eNewsletter - September 2015

Behavioral health partners


ReThinking Alternative to Suspension Substance Abuse Programs for Adolescents

This fall, Linden Oaks Behavioral Health is rolling out a new substance abuse mediation program for adolescents. The ReThink program is being piloted by Linden Oaks at its Outpatient Center at Elmhurst Hospital and in Arlington Heights at its facility on the Northwest Community Healthcare campus.

The ReThink Program was developed as an early intervention tool for adolescents who are currently using or have been caught with drugs or alcohol. Typically, junior high/high school students enter the program as an alternative or reduction to a school suspension.

This program is similar to other hospital programs in that it offers students substance abuse and mental health education after exposure to drugs and/or alcohol. However, unlike other programs in which the participant is required to attend several educational lectures, ReThink takes a fresh and innovative approach with online coursework and videos.

The creator of the Linden Oaks ReThink Program, Nadjeh Awadallah wanted to make this program accessible and practical for teens and their families. “We recognize that most kids have extremely busy schedules making a multi-day, in-person lecture series archaic and difficult to attend, thus causing compliance issues,” explains Awadallah. “Since most kids spend a lot of time on their smart phones or computers, our approach was to meet students and parents in a way that’s most convenient for them and move the majority of the coursework to an online platform."

After enrolling in the program, the participant downloads an online course workbook and views course videos. The videos help students explore how peer pressure, anxiety, relationship conflicts and other behavioral problems can influence substance use and attitudes while in the privacy of their own homes. The videos complement and reinforce the workbook information and exercises.

After completing the online coursework, the participant attends one in-person educational seminar, where a licensed behavioral health professional will review the student’s workbook exercises and lead participants in an in-depth discussion and review.  Classes meet on Tuesday evenings and also on some Saturdays.

Program goals include fostering emotional growth while emphasizing strategic and practical approaches to avoid substance use. ReThink strives to create collaboration between students, parents and schools in order to address these issues while connecting students and families with behavioral health services, if needed.

The program is evidence-based and founded on a cognitive behavioral curriculum that concentrates on changing behaviors by restructuring thoughts and addressing stressors in a healthier way. The course focuses on positive choices, outcome measurements and individual strengths.

Course Components

  • Online module
  • Independent study
  • Web lecture with companion course workbook
  • Exercises and activities

In-person Educational Seminar 

  • One hour night/weekend sessions available
  • Review online course content
  • Class discussion topics include: anger and stress management, triggers and behaviors/breaking habits
  • Post-test and survey

Enrollment Information:

Linden Oaks Arlington Heights Outpatient Center, Northwest Community Healthcare, 901 Kirchoff Road, Arlington Heights, IL. For more information or to enroll in the program contact: (847) 618-4190. If referred by a school as a alternative/reduction in suspension, both the school representative and participant should contact NCH at the above number.

Linden Oaks Elmhurst Outpatient Center, 155 E. Brush Hill Road, Elmhurst, IL 60126. For more information or to enroll in the program contact: (331) 221-4400, Option 2. If referred by a school as a alternative/reduction in suspension, both the school representative and participant should contact Linden Oaks at the above number.


Mindfulness and the Art of Acceptance, by Todd Fink

Despite many modern conveniences and labor-saving gadgets, our lives are often not easier or less stressful. In fact, our lives are filled with many demands and distractions competing for our attention including email, texting and a variety of social media.

These demands and distractions influence us to remain constantly connected with others but also cause us to become disconnected from the present moment. This is probably why there is a growing movement in America to train people to navigate the stresses of daily life and why mindfulness programs are used in more than 700 hospitals worldwide.

Mindfulness is essentially paying attention non-judgmentally with a particular attitude of flexibility, openness and curiosity. Mindfulness is about awareness as opposed to being caught up in thoughts. Even if our experience in the present moment is unpleasant, we can practice being open to and curious about a particular situation instead of running from or fighting with it.

Flexibility, an important mindfulness tool,  gives us the ability to consciously expand, shift and focus our attention on different aspects of our experience, and to be able to witness our thoughts as mental events with less attachment to them. We can use mindfulness to break out of “autopilot” modes and connect more deeply with what’s going on in the present moment.  This improves our skillfulness in activities and our ability to enjoy the fullness of each moment of life.  Through this practice of conscious living, we can choose our response to the world we inhabit and enhance our psychological resilience and life satisfaction.

One of the most important ways we can improve mindfulness in our everyday life is through acceptance.  Acceptance is part of the open awareness described earlier.  It means allowing experiences to come and allowing them to go – both pleasant and unpleasant. It also involves assenting to the reality of a situation and letting go of what cannot be controlled or changed.

For example, we cannot control the weather, and this sometimes leads to frustration. While weather is neither good nor bad, when we pay closer attention to it, we may see that it as constantly changing.  If we can witness change from a safe space without rejection or attachment, we may even experience a peace about it all or at least a sense of the sublime power of nature.

Similarly, we have internal weather, and I like to jokingly call this form of mindful-self-awareness as “affective meteorology.”  By paying attention to your thoughts, moods, feelings and sensations like you would the weather, you will see it is sometimes clear and sometimes stormy, but always changing. When we are more self-accepting, we can find our balance and experience challenges in life as if in the eye of a hurricane.  The eye of a hurricane represents centeredness and is calm despite being surrounded by chaos.

Another helpful analogy for acceptance is a “monkey trap.”  In parts of Asia, hunters use a jar with a narrow bottleneck and wider base. It is filled with something desirable like nuts, and the jar is then fastened to a tree branch.  The monkey will reach inside the jar with an open hand, grab the nuts and after making a fist, cannot pull its hand back out through the bottleneck. The monkey will struggle and appear “trapped” but, in reality, the monkey can free itself by letting go. Similarly, we struggle emotionally when our thoughts resist the reality of a situation. This may include thoughts such as “I can’t take this” or “I shouldn’t have to deal with this” or “How could this happen to me?” Instead, we can practice acceptance, and mindfully direct our awareness toward what we can do to positively move forward in the present moment; then choose our response.

We’re all familiar with the saying, “It is what it is.”  It tends to be said only during difficult or unpleasant situations. “It is what it is” has become slang for “this really sucks!”  So, we can try to notice the energy behind what we say and, if necessary, gently redirect our awareness towards finding meaning in difficulty, opportunity in adversity and choosing responses that will help us in our personal development.

With a little practice, we can expand our awareness and grow from all our experiences.  When we reject, resist and bury our pain, we build a landfill in our heart.  On the other hand, if we are truly present and accepting, we can compost it and make our life more like a garden.  This is the compassionate and mindful integration of our experiences which helps us to grow psychologically, cultivate wisdom and deepen our relationship with all life.

About Todd Fink
Todd has been a behavioral health associate for Linden Oaks since graduating from Georgetown University in 2001. Musician, author, speaker, counselor and life-long student of meditation, Todd works fervently to educate people and communities on the benefits of healthy and mindful living. He draws upon extensive and diverse experiences as a health care professional, internationally touring artist and wellness presenter to connect and bridge cultures and point the way to a brighter future.


Community Events Have Big Impact on Mental Health Awareness

The weekend of September 19 and 20 was a big one for the Naperville behavioral health and substance abuse community.

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On Sunday, September 20, 2015, Linden Oaks hosted the Mill Street Music Fest.  The festival featured local bands including Mike and Joe, Semple, School of Rock, and the Stu Show playing rock and roll favorites.  The fest also introduced behavioral health to the Naperville community through innovative activities including a drum circle, art project, meditation demonstration, healthy eating samples and therapy dog visits.

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In total over 600 people attended, many of which gained in-depth exposure to behavioral health for the first time.   Children and adults snacked on ice cream, popcorn and hot dogs, played games and listened to good music.  Each participant earned a punch for completing an activity and, if the participant earned six punches, he/she received a blow up saxophone as a prize.

“Our goal was to raise awareness for mental health and to decrease stigma around these issues.  Given the turnout and response from community members, I think we really made a positive impact and perhaps changed the minds of those who may have had other ideas of the nature of behavioral health”, says Amit Thaker, Linden Oaks Director of Marketing.

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The weekend kicked off on Saturday, September 19 with an Addiction Awareness & Recovery Walk/Run, despite heavy rains the night before, over 120 people showed up to participate and support the cause.

The Linden Oaks team spoke to multiple community members who were filled with joy to participate in the event; a few telling their stories of addiction and crediting Linden Oaks for their sustained recovery.

Events like these underscore the importance of behavioral health and the need for continued community support for mental health and substance abuse.