“Change and hope are possible with intergenerational activities. That has been a guide for me.”
According to Dr. Stanger, “Age segregation must end.”
Dr. Louise Stanger, a frequent contributor of RecoveryView.com, regularly offers knowledge cultivated over thirty-five in the behavioral health industry through her writing, recovery coaching, therapy and teaching. Her contributions to the recovery field are numerous and are supported by research, passion and hope for a better future for all who are making their way into an addiction-free life.
Influenced by Erik Erikson, a prominent psychoanalyst and developmental psychologist, Dr. Stanger feels it is important to leave a legacy in behavioral health by way of mentorship and normalizing the integration of intergenerational activities into daily life. Erik Erikson argued on a philosophical level one cannot develop basic trust in the world, a sense of safety and trust without mentorship or guidance from elders who have ego-integrity –a sense and purpose that life is worthwhile living.
“I was, at one time, the president of a school board, and elected officials in the town of Cardiff-by-the Sea. There we implemented several intergenerational activities such as having grandparents working in day care, bringing elders into classrooms and our honoring senior citizens.”
She advocates for this type of age-based integration in treatment and reports having exciting consulting experiences at a facility that treats chronic pain, substance abuse, mental health and process disorders. The facility used various models including intergenerational, adventure based therapy.
“You can take someone who is 55 or 60 (Chronic Pain Client) and pair them with a 27-year-old(Adventure based therapist or a client who is experiencing recovery) for a canoeing adventure, and then witness them synergistically grow and learn from one another.”
Dr. Stanger applies these philosophies to her family recovery coaching and groups as well. She enjoys putting together individuals who might be peers as well as those who might be effective mentors for each other.
“For example, a millennial can learn from a boomer. The boomer might help the millennial learn not to be so self-absorbed. To learn and appreciate work. But of course, there are lots of ways to pair them up or create a good group.”
She told RecoveryView.com, “You also must understand the culture that the individual lives in. That includes getting to know basics like age,sex , gender preference as well as deeper information like religion, values, socio-economic background and more.”
While Dr. Stanger is a proponent of intergenerational treatment, she respects the nuances that each individualbrings. In some circumstances, treating clients with peers of their own age is beneficial as it honors their unique needs and experiences.
Published in 2016, Dr. Stanger wrote a beautiful memoir entitled Falling Up which reveals her passion for both storytelling and unraveling stories that do not serve mental and emotional growth and development. The book is also reflective as it describes events and wisdom gained from her own life events that she now uses to foster her clients’ recovery.
“When I’m working with people, there’s always the power of their story to contend with.” She mentioned that the “confabulations and lies” are precisely what keep many people from reaching their goals in recovery. While lying carries with it moral implications, to confabulate is “to fill in gaps in one's memory with fabrications that one believes to be facts.”
“I’ve been struck with this idea of lies and deception,” says Dr. Stanger. “We are sometimes tricked into believing something that isn’t the truth. Retelling our story is how we can begin to see the truth.”
Dr. Stanger pointed out that the beauty of working in behavioral health, whether it be as a clinician, a facility owner, or a coach, is that one can “allow clients the opportunity to break into the honeycomb of confabulation, and rewrite their story. That’s how they assert the power of becoming who they want to be. It’s somewhat spiritual even though telling their story is something ‘material’ that they can do.”
“Confabulation is dishonesty but is an important parcel of human life,” explains Dr. Stanger. “It’s how we normalize something that is horrendous. Families often lie to themselves when a loved one is in the midst of a dealing with a disorder. In fact, when it comes to addiction, the telephone is the biggest trickster.”
In her practice, she has seen that parents deceive themselves into believing that paying for their child’s cell phone is appropriate and helpful. They claim that it is the only way their young adult/child can contact them. While the child’s contact with the parents is often rare compared to their contact with problematic influences like drug dealers and friends who may not be supporting their recovery. “The help the parents are offering is not helpful.”
She points out that on a larger scale, “we saw big pharmaceuticals doing the same thing when it comes to the opioid epidemic as well as the general problem of medical marijuana being prescribed and administered to far too many people. This is adding to the cultural belief that marijuana is harmless and non-addictive when according to the latest scientific research marijuana is actually changing the landscape of people’s brains. It appears to Dr. Stanger that just like the tobacco industry who claimed no harm can be done to folks that smoke tobacco 20 years from now we will look back and campaign against marijuana in the same way.”
Given Dr. Stanger’s fascination with the concept of truths and lies, it makes sense that she considers “integrity and honesty” an important area of focus for behavioral health in the years ahead.
“There is also a great demand for training. People in interventions for example only get an eight hour or three-five-day course. More is needed for certification and hopefully licensure I’ve been an academic and licensed as a clinician since 1973 and I feel like there is something to academic rigor that we can extrapolate to non-academic areas of training.”
Self-evolution and evolution of the behavioral health care community toward better and more successful ends have been a constant focus in Dr. Stanger’s life. To learn more, read her book, Falling Up and visit her website https://www.allaboutinterventions.com/.