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Natural Awakenings Fairfield County & Housatonic Valley CT

Supporting Recovery: It Takes a Community

Jun 05, 2018 02:43AM ● By Orna Rawls and Ariana Rawls Fine

Support for those facing addiction can come in many forms, whether it is someone walking with them to a group meeting, prescribing medication, offering spiritual support or focusing on trauma work in therapy. No matter what form the addictive behavior may be, it often takes the proverbial village to show up and support the person desiring to change. These days, there are many options urging people toward healing, which can raise some questions. What are the various roles of coaches, therapists, spiritual healers and others who may be involved? 

Whether a person is in crisis can determine those they should turn to on an immediate basis, explains Elizabeth Jorgensen, LPC, CADC, a therapist and the director of Ridgefield-based Insight Counseling ( Since they often see the same people to provide a circle of care, spiritual healers, coaches, wellness providers and others defer to licensed practitioners when a crisis is happening. This is, in part, due to the experience gained with a high number of supervised clinical hours—Jorgensen did over 3,000 supervised work hours in the field after her master’s—and having a governing board to ensure continued training and background checks. 

A licensed clinical psychologist, such as Insight Counseling’s Dr. Mary Murphy, PhD, can also perform standard testing as well as basic genetic testing to investigate the possible presence of bipolar, borderline personality or psychotic disorders. She can evaluate the need for medications.

Assessing the congruence of mental health issues is a key component in the addiction recovery process, says Margo Friedman, LPC, LADC, a psychotherapist, and licensed alcohol and drug counselor with a private practice in Westport. Some addictive behaviors originate as self-medicating coping mechanisms due to an unidentified co-occurring disorder.

Joe Benner, MS, LADC, implements a full-circle approach in his licensed substance abuse counseling practice with CT Wellness ( in Sandy Hook. “I had volunteered in detox and 28-day centers but was concerned with why the patients kept coming back. It became obvious that there were gaps between getting sober and staying sober,” he states. 

Benner and Daniel Mosner, BS, a certified addictions counselor at CT Wellness, tailor their client’s recovery and support, bringing in holistic care strategies, taking on the role of counselor and life coach. For clients with severe mental illness and underlying issues, this could mean doing interventions on behalf of patients with departments of mental health, emergency rooms or psychiatric units. 

“It goes beyond sitting in therapy in an office,” Benner explains. “They are creating a ‘new’ reality as they face their addiction. We delve into who the person needs to be in their lives, what has kept them from surviving in the past, their fear of change and other aspects that can hold them back from long-term recovery.” When clients struggle with gaining assistance, financial stability, vocational training and life skills, coaches can go with them in the community to provide the support they need to maintain their sobriety. 

Benner points out that licensed clinicians, on the other hand, are usually bound by insurance and other constraints to see their clients in their offices. Clinicians can work on underlying mental issues, life adjustments and solutions that can be implemented, and inter- and intra-personal relationship understandings. Coaches can act as the emotional, humanistic, logistical support bridge to individuals’ lives in the community.

Elizabeth Modugno, LCSW, LADC, a licensed clinical social worker and addiction counselor with a private practice in Westport, and the clinical director at Clearpoint (, agrees that coaches, 12-step AA sponsors, spiritual healers and others can offer the “circle of help” needed, especially in early recovery. She does caution, however, the need to research and seek those with specific training and experience with addiction. Since there is an epidemic of addiction sweeping the country, there may be some seeking to capitalize on that for personal monetary gain without having the proper training. Comprehensive programs that are qualified and look at underlying mental symptoms and pathologies can offer wider family support as well. 

In her work at Clearpoint, an alcohol and drug addiction treatment center, Modugno incorporates therapeutic methods, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness and eye movement desensitization reprocessing (EMDR). In addition to intensive outpatient programs, sober living, interventions and family support, the center offers acupuncture, guided imagery, spiritual care, therapeutic massage and yoga to provide clients with de-stressing, self-reflection and healthier coping tools. Denise Lamoureux, a spiritual healer at Clearpoint, provides more of that full-circle care with energy healing, Reiki, Theta Healing and Ignite Your Spirit therapy to guide clients in creating new, positive patterns and beliefs.

The wraparound services should also include working with the client’s family, says Friedman. Treating the family—the client’s significant other, children and parents—enables them to learn how they can most appropriately help with recovery and communicate their needs to each other. In addition to therapy, utilizing the knowledge and skills of coaches, AL-ANON support groups, spiritual advisors and holistic practitioners may help the whole family on their road to healing. Insight Counseling incorporates healing modalities into their support services; Rosa Esposito, a yoga teacher, offers yoga, meditation, aromatherapy and healing classes for healers and caregivers as well as clients.

“For addiction, or life in general, we end up banging our heads on the ‘brick wall’ with the same behaviors. If we, as practitioners, are all not working in tandem, it is hard to be effective and get our clients appropriate care,” says Jorgensen. “We need to do whatever it takes to implement change, support it and ‘plug the gaps’, whether it is by a coach, a spiritual healer, a therapist or a peer supporter. Our clients need to learn how to live life anew.” 

Orna Rawls, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, has been practicing psychotherapy for over 40 years. In addition to traditional training, she applies various effective modalities in her practice, including NLP, EFT, CBT and EMDR, to name a few. Connect at 203-375-6457.

Ariana Rawls Fine is the editor of Natural Awakenings Fairfield County/Housatonic Valley, CT and New Haven/Middlesex Counties, CT. She resides in Stratford with her family.

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