An Interview with Michael Dixon, Primary Therapist

Michael-Dixon

At SpringBoard, we pride ourselves in having a team that is truly passionate about helping others. In addition to the academic training needed to succeed in treating drug and alcohol addiction, we possess first-hand knowledge of recovery from substance abuse.

Our dedicated team is committed to helping you or your loved one navigate the road to life-long recovery. So we thought that you’d like to meet them! Continuing our series “Getting To Know Our SpringBoard Recovery Staff,” we talk with Michael Dixon, one of our Primary Therapists.

An Interview with Michael Dixon, Primary Therapist

Getting To Know Our SpringBoard Recovery Staff

A Brief Autobiography: Michael Dixon, LAC (Licensed Associate Counselor) is a Primary Therapist at Springboard Recovery, where he facilitates groups and individuals across all levels of care. He works with different therapeutic modalities, such as Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), to ensure the best treatment for each individual. Michael helps clients to address theri trauma, to find the underlying issue for addiction, and then to develop the appropriate coping skills to live a happy and fulfilling life.

What attracted you to work at SpringBoard Recovery?

The interview process and the overall feel of the community, as well as the building itself. Jerry and the rest of the leadership team, during both the interview process and the creative process, made it an impossible job to turn down. Also, I enjoy the population and working with them to help them accomplish their goals. 

What brought you to work in this industry?

It is a wildly misunderstood community. Society continues to not recognize the disease and does not give them the benefit. I started as an intern in grad school having never worked in the field, got introduced to the field, and fell in love with it.

What would you consider to be your top 3 accomplishments while in this industry?

  1. Past clients getting 1 year of recovery
  2. Helping people with the use of trauma-informed therapy, and 
  3. Helping to develop a new IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program) curriculum.
addiction treatment

What is Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART)?

Springboard Recovery uses Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART) as one of its primary therapies to treat patients. ART is an evidence-based focus therapy, only introduced as a clinical therapy in 2008, and it is based on the repetitive eye movements of a patient – in that respect, ART is similar to the EMDR therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing).

Like the more widely known EMDR, ART is based on the Adaptive Information Processing model, which states that the reprocessing of a person’s stored memories of originally traumatic events (and other experiential factors to those events) can have a positive effect in the treatment of most clinical complaints

ART has been shown to have a highly effective outcomes for individuals whose substance addiction and mental health disorders stem from severe trauma, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which can result from deeply traumatic experiences, eg. childhood or sexual abuse, natural or man-made disasters, military conflict.

Additionally, it has been shown to quickly benefit other mental health disorders and personal issues, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Phobias
  • Panic Attacks
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Performance Anxiety
  • Family Issues
  • Victimization/Poor Self Image
  • Victimization/Sexual Abuse
  • Relationship Issues/Infidelity
  • Codependency
  • Grief
  • Job-Related Stress
  • Pain Management
  • Memory Enhancement
  • Dyslexia

ART works by finding the clear, existing connections in our brains, and then using those very same connections to resolve patient trauma by reprocessing the memory. However, unlike EMDR, the therapist running the ART session is the one who directs the patient, whereas an EMDR session is directed by the actual content uncovered, and so takes longer.

ART therapy consistently provides excellent patient outcomes, with many patients experiencing a positive effect, for example, on their PTSD, and all within a relatively short time frame (only 2-8 sessions).

How long have you been working in the addiction recovery industry?

Three years or so.

In your opinion, what’s the most important aspect to achieving addiction recovery?

Honesty with self and forgiveness.

If possible, please briefly describe your own journey to recovery; for example, what was your drug of choice, and what motivated you to get help?

I am not in recovery; I was once asked to co-facilitate a substance group in my internship, and fell in love with the population.

Tackling addiction is possibly only one component of recovery. How important is it to treat any co-occurring disorders that may exist?

Extremely! Drugs and alcohol are rarely a problem, but rather a solution. Once the underlying issue is resolved, i.e. trauma, then tackling the addiction will come shortly after.

Our country is currently under a lot of stress right now – from the coronavirus pandemic, to the unforeseen economic crisis that has come with it. How does all this affect addiction rates – firstly, in general, secondly, here in Arizona, and, lasty, at a local level?

I would assume that it increases it, especially with unemployment rates on the rise as they were. 

Note: You can read our statement on how we have implemented the necessary CDC recommendations, and more, to ensure the health and wellbeing of our valued clients, their families, and our own staff here.

What would you personally say to someone with a drug or alcohol problem (or has a loved one with a problem) who is considering getting help?

That it needs to be their choice. I am here to support and help, obviously, but it is a lot more effective when the person is there for themselves. 

Obviously, many substance addicts have endured severe trauma – the primary catalyst of their addiction. How do you go about establishing a “therapeutic alliance” with the client, and a safe and trusting environment for treatment? 

First, I remind them (or teach them) that nothing that happened that is trauma-related is their fault. I show them through Rogerian skills* that they can connect with me, and that I am strictly there to help. I talk to them about what life can possibly look like without the unresolved trauma holding them back to help increase their motivation. 

*Rogerian skills: Rogerian therapy is a type of counseling in which the therapist is non-directive but supportive, allowing the client to direct the course of their therapy. The counselor’s expertise is secondary to the ability of the patient to solve his or her problems.

support-Groups

What is Trauma-Informed Care (TIC)?

Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) is not about the application of specific therapeutic techniques to treat trauma – it is an overall approach, more of a philosophy of the provision of trauma-sensitive care. TIC is based on and developing through our growing knowledge of the negative impacts of psychological trauma.  

Recently, it has become more apparent that trauma is a common condition in today’s society, and particularly among those requiring healthcare services of some description. Without proper direction, it is possible that the health service system catering to these individuals can actually be responsible for re-traumatizing them – thus, strongly affecting their willingness and motivation to participate and engage in their own treatment and care.

Trauma-informed care understands the need to acknowledge and act on a patient’s life experiences in order to deliver the most effective care. By doing this, TIC has the potential to improve:

  • Patient engagement
  • Adherence to treatment
  • Health outcomes, and 
  • Health provider and staff wellbeing

The recognition and understanding of trauma as a critical factor in both psychological and physical symptoms is nothing new. During the American Civil War, for example, soldiers from either side were described as suffering from “soldier’s heart” or “nostalgia.” Then, with the use of heavy artillery in World War I, came the description “shell shock.”

The famous term “the thousand-yard stare” (or “the two thousand-yard stare”), first popularized back in 1945 towards the end of World War II, was used to describe the glazed, blank, and disassociated look of soldiers emotionally detached from the horrors around them. More recently, the terminology of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has entered the diagnosis of severe trauma from military conflicts, and now it’s definition has now been expanded to include other severe trauma, eg. sexual violence and abuse.

The term “trauma-informed care” was first raised in the publication “Using Trauma Theory to Design  Service Systems: New Directions for Mental Health Services,” an influential strategy guide co-authored by clinical psychologists Maxine Harris, PhD. and Roger D. Fallot, PhD.

The 6 key principles of TIC are:

  • Safety
  • Trustworthiness and Transparency
  • Peer support
  • Collaboration and mutuality
  • Empowerment, voice and choice
  • Cultural, Historical, and Gender Issues

Furthermore, according to the concept of trauma-informed care, “A program, organization, or system that is trauma-informed:

  • Realizes the widespread impact of trauma and understands potential paths for recovery;
  • Recognizes the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others involved with the system;
  • Responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices; and
  • Seeks to actively resist re-traumatization.”

You can learn more about Trauma-Induced Care (TIC) here.

addiction therapist

When you tell someone you just met that you are in the addiction treatment industry, what are the three most common questions you get asked?

It is a variety, really – What types of drugs? What do I do? What is it like? Things like that.

How do you respond to people who say that “treatment doesn’t work”?

I remind them what they have done in the past does not work, and I tell them I want to establish a treatment plan that fits their needs specifically. I work with them to utilize coping skills that they have not used before, or create a new way of thinking.

What do you do to unwind and relax after a hard day at the office, and did any of this stem from your own addiction recovery, eg. yoga, mindfulness, etc?

I hangout with my wife and daughter, like to watch movies or watch “The Office.”

– With thanks to Michael Dixon for his informative and honest responses to our questions.

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Robert Castan
Robert Castan is a member of the Executive Leadership Team at SpringBoard Recovery. Robert started his professional career as a house manager and has become an industry leader and trusted voice in the treatment world. He brings extensive knowledge of organizational growth, industry-leading outcomes, and comprehensive marketing to SpringBoard Recovery. Robert has been walking his own path of recovery for over 10 years. This path has truly driven his ambition to help make treatment available to others who are struggling with addiction. Robert finds great joy in traveling and keeping physically active, with an emphasis on biking. Robert resides in Arizona with his husband and two four-legged children.