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Laura Silverman on Potomac Pathways

July 24, 2018

Laura Silverman sits down with Drew Powers at Sandstone Care in Maryland. Laura is the Director of Community Relations at Potomac Pathways and also the Founder of The Sobriety Collective. Laura discusses her role in the field at Potomac and how she works to help them in the marketing and outreach world. Additionally, Laura talks about a topic close to her heart, Recovery. Laura shares how she founded The Sobriety Collective, where individuals can find alternative paths to recovery through online interaction. To learn more about Potomac Pathways please visit www.potomacpathways.org and to find out about The Sobriety Collective please visit https://www.thesobrietycollective.com/

Drew: Hey everybody. Welcome to Sandstone Cares podcast series here in Maryland. I’m Drew Powers. Today I’m joined with Laura Silverman.

Laura: Hello everyone.

Drew: Laura is the director of community relations at Potomac Pathways here in Maryland, a wonderful provider. Laura let’s talk about how you got in the field and share with our audience what brought you to the field of addictions and mental health.

Laura: Excellent. Well, for me and for a lot of people, I imagine it starts with lived experience. I was a relatively young person when I got sober. I had just turned 24. I don’t wanna go into my whole life story, but suffice it to say, I got into drinking in college and then continued afterward when a lot of my friends were tapering down. I hot heavier into it and I realized I needed help, I needed a change. And so, I checked myself into an IOP when I was 24. I feel really lucky that it stuck and I’ve been sober ever since and I’m going on 11 years in a couple of weeks.

Drew: Wow.

Laura: So, with that background, my professional experience up until a couple years ago, had been in federal consulting, which a lot of people in the DC area do and always with a background of customer service and being a people person, business I had been doing federal contracting for eight years. I was ready to make a change. And so, a couple of years ago, I figured I would marry my passion to addiction recovery, outreach, and advocacy and something that I like to do on the side, which is graphic design and marketing and I just married those passions together and so I’ve been in the field now for about two years, a little over two years.

Drew: Very cool, and thank you for sharing that story with us. And before we go any further, maybe tell us a little bit about Potomac Pathways and the work that you do there and also the work that they do for the community.

Laura: Potomac Pathways is this great little IOP in Cabin John, which is right by the Potomac River. It’s been in existence for 12 years, but we’ve been in the area that we’ve been in for a little over three. What our specialty is, is working with teens and very young adults who have substance use disorder and usually co-occurring mental health concerns. We just have a very welcoming warm environment. Our founder and our executive director have their background in wilderness therapy, so there’s a lot of flavors of wilderness embedded in the design and in the program itself and it’s like bringing in the wilderness to our client’s backyard.

We have two distinct tracks. We’ve got what we call the first step, IOP and aftercare and that’s for, usually for teenage boys and young adult men who may have issues with marijuana abuse, ADHD, executive dysfunction, oppositional defiance, and those kids do really well in our first step program, which is more of a harm reduction model and emphasis on making positive choices.

And then, on the other side of the house, we have a DBT intensive and it’s the full DBT model according to Marsha Linehan and we the IOP and a step down aftercare program as well. And that’s coed, so we see teens and young adults of boys and girls.

Drew: Gotcha. Very cool.

Laura: And what I do for them.

Drew: Yes.

Laura: I am the director of community relations. I do a lot of outreach and marketing and meeting other amazing programs in the area and working a lot with mental health professionals, schools, hospitals, and just collaborating across programs, across organizations, and then general awareness of our program because we see it really as a two-way street. Of course, we want what’s best for these kids and we wanna be able to be that provider to help them, but we also know that there are so many other providers that could be just as good, if not a better fit for them and their families. We also wanna link up with the right providers for when they’re ready to step down and go out into the community and live their lives.

We know that recovery is a process and it’s not linear, and so they need to be setup with the right support system throughout their continuum of care.

Drew: Totally, yeah, and one of the things I know we appreciate at Sandstone about Potomac Pathways is that we’re both in the same community, and we’ve worked really closely together, and you guys have referred clients to us that in other scenarios, somebody else might try and treat that client, but you felt like it might be a better fit somewhere else, which is so cool because with us at Sandstone Partnership and collaboration is part of our core values, and we see you guys doing that, which is why we love you guys so much.

Laura: Absolutely. There’s enough work for all of us, which is sad and hopeful at the same time. And whatever we can do to share the load and share, the term really kind of weirds me out, but best practices. As long as we can share that information, and the community will be better off.

Drew: Totally. Couldn’t agree more. And so, with regards to Potomac Pathways, you described the kind of clients you guys work with, how do people access the services at Potomac, if somebody’s watching this and say it’s a family member, how would they go about learning more about Potomac Pathways?

Laura: There are a couple of ways that families can come in. We have families who do the self referral. They do a lot of research on the internet. They come across our website and they see the application process and how to get an admissions interview. And so, some of them might call our admissions team or submit an application before talking to anyone. We do get a fair amount, in fact about 20% of our clients and families come to us from internet.

We also have families work with whatever provider they’re with. Maybe a therapist or a psychiatrist knows about our program and they will recommend the family to reach out to and seeing with residential programs, but basically, the first step is for the family to contact us. We have a wonderful inviting admissions director who talks to the family and has them fill out an application and then they come in for an admissions interview, which is completely nonobligatory and free of charge, and it’s really more of an assessment. And then, if that client and family, because like you, we believe family work is so crucial to this process and if there’s a family that doesn’t wanna be involved, it’s really hard to work with a client and just sent them back to an environment that’s not supportive.

So, once the whole family unit agrees to go forward, then we start that pretreatment process and sort of door to door ballpark, if everything goes as planned, including with insurance and we’re an out of network provider, we can have a client start within a week.

Drew: Very cool. That’s awesome. Thanks for laying that out. I wanna go back to something you said real quick about DBT. I think that’s something that gets thrown around a lot and you see programs that offer DBT and I think what Potomac Pathways does is really, really cool. Maybe just for somebody understands who’s watching this, the difference between how you guys approach DBT and somebody else. Explain that a little bit.

Laura: Sure. Our DBT intensive is a 16 week program, which I guess is, no just kidding, it’s 18 weeks, so it’s four and a half months and it follows the full curriculum as laid out by Marshall Linehan and her organization, which I believe is Behavioral Tech. And so, there are different modules and while we do have rolling admissions, clients who come in at any given time start at the module that everyone else is at.

So, mindfulness is what grounds DBT in everything. And so, while there is a mindfulness module, there’s always a week of mindfulness between each module. And what DBT is, dialectical behavior therapy, is really learning applicable skills for dealing with life, coping with life, and they’re very specific. So, there might be a unit on distress tolerance or coping ahead and it really helps those clients and families, because the families do some of the work as well, really deal with any sort of emotional dysregulation to help the clients regulate themselves. And it helps them figure out ways to cope without using drugs or alcohol or at least reducing the harm that they were before.

So, there are several modules. I don’t know the names of all of them and I can get back to you guys on that, but we do follow the complete curriculum. So while there’s some programs that may have a DBT skills group once a week or once every couple of weeks or a therapist might employ some DBT skills in one on one work. We definitely do adhere to the program and it’s pretty effective for our clients and families.

Drew: Awesome. And so, I appreciate you sharing that. I think it is an important distinction between an entity or a program that’s gonna follow protocol as the protocol, versus like you said, incorporating maybe elements of that into the treatment. The other thing, I know that you wanted to share about today and that is kind of what we will spend a couple minutes talking about is really what you’re most passionate about and some of the personal work that you’ve done with your blogging. So, talk with us about that.

Laura: Thank you Drew. I am the founder of The Sobriety Collective, which started a little over three years ago, and I started it because I felt like at the time, there weren’t enough people, this is me not doing any market research, shame on me, but at the time I felt like there weren’t enough people sharing their stories, and especially from, and I speak not on behalf of any program here, this is just me now, from a non 12 step perspective. 12 steps were part of my own story, and they played a huge part in my early sobriety. And, I also felt that there weren’t that many alternatives, especially when I was first getting sober. There was not talk of refuge recovery, no talk of smart recovery. It was pretty specifically geared toward 12 steps, and I felt a little isolated by that in my personal story.

So, I wanted to really create a way for me to connect with other people who may have similar stories who also may or may not have been in the 12 steps or have a lot of friends who consider themselves creatives, writers, photographers, musicians, and do good at 12 step meetings and are very successful with their recovery. And then I have a lot of friends who sort of have forged their own path and sort of a multi [inaudible 00:12:30] recovery. And that’s how I see myself.

So, I really started this to created something that I needed at the time. And then, it’s just grown exponentially, it’s still small, but it’s grown exponentially and my passion is just connecting with other people like me, especially creative, sort of quirky neurotic types and honestly, it’s been the way that I’ve come into this line of work. I’m really grateful for opportunities to connect with people in person, online, and it’s really opened my world to meet people all over the country and over the world.

Drew: Very cool, yeah. No, that’s awesome. I think it’s so rare to find people trying to be innovative with new solutions, particularly for somebody like yourself, who has this story of getting into a recovery lifestyle at an early age, and seeing what you can do with your life when you have your whole life ahead of you in so many ways. And so, I really appreciate the work that you’ve done there. Where can people learn more information about that blog?

Laura: Well I suspect there might be a link somewhere floating around on the bottom here, but they can go to thesobrietycollective.com and from there, they’ll find resources, other blogs, websites, podcasts that are awesome, and then really the crowing joy for me is this recovery profile section, where I feature people from all over the country and world who are doing really good work in their own communities, making an impact and showing that creativity doesn’t stop when substance use stops. That’s the biggest take away is that there’s this misconception of creativity dying when you get sober and there’s this romanticized version of writers and musicians who make their best work when they’re using, but we’re showing is that you can make even better work and be a better contributing member of your family or society in your personal communities when you get sober and you can continue all that amazing stuff.

Drew: Totally.

Laura: That’s the nutshell version.

Drew: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. And so, before we wrap up, if there’s one thing if you’re talking to some of the families or professionals that might be listening to this, what’s the one thing you’d wanna convey and have them walk away with after listening to this podcast?

Laura: Well, two things really, because I am the person here with you, I would want them to know that on the professional side, Potomac Pathways is a very warm inviting inclusive organization and we collaborate with professionals. We don’t prohibit our clients from continuing to see their current providers. We’re just very collaborative. And I really believe in the work. I believe in my team. I love the environment. It’s just a great place to be and whomever calls us will have one of those warm welcoming people talk to them. I am always available to answer questions.

And then, in terms of me personally, just I’m committed to the work. I’m committed to my own personal recovery and growth and I think it’s a really unique way for me to be a part of this field by tapping into my personal story, which a lot of us do.

Drew: Cool, awesome. Well, if anybody wants to find out more about Laura and her work at both Potomac Pathways and at The Sobriety Collective, take a look at the link below in the description and as always, Laura thank you so much for joining us today.

Laura: Thank you for having me.

Drew: And if anybody ever wants to know anymore about Sandstone care, you can find us on the web or reach out to us online. So, thank you so much everybody and we’ll see you next time.

Laura: Thanks guys.

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