Podcast Series: Recovery Ways

Gina: Hi everyone. Welcome to the Harmony Foundation Podcast series. I’m pleased today to be joined with Ryan Sturdevant with Recovery Ways out of Murray, Utah. Welcome, Ryan.

Ryan:Thanks, Gina.

Gina: Really glad to have you here today.

Ryan: I’m excited to be at Harmony and check out the facility. And yeah, beautiful setting up here.

Gina: Well, we think so too. It’s a little windy today. But I’m really glad that it didn’t snow because you never know what’s going to happen here in the mountains. So, we’re going to talk a little bit today about Recovery Ways. But before we do that, we want to get to know you a little bit better. So, let’s talk a little bit about your background and what got you into the field of working in addiction treatment.

Ryan: Sure. Like many people that I feel end up working in this field, my history started with my own struggle with addiction. I had such a profound experience back in 2009 going to treatment and the clinician that was my primary therapist, had such a profound effect on me and where I was at in my stage of life. I just had been searching all this time leading up to that, I had been searching for something in life that gave me purpose.
So, when I went to treatment and had this experience, I was just like, this is what I’m supposed to be doing. This is what I want to do. I want to help people, I want to counsel people and fast forward nine years, and now I can say that I’m a clinician, I’ve worked in the field nine years and have done a bunch of different aspects of the field.
But the most exciting thing that I get to do today is I get to help other people find the experience that they’re looking for. And hopefully, the transformation of actually getting their life back or starting a whole new life for themselves.

Gina: It’s true. The work that we do in our field, especially working on the front side of treatment is ushering people in and helping them find the right resources.

Ryan: Absolutely.

Gina: So, it’s very rewarding. I don’t know if I could do the treatment side of things, but I certainly can do the business development and marketing side of things.

Ryan: Yes. I’ve done the treatment side of things for a long time. And it’s nice to have some balance in between that, and you’re just switching gears. You’re not necessarily in the trenches anymore, but you’re out there on the front lines. So, either way you do it, you’re still having a profound effect on somebody’s life.

Gina: I completely agree. So, let’s shift gears a little bit and talk about Recovery Ways. Recovery Ways is inpatient. It’s in Murray, Utah, you might want to tell us a little bit where in relationship to, is there a big landmark in Utah that people would know where Murray is? I have a feeling that Murray is not a very big town.

Ryan: No. Murray is just one of the little towns right outside of Salt Lake. I can’t think of the different parts. It’s like the simplest word. Anyway, it’s 10 minutes outside of Salt Lake.

Gina: Perfect, okay.

Ryan: I could just said that from the beginning.

Gina: That’s okay. That’s all right.

Ryan: But I’m like, what are the small towns that make up Denver?

Gina: The suburbs.

Ryan: Suburbs. Oh my gosh, I could get that word.

Gina: That’s okay.

Ryan: Murray, Utah’s a suburb of Salt Lake City. So, we’re about 10 minutes from downtown Salt Lake and a 15 minute drive from the Salt Lake International Airport. Super easy to get to, easy access to all the wonderful things that make up Utah and salt lake. We do a lot of rec therapy with our program. So, access to the mountains is 15, 20 minutes away.
Clients are flying in, they choose to come to Recovery Ways, and it’s the best fit for their clinical needs. That’s a 15 minute drive from the airport. Just so much access. Utah is like a miniature Denver, where we still have all the great access to all the great outdoors. We just have about, 4 million people less, which we’re okay with.

Gina: So, you don’t have the many traffic issues that we have.

Ryan: Yes, we’re okay with that. People in Utah think traffic is ridiculous. They obviously haven’t been outside of Utah any time soon.

Gina: No. Well, so Recovery Ways, I talked about it being inpatient, but it’s really not just in patient.

Ryan: No.

Gina: So, what is it?

Ryan:We have all levels of care. So we have detox, residential treatment, partial hospitalization or day treatment, and then a standalone IOP. So, we have the full level of care. We’re licensed for both mental health and substance abuse. We can treat co-occurring disorders as well. The unique things of Recovery Ways and how we stand out in Utah and in our region especially, is just the level of psychiatric care that we offer.
We have two board certified addiction psychiatrists on staff. We have an addictionologist MD on staff, 24 hour nursing. And then we also have some APRNs. All of our clinicians that are working as primary therapists are masters level clinicians. Yeah. We try to stay at the forefront of what people are doing and what’s cutting edge in the industry. We try to incorporate as many different aspects and really throw as many different opportunities at someone that is trying to get sober and trying to get their life back on track.
We want to give them as many opportunities to experience all the different tools that they can use, whether that be outdoors, rec therapy, the sensory integration rooms, occupational therapy, the different aspects of treatment or the community treatment that we incorporate. Whether that be 12 steps, rational recovery, smart recovery or refuge recovery. We try to give them a lot of the different options.
And then we have an amazing kind of alumni program that we follow that up with. So, really, we offer our clients a lot. Now, what I always tell people though, is we are not unique in the sense that people need to find what really works for them, and what they feel comfortable with. So, we’re not the best fit for everyone. We have our limitations. I think we do treat them very well. But we aren’t the end all be all. That’s why we are working on creating great relationships with people like Harmony Foundation, because people need options and people need to find their fit, and what’s going to be a good match for them.

Gina: No, I think you’re spot on as far as recognizing that treatment is not one size fits all, and you all are making a very concerted effort to be responsive to individual needs. One of the things that I thought that stood out, you mentioned this plethora of resources you also offer occupational therapy. Well, one of the things that stands out is the sensory integration therapy that you all do. Can you talk a little bit more about this approach?

Ryan: Yes, I’d be happy to. So, Dr. Stormy actually would give me a look if she heard me calling it sensory integration, because she wants me to call it sensory modulation. But sensory integration kind of rolls off the tongue as well. Anyway, yes. We actually employ five full-time occupational therapists in our sensory integration room.
Now, it’s so hard to describe our sensory integration room. It’s this room that has lighting, sound, smell, touch. It encapsulates all the different senses and then plus three other ones that never get talked about. Really, we utilize these rooms for a couple different reasons. One is Dr. Stormy develops … So, sensory integration and sensory modulation rooms have been used for the last 40 or 50 years. But nobody had been using them when it comes to addiction treatment.
So, about seven years ago, Dr. Stormy went to her mother that used to be our old executive clinical director at Recovery Ways and said, “I think you guys are missing the boat here.” What she did was she developed this room, these beautiful rooms that really work on a patient’s emotional regulation and self-regulation piece. Because a lot of times what we see in therapy or in residential treatment or any level of care is the focus on the cognitive behavioral therapy, the talk therapy. Processing through things and things like that.
Well, the reality is a lot of patients that are coming to us for treatment, their cognitive abilities might be not up to snuff or they might have done some damage to their cognitive abilities and the processing piece due to their alcohol, drug use and maybe mental health diagnosis have played a part in that. So, people forget to focus on what’s happening in the body.
We have the primary therapists that is going to do the cognitive behavioral therapy. But what we do in these rooms is we really work on what’s going on from the neck down. So, that means … Because anybody will tell you that when they’re feeling depressed, and they’re feeling anxious, there’s just telling you that they’re feeling that way because it’s not necessarily in the head, but they’re feeling that somewhere in their body.
So, we’ve developed these rooms to look at a few different things. We actually track data from agitation, depression, anxiety, pain scale, and we monitor that and we’ve been collecting data on that for the last seven years. Since collecting that data, we’ve seen a 60% decrease in these symptoms from the start of treatment using these rooms.
Now, I haven’t really got into what these rooms do. So, our focus on this is the emotional regulation piece. What you have there is … The example I always tell people is, when you get out of treatment, you’re on cloud nine, right? You’re feeling good, you’re ready to tackle the world. And then, for example, you walk out to your car and you get a parking ticket. Right there, your emotions go from zero to 60 in 2.0 seconds, whatever.
From that, there’s this emotional regulation piece that comes in. So, if you don’t have some skills and tools to figure like, emotionally regulate yourself, your first go to is, “Oh, I know how I used to fix this.” Your mind immediately goes to, I know what I used to do to care of this quickly. So, they want to turn to the drugs and alcohol, whatever.
What we really focus on in these rooms are giving them some skills and tools to regulate that emotional piece. We do that through guided imagery. We do that through bringing in all these different aspects and creating a treatment plan, and creating a safe space around the tools that they can take with them. Whether that be a smell of lavender or something like that, that helps them take them back to a place. It’s all about creating new neural pathways to healthy coping skills.
So, we do that. Then we do a myriad of other different things in the rooms where it can be something like putting together a budget because they’re working with our occupational therapist, or job resumes. Just a ton of different things we utilize in that room. Then, there was one other thing that I was going to talk about. Oh, and then the other piece is, all of our staff are trained in mind, body bridging. Which, we have a philosophy kind of at … Not kind of. We have a philosophy at Recovery Ways that we don’t feel like opening up a can of worms when it comes to trauma is appropriate in a residential level of care.
So, we don’t do any MDR in a residential level of care. We may look at it, may look at it in the PHP level of care, and depending on what their living situation is, how long they’re going to be with us and things like that, we might start MDR in IOP. But that’s if they are completely stable, they have a stable living environment, all those different things, all those boxes have to be checked off.
In turn, what we do is we also use the sensory room for trauma based therapy, but more working with the body. That’s why all of our clinicians are trained in mind, body bridging. So, a form to work with the trauma without opening up the trauma that early on.

Gina: It’s wonderful. No, I mean, just hearing the nature of what you all are doing has a very strong, holistic approach to it because you’re not looking at just addressing the behaviors itself, you’re looking at figuring out how to create the life skills necessary for them to, like you said, self-regulate.


Gina: I don’t know any other program that offers a resource like that at this point. There probably are a lot of them, but you guys are the only ones that I’m aware of that have actually created an actual safe space for people to have that kind of experience. And like you said, create new patterns of behavior to be responsive to issues of anxiety, or depression or fear or whatever else might come up.
This program is open to all of your clients. So, all your clients that go through Recovery Ways have access to this?

Ryan: Yes, I would say…The last time, I used to tell people, 95% of our clientele went through the sensory integration. But I heard one of our OTs say about a week ago that it’s like 99% of our clients go through occupational therapy. They could, depending on severity, they could have anywhere from one to three sessions a week in those rooms. These are on top of their individual therapy they’re getting. It just all completely depends on what their treatment plan looks like. And all these sensory integration sessions are individualized, or individual and they’re 60 minute sessions.

Gina: Wonderful. That’s great.

Ryan: Just another.

Gina: It was part of their treatment plan.

Ryan: Yes, absolutely.

Gina: Wonderful. Well, obviously, those people who are listening are going to get a lot of great information from you today about Recovery Ways, which is exciting. I’m going to shift back to learning a little bit about you, Ryan Because obviously, organizations are built on good people. So, it’s important to know who the people are.
So, I’m going to ask you a couple questions just to get into learning a little bit more about who you are. If you could have a giant billboard anywhere with anything on it, metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions of people, what would you want it to say?

Ryan: Oh, gosh. What would I wanted to say? I would want it to say, Do You! With an exclamation point. Because I think as a society, we tend to get wrapped up so much in what everybody else is constantly doing. My billboard would just say, Do You! Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what anybody else is doing. As long as you go out, you give it your best. And you put your best foot forward every day, and you do it with honesty and integrity. What everybody else thinks doesn’t matter. So, Do You! is what I want on my billboard.

Gina: As it should be, that’s wonderful. I love it. Then playing off the idea of the word harmony. What does it mean to you when I say, to live your life in harmony?

Ryan: I have to tell you this. When I saw this question, the first thing that popped into my head was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, when she’s like, I don’t know if she’s cleaning the house or getting a dress put on, but the birds helped her and everything come in.

Gina: That was great at that moment. I remember that.

Ryan:: Yes. So, when I thought of harmony, I was like living in harmony with everything around you. But what it means to live my life in harmony is just being cohesive with everything around me, whether that be nature, whether that be other human beings. I’m not necessarily a religious person, but I believe in energy, and I believe in doing the right thing. Just being a good human. I think that means picking up the piece of trash that you see next to the garbage can, or that means opening up the door for somebody when they’re walking in.
It just means just being of service to people, and also being kind to everything. You can obviously tell I’m not a hunter in this. Anyway, that’s what living in harmony means to me. It’s just everything has a purpose from the smallest thing to the biggest thing.

Gina: Thank you for that. That’s really nicely said. If someone wanted to access services at Recovery Ways, how could they get in touch with you?

Ryan: Yeah. The best, probably way to access services is to check us out online www.recoveryways.com. They can also call our admissions number at 844-334-0804. So, reach out to us if you have any questions about Recovery Ways, you want to see if we might be a good fit for you, or if you just want to know more about our sensory integration, or all the different aspects we have at Recovery Ways.

Gina: Outstanding. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to visit with us today.

Ryan: This is fun Gina. Thank you.

Gina: Yeah, have a good one.

Ryan: You too.