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Brookhaven Retreat Blog
Monday, 29 September 2014 00:00

Dangers Of College Drinking

The university setting can be a tempting place for many; from tailgates, homecoming and nights out, drinking is often glorified and even promoted in the college atmosphere. According to The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) roughly 80 percent of university students consume alcohol and half of those report binge drinking, making college often synonymous with alcohol.

According to an article published by the National Public Radio, a national survey showed the low price of alcohol and increased availability around college campuses played a significant role in increased reports of student binge drinking. Along with drink specials and wide availability, the false sense of security depicted on campus contributes to many students’ desire to experiment with overdrinking.

Many students are naïve to the ill effects of alcohol; Because it is legal, few liken the dangers to illicit and prescription drugs despite the fact that it is no secret alcohol impairs our judgment, lowers our inhibitions and puts us at risk for violence, sexual assault and even death. For example, just in the month of September alone, there has been headline news of a Rutgers University student who died after drinking at a fraternity house, as well as a University of Virginia student disappearing after a night drinking with friends.

Alcohol abuse is specifically threatening to our mental health. Depression, anxiety and suicidal behavior are frequently found co-occurring with substance abuse. Women who drink regularly are likely to struggle with inadequate sleep, increased irritability and unhealthy relationships. A woman with pre-existing mood disorders such as borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder is at greater risk of the ill and addicting repercussion of college drinking. The NIAAA reports 19 percent of college students ages 18-24 met the criteria for alcohol abuse and dependence.

College is often the first time young people are on their own solely responsible for their decisions and the resulting consequences. For those with social anxiety, depression, impulsivity or stress, drinking is often used as a coping tool. Brookhaven Retreat works with women of all ages to establish proficient coping strategies and empowers them to utilize therapeutic life skills that promote a healthy, productive and safe lifestyle.

Published in Brookhaven Blog
Sunday, 28 September 2014 00:00

Salmon With Chickpea Ragu

When discussing “brain food” salmon is destined to come up in conversation. Salmon is rich in nutrients such as fatty acids and iodine that have been shown to improve mental health by alleviating depression and stabilizing moods. Mix in some buttery chickpeas for a complete dinner that promotes total health!

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 large zucchini, diced
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 15.5-ounce can chickpeas (preferably low-sodium) drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup basil leaves, sliced into ribbons, plus more for garnish
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground pepper
  • 4 6-ounch skinless salmon fillets

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the onion and cook until soft and translucent (about 3 minutes).
  2. Add the carrot, zucchini and garlic and cook, stirring until the carrots are firm-tender (4-5 minutes).
  3. Add the tomato paste stirring to incorporate completely.
  4. Add the chicken broth and chickpeas and bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce the heat to low and cook, covered, until the liquid thickens slightly, 8 to 10 minutes.
  6. Remove the skillet from the heat, add 1 cup of basil and ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper and stir to incorporate.
  7. Cover to keep warm while you cook the salmon.
  8. Preheat the broiler.
  9. Season the salmon with the remaining ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper.
  10. Broil the salmon for 8 to 10 minutes per inch thickness, turning once.
  11. To serve, spoon 1 ½ cup of the chickpea ragu into a shallow bowl or rimmed plate.
  12. Top with a fillet of salmon and garnish with ribbons of basil.

Source: So Easy by Ellie Krieger

Published in Brookhaven Blog
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Friday, 26 September 2014 00:00

Creating an Emotional Crisis Plan

Ebola is continuing to spread through the western countries of Africa, causing widespread devastation. The New York Times reports the virus has already claimed more than 2,600 lives and shows no signs of stopping.

In the United States, we are lucky enough that Ebola is not a real threat to our lives and those of our loved ones. Experts from the World Health Organization report the risk for Ebola showing up in the U.S. is extremely low. Although we are not directly threatened by the destruction that is demolishing West Africa, we are not immune to trauma and distress that can become utterly debilitating.

For many women trauma comes in the form of a shattered family. Divorce can make a woman feel as though she is mourning a death. Women are often left extremely vulnerable both financially and emotionally, and for some women they are left fighting for their children, their assets and their life’s work.

After a woman goes through divorce, she may struggle with establishing a sense of identity. Often women become the caretakers in a marriage, building a life that revolves around their children and spouse. When their family life becomes broken and what they are accustomed to is stripped from them, women feel their identity has been lost. Losing one’s own self can be traumatic and lead to depression, anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

A great part of caring for one’s self and loving one’s self is feeling prepared. For instance, despite the fact that there has never been an Ebola outbreak on American soil, the US still has measures in place that will likely prevent an epidemic from spreading with the same destruction as we are seeing today. We must ask ourselves: do we have a crisis plan?

Being prepared does not just mean becoming financially independent, geographically safe or planning for the demise of a happy marriage. Instead, it means creating a plan that ensures emotional health and independence. Brookhaven Retreat’s Poncho Program analyzes 30 aspects of a woman’s life that can prevent a woman from feeling fulfilled in life.

Like an epidemic, divorce can impact many and show no signs of upcoming relief. The trauma can be long lasting and destroy a woman’s emotional and mental health. By being proactive and addressing co-dependency, a woman can feel confident, empowered and secure in her life, creating lasting joy and wellness.

Published in Brookhaven Blog
Friday, 26 September 2014 00:00

Does TV Stress Us Out?

Along with fall fashion, cooler weather and the release of Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte, the end of September is synonymous with the return of our favorite TV shows.

It has been more than 75 years since the TV was introduced at the World’s Fair in 1939. In 2011, the New York Times reported 96.7 percent of households in the United States own a television, making it one of the most popular pastimes. Research has shown that the average American spends nearly 5 hours a day watching television. Many view TV shows as a chance to unwind and relax, with most viewers reporting an increases in positive feelings, despite the fact that many popular TV-series are filled with suspense and drama.

From AMC’s The Walking Dead to NBC’s Scandal, many of the top shows returning this fall are bursting with violence, deception and tragedy, yet we find them relaxing. There have been a number of studies done to explain why we claim to enjoy the drama of television and story telling, and why it may be stressing us out.

According to a German study, stress can be somewhat contagious. When we surround ourselves with stressed out people, we are at risk of becoming stressed ourselves; this phenomenon can even extend to our relationship with our favorite shows. Part of what makes TV entertaining is the drama itself. It is often an escape method that can provoke emotional highs, as well as bursts of anxiety and distress.

Even comedic shows like Modern Family or Big Bang Theory influence our mental health. An article published in Times Magazine states that research reports those who turn on the TV as a way to relax after the day are likely doing so as a form of procrastination and in return feel guilty about it.

This procrastination may be linked with those that report higher rates of depression in those that watch excessive television. Watching TV often replaces healthier habits that are proven to reduce depression and anxiety such as exercise and social interaction.

The saying “too much of a good thing” can be applied perfectly to our relationship with television. If you are a TV aficionado, be sure to balance time spent enveloped in TV with time spent outdoors, exercising and engaging with others.

Published in Brookhaven Blog
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Thursday, 25 September 2014 00:00

The Disruptive Side Of Innovation

With the much-anticipated launch of the latest iPhone 6 and the announcement of the brand new Apple watch, the tech craze has been re-ignited.

There is no denying that technology is innovative and offers major improvements to society, including apps that watch our calorie intake, give us fitness tips, keep us organized using calendars and on time with alarm clocks. However, even with these helpful and convenient advancements we cannot ignore the mental health impact of never unplugging.

Disruptive sleep: The light from laptops, smart phones and the soon-to-be Apple watch can disrupt our sleep routine. Using these items late at night reduces the body’s ability to produce melatonin, a key hormone in stimulating sleep. Inadequate shut-eye reduces a woman’s ability to successfully cope with her emotions and distress, and can prompt mental health and substance abuse issues.

Low self-esteem: One of technology’s greatest achievements and terrible repercussions is social media. Research and studies continue to report the correlation between social media use and poor emotional and mental health. The fear that everyone is having fun without you, or that everyone else’s life is so much better plays a significant role in diminishing one’s self-esteem and self-worth.

Depression: A European study reported those who were unable to detach themselves from technology are at greater risk for displaying symptoms of depressive disorders.

Increased stress: Exercise, hobbies and spending time in nature are natural ways to reduce stress and unwind. When we replace this downtime with technology, we are neglecting not only our physical health, but our emotional and mental health as well.

Isolation: Most think of technology as bringing people together, expanding social interaction and staying in touch with friends. However, technology can actually perpetuate the opposite. Many people are so attached to their devices that they miss out on the joy of face-to-face interaction.

Published in Brookhaven Blog
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Wednesday, 24 September 2014 00:00

How To Make The Perfect Smoothie

Good mental health is rooted in the foods we consume. Smoothies can make a quick, easy and healthy breakfast or snack. If you’re short on time in the morning, but need to get an energy boost, make a smoothie. If white, refined pretzels and sugary granola bars aren’t what you want for a snack, try a smoothie. It can be difficult to get the 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables that is recommended, and chewing on raw broccoli and cauliflower all day is just not much fun. Blending them up is great way to get vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fiber … even some protein and healthy fats!

Here is a formula to create a great tasting, nutritionally balanced smoothie:

Pick a liquid:
You will need a liquid to add some fluidity and blendability to your smoothie. For a creamier smoothie, choose a milk/milk alternative base. For a lighter option, use water or coconut water. Avoid fruit juices, even 100% fruit juices, as they add a lot of sugar and unnecessary calories… don’t worry, you’ll get plenty of that vitamin C from fruit (plus fiber).

Some options: almond milk, rice or hemp milk, grass-fed organic cow’s milk, coconut water or water

Pick a protein:

Adding a protein item will not only help moderate the glycemic effect of the sugar in the fruit, it will also bring greater satiety and energy, and will give your body the amino acid building blocks it needs to build muscle rather that fat. Protein slows the digestion of carbs, so it keeps your blood sugar from spiking and keeps you feeling full longer.

Some options: whey protein powder, plant-based protein powder such as pea or sprouts protein, hemp seeds, almonds, almond butter, pumpkin seeds, Greek yogurt

Pick a veggie:
Vegetables are going to add a ton of vitamins, minerals and fiber without adding very many calories or much sugar at all. The potent antioxidant phytonutrients in vegetables give them their rich colors which can scare people away, but don’t worry, a mild leafy green like spinach won’t change the flavor, just the color. Pair veggies with fruit and you can still have a good tasting, naturally sweet smoothie.

Some options: spinach, baby kale, cucumber, celery, beets, carrots, pumpkin

Pick a fruit:
Fruit is going to add natural sweetness, texture and nutrients to your smoothie. Fruit is about as basic as your liquid base. If you’re trying to cut back on sugar you could do an all veggie smoothie though. Berries are lower in sugar and packed full of potent antioxidants, pineapples, mango, grapes, apples oranges and bananas are sweeter if you want to mask the stronger flavors of beets, celery and kale. Frozen fruit will add a thicker, frostier texture. Bananas and mango add thicker, creamier texture, and freezing your bananas and using a small amount for liquid can make your smoothie almost like ice cream.

Some options: cherries, strawberries, raspberries, apple, pear, banana, pineapples, mango, nectarine, orange, grapes, blueberries, blackberries

Pick a healthy fat:
Throw in some nuts or seeds for some healthy fats, like omega-3s, that are good for your heart and brain and reduce inflammation in the body. An essential fatty acid deficiency could leave you with dry, flaky skin, and who wants that? These also add some of that valuable protein as well.

Some options: chia seeds, ground flaxseed, hemp seed, walnuts, almonds, cashews, nut butters, pumpkin seed, sesame seeds, coconut meat, avocado

Choose a topper:
A topper can add both visual appeal and extra nutrients to your smoothie. This is optional though.

Some options: coconut, raw cacao nibs or dark chocolate, oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla

Ratios

Liquid:

For thicker smoothie: less liquid;

For thinner smoothie: more liquid;

6-12 oz is a good starting point

Protein:

1-2 scoops or 1-2 Tbsp or ½ cup yogurt

Veggie:

1 cup greens or ½ cup other veggies

Fruit:

½ cup to 1 cup frozen fruit or 1-2 pieces whole, fresh fruit

Fat:

1-2 Tbsp or ¼ avocado

A Taste of Autumn Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • Approx. 1 cup almond or organic cow’s milk
  • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • Top with a few pumpkin seeds or cinnamon

Green Tropical Breeze

  • 1 cup coconut water or almond milk
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt, plain or vanilla
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1 cup pineapple
  • 1 T chia seeds
  • Top with coconut flakes
Published in Brookhaven Blog
Monday, 22 September 2014 00:00

Those Left Behind

Those who die by suicide often do so believing that no one will care if they die - this is almost never reality. Depression and other mental health issues completely distort one’s outlook on life, creating incessant feelings of extreme isolation and inadequacy so that sufferers truly believe they are doing their loved ones a favor. However, they are all too wrong.

Mental health tends to focus mostly on the emotional and mental distress of those contemplating suicide, yet they are not the only ones affected. Often called survivors, those left behind now have their own battle to face. Unanswered questions often lead to complicated grief, anger, anxiety and depression.

Suicide carries a lot of stigma and judgment. Many survivors may choose to avoid talking about it and even lie about such situations, as they struggle with shame and anger.

For these survivors, it is essential to remain connected to others during this time. Isolation and loneliness can cause grief to worsen. It is also important to maintain self-care afterward, although this can be very difficult. Continuing healthy habit routines such as good sleep hygiene, staying active and eating nutritionally can prevent falling into depression after a loved one’s suicide.

Suicide never just affects one person. Because it is sudden and often unexpected it can be challenging to grieve in healthy way. Those left behind are now faced with learning to cope with complex emotions such as self-blame, guilt and anger. According to the American Association of Suicidology, suicide increases survivors’ risk as well, triggering a devastating cycle of mental distress.

Brookhaven Retreat is well aware of the anguish felt by the survivors of suicide. Just as it is important to care for those with self-harming thoughts and address risk factors like depression and substance abuse, it is critical that we not forget to recognize the impact on those left behind.

Published in Brookhaven Blog
Monday, 22 September 2014 00:00

ISIS: The Malign Side Of Belonging

Team sports, religious groups and book clubs: everyone wants to belong to something. Connecting with others, having purpose and feeling supported are crucial components of social wellness. This sense of community is often a positive thing and is linked to better physical, emotional and mental health. However the need to belong can sometimes lead down a dangerous and destructive path.

As the world is on alert with increased concern and disturbing information about Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), I find my mind drifts from shock to confusion reading stories on CNN and Huffington Post about a young Scottish student leaving home to become the wife of a jihadist. It seems incomprehensible that anyone would trade their life of comfort, opportunity and family for a life of fighting, danger and violence, and yet many do.

Unfortunately this is not a new phenomenon. Along with women leaving their safe homes to fight in Syria, young women have been joining brutal gangs and menacing cults throughout history.

According to a study done by the Centre for Mental Health in the UK, the need to belong to a group or purpose is a significant reason why many females join gangs. Psychology Today reported that cult recruiters target those who already feel isolated and powerless, appealing to their desire to belong, even if the pursuit is brutal, dangerous and destructive.

This behavior does not lie solely in forms of extremism and violence, but can be seen within the establishment of unhealthy relationships and friendships at school and work. The need to belong is so enticing to human nature that it can blind us from the harm we may be doing to our self. Women who struggle with wanting to belong often have lower self-esteem, poor boundaries, and struggle with anxiety and depression that make it increasingly difficult to leave.

Although the need to feel part of something important is part of human nature and can be tremendously helpful to our holistic health, the desire to belong can potentially take a turn for the worst. Vulnerable women who already feel as if they are incomplete, whether it be from social anxiety, a death of a loved one or other factors, are likely looking for a group to fill this void and this exposes them to unhealthy cliques and extreme groups.

In order to meet this emotional need of belongingness that all women of all cultures have, it is imperative women feel supported, have a sense of community and a positive passion that builds their confidence and self-worth.

Published in Brookhaven Blog
Sunday, 21 September 2014 00:00

Pork Piccata With Spinach And Garlic Mashed Potatoes

For a delightfully quick dinner, try this Pork Piccatta recipe with spinach and mashed potatoes. Set the pork over a plate of steamed spinach and a side of homemade mashed potatoes to create a meal that is filling and nutritious.

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 ¼ pounds pork tenderloin, sliced crosswise into ¼ inch thick medallions
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup white grape juice or water
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 1 Recipe Express “Steamed” Spinach - recipe to follow
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Directions:

Combine the flour and ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a sealable plastic bag. Place the pork medallions in the bag and shake until well-coated. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet (not nonstick) over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, cook the pork until it is browned on both sides, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer the meat to a plate. Add the garlic to the same skillet, then immediately add the wine and cook over medium-high heat. As the wine reduces, stir to dissolve the small bits and juices remaining in the pan from the meat. Cook until the wine is reduced by about half, 4 to 5 minutes.

Add the chicken broth, lemon juice, capers and remaining salt and pepper and cook until the mixture has reduced slightly, an additional 3 to 4 minutes. Return the medallions to the skillet along with the remaining tablespoon of oil and heat until the sauce thickens and the meat is cooked to medium doneness, about 3 minutes.

Serve over the Express “Steamed” Spinach and Garlic Mashed Potatoes, and top with parsley.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, left unpeeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 large cloves garlic, peeled and quartered
  • ½ cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Directions:

Place the potatoes and garlic in a steamer basket fitted over a large pot of boiling water. Cover and steam until the potatoes are knife-tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Warm the chicken broth in a small saucepan on the stove or in a glass container in the microwave. Remove the steamer basket and drain the water from the large pot. Transfer the potatoes and garlic to the pot, add the oil, salt and broth, and mash until smooth.

Express “Steamed” Spinach Ingredients:

  • 5 ounces pre-washed baby spinach leaves

Directions:

Place the spinach in a large microwave-safe bowl and cover tightly. Microwave on high for 90 seconds.

Source: Ellie Krieger “So Easy”

Published in Brookhaven Blog
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Saturday, 20 September 2014 00:00

Domestic Violence and Emotional Trauma

In the wake of a disturbing video showing the now ex-NFL player, Ray Rice, hitting his then fiancée, Janay Rice in an elevator, there has been an increase in media discussions on the atrocity that is domestic violence.

Along with the shock of witnessing a famed football star and his wife engage in domestic abuse, the video also made waves regarding the fact that the couple wed shortly after the incident. Although no one can speak for the reasons Janay Rice may have for marrying her now-husband, it is unfortunately a common response.

Even the strongest, most successful women can find themselves tolerating the very things they said they never would. Some women struggle with co-dependency, making their relationships unhealthy and volatile, yet they stay and even come to the defense of their abusive partner; some women are scared of financial and physical retaliation, others fear judgment. Unlike random acts of violence, domestic abuse is shrouded by stigma, fear and unhealthy love that keep it hidden and very dangerous.

Domestic violence is alarmingly common: according to government statistics, 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence, yet it is still a very taboo conversation. Along with financial devastation like homelessness and physical injury, domestic violence significantly influences a woman’s emotional, social and mental health.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice, women who have experienced domestic violence have higher rates of depression, anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder. Threats, intimidation, isolation and control leave lasting scars on a woman’s thoughts, emotions and behaviors. Survivors may have difficulty coping and experience feelings of hopelessness, low self-esteem and dissociation.

The physical, mental and emotional trauma caused by domestic violence can be long lasting and debilitating. Many women feel broken, depressed and unworthy of a happy life. Although it requires learning how to open up and deal with painful memories and emotions, it is possible to heal from this trauma and create a life with zero tolerance for abuse.

Published in Brookhaven Blog
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