At Timberline Knolls, we treat addictions and psychiatric disorders; but far more specific and important, we treat people. Each woman or girl who comes to us for care is a unique individual, from her name and face to her experience with an addiction or disorder. The goal of treatment is to first understand what brought her to Timberline Knolls, then provide her with the tools and skills required for her to leave treatment and ultimately live an abundant life of lasting recovery.
In order to achieve this goal, our program is comprehensive and holistic, meaning we treat every aspect of the resident: her mind, body, soul and spirit. Talk therapy is a key component of our treatment; it is critical to unraveling the many cognitive, emotional and spiritual threads of a person’s life. This form of therapy is utilized in one-on-one interaction with a primary therapist as well as in many specialized groups. Unfortunately, not everything can be verbalized, especially those experiences or events that caused extreme and lasting pain such as physical or sexual abuse. This is precisely why expressive therapies are part of our program. Essentially, where talk therapy leaves off, expressive therapies pick up.
What is Expressive Therapy?
Expressive therapy is defined as a treatment modality that encourages the creative process and the use of non-verbal means of expression to facilitate the therapeutic process. In other words, these are therapeutic strategies that are used in conjunction with other therapeutic modalities to maximize the benefit for the resident. For example, a primary therapist may be working with a young woman who is profoundly angry; she is turning this anger against herself in the form of self-harm. Although the therapist may repeatedly encourage the woman to express her anger, she simply cannot do it. However, give this same individual access to bold, dramatic paints and she may create a painting rife with her repressed rage. Once the intense emotion is conveyed onto the canvas, she may feel free to explain what the picture represents and how she felt when she created it. This painting now serves as a springboard, allowing the dialogue between the therapist and the girl to continue during ongoing therapy.
The benefit of these non-verbal therapies is that they offer each resident an additional outlet to express herself. They give our residents a “voice,” which has nothing to do with the spoken word. Expressive therapies are particularly valuable when experienced in a female-only environment.
Expressive Therapies at Timberline Knolls
At Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center, our residents are encouraged to embrace a new sense of freedom and expose their deepest thoughts and feelings. Although a therapist facilitates the experiential activities, women and girls also provide encouragement and support to one another.
We utilize the following four expressive therapies:
Yoga is a discipline that is growing in popularity throughout the American culture, and importantly, in health care. We offer three types of yoga classes. The therapeutic yoga group is thematic, meaning it focuses on achieving a specific emotional or mental goal such as reducing anxiety, or bolstering positive self-esteem. The vinyasa group is far more physical and rigorous in nature as it strives to strengthen the body and elevate the heart rate. Conversely, the restorative class is calming in nature with poses being held for several minutes. This offers participants a quiet moment to relax, reflect or meditate.
Equine assisted psychotherapy (EAP) uses horses in an experiential fashion to help women and girls learn and grow emotionally. At Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center, this elective group is offered on campus April through November. Each horse in the EAP program is chosen for its temperament and gentle nature. The beauty of using horses with struggling women and girls is that these animals are completely non-judgmental; unlike many people, they do not care what a resident looks like or if she has a history with alcohol abuse, an eating disorder or anxiety. They simply live in the moment, untroubled by the past, never worried about the future.
In our program, three or four horses are brought in for a 90-minute session conducted by an equine trainer and a licensed mental health professional, who is trained and certified by the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA). A resident may participate in an experiential activity with one of the horses, or elect to simply pet or groom one of the animals. Regardless of how she chooses to engage, just being around these beautiful creatures has an intrinsic benefit.
Dance/Movement Therapy (DMT) is anchored in the belief that the mind, body, soul and spirit are inextricably connected. Therefore, movement is used therapeutically to improve an individual’s mental and physical well-being. Everyone at Timberline Knolls attends DMT sessions once a week. The goal of this expressive therapy is to heal the brokenness that occurred between a resident and her body. Often, the work done in the DMT class mirrors the work conducted between the woman or girl and her primary therapist.
This form of expressive therapy with art can be summed up in a single word: revelatory. Through paint, clay, or pencils, a woman or girl can create that which she cannot say. We use the directed approach and the open studio format at Timberline Knolls. The former is more structured, while the latter is less directed. Our art therapists have a Master’s degree and a background in art. Because we recognize the vast benefits of art making, all residents participate in art sessions once or twice a week. Additionally, the studio is open throughout the week, offering residents more opportunities to work on their art projects.