incredible healing power. We’ve got a mindfulness program and a lot of the experiential therapies we do are mindfulness but we’ve got a mindfulness based surf program that there’s just so many ways that that’s productive in reaching clients and using the metaphors around that therapy to address specific issues that clients have, particularly when it comes to barriers to getting better.
We’ve got Tai chi, yoga, lots of things to some people seem like fluff but actually what we’re trying to do is to teach clients to manage their stress without chemicals. And a big part of relapse prevention is stress management in many ways. So, that’s an important part.
Again, addressing the lifestyle, we’re really good at building community here and we want the clients that leave Balboa, our alumni too, to be in a healthy community when they leave, living a healthy lifestyle that fosters a change, that fosters transformation. And, you know, that takes a while.

Marvin: Absolutely. You know, in the admissions department we get calls all the time. You know, they’re not just going to go to a resort are they, coming in to Balboa Horizons because a lot of times it kind of sounds like that?

Burr Cook: Yeah. You know, especially when parents have been through the ringer or spouses and siblings and so forth have been through the ringer with somebody the last thing they want to think of is that they’re loved one is sitting on a chaise lounge in the sun at the beach while they’re slaving away paying for treatment. The clients here do a lot of work. You know, with young adults some of that work is learning how to have fun in sobriety. I’ve yet to meet a 20 year old that doesn’t think that life is over when they give up drugs and alcohol. When the reality is, of course, that life is just beginning and having fun in recovery is, particularly for young people I think, is an essential component and we do a pretty good job of helping our clients have fun and learning how to socialize and recreate in a healthy way.

Marvin: Well, let’s talk about that recreation. You know, we have that surf therapy program that you were talking about earlier. I actually did that today with the guys. You also do it with the girls on Friday. Tell us a little bit about that, you know, they got all kinds of fears I’m sure.

Burr Cook: Oh, sure. You know, most addicts that we work with, and again with the young adults, you know, stepping outside of your comfort zone is very challenging for them. So, that’s one thing we want them to do is step outside of that comfort zone, expand their horizons physically, mentally, spiritually. To do that they’re going to have to overcome some fears. We help them do that and you know, I had said earlier, there are a lot of metaphors in something like a surf therapy, healing with higher power, learning how to go with resistance, learning how to be in the moment with your surroundings and that’s an excellent place to do it. You know, you’re out there on the ocean, it’s all powerful and yet, you’re at one with it. Your body’s learning to balance out there just naturally on the board, you’re helped to kind of push yourself to do more than you intended to do. And when we’re out there and the clients are learning how to surf and they’re standing up and they get tired we always try to make them get one more wave, which is a great metaphor for what we do in recovery.
We have to go the extra mile in recovery. We have to be willing to do more than we want to in recovery to achieve the successes. You know, any addict coming in to treatment, their world has gotten so small, they’ve been isolated. What we want to do is broaden their world and show them that this is a beautiful world to live in and they can live at one with it and the ocean therapy that we do is a great way to do it.

Marvin: Totally, I agree. So, in speaking, you know the complete care package that we offer, you know, how important is after care to someone who’s successfully completed treatment?

Burr Cook: Well, you know, addiction’s a disease and like any disease I don’t care if it’s diabetes or heart disease, you know, any disease out there if you’re following your treatment plan you’re going to be fairly successful, and that’s what we teach here. The after care plan for anybody leaving treatment it’s everything. To that end, a lot of the things that we want our clients to do in an aftercare setting, once they’ve left treatment, we have them doing it in treatment so that it’s not foreign for them. If somebody’s getting ready to walk out the door and we say, “here’s five, six things that you’re going to need to do to be successful” and they’ve never done it, we have less a chance of them actually ever doing it. So, we have them doing some of those things. Peer support group, therapy, using some of the stress reducing techniques that we utilize here. They’re doing it here and we want them to carry that on in their treatment plan, and what’s good for the client if course that we’re working with.
You know, I always want to include the family. It’s essential that the family has an after care plan too. This is new ground. Families have learned how to navigate that chaotic, tension filled life with an addict but living in recovery is new to them and so, we want to have an after care plan for the families as well. This is where, you know, that parallel recovery that we advocate for is where we’re going to see the most positive outcomes.

Marvin: That’s just so great. Burr, I want to thank you for coming out today and talking with us about the program and the success rates that we have. That’s all we have for you guys today, folks. Join in next week.
I’m Marvin.

Burr Cook: I’m Burr.

Marvin: And that’s the Balboa Horizons Podcast.