Men’s-only rehab programs don’t typically conjure images of intimate drum circles, building with Legos and sharing deep thoughts about song lyrics—but that’s exactly what clients can experience during art and music therapy sessions at Rally Point Palm Beach.
Rally Point is a boutique, Florida-style recovery program for men in a beautiful beachside community. Clients stay sober and learn life skills while they work through a phased protocol that begins with the Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) level of care in conjunction with structured sober living, followed by an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) and outpatient care. The holistic approach to recovery includes evidence-based group and individual sessions, plenty of 12-step meetings and experiential therapies like art, music and outdoor adventures. Beyond this, the guys at Rally Point are encouraged to build a sense of brotherhood in an intimate setting.
The family-style environment at Rally Point helps clients form a tight, supportive community. With no more than six men in the PHP at any given time, Rally Point is committed to providing individualized treatment that helps clients build a foundation for lasting change. Every client becomes an integral part of the group and the highly-skilled staff does their best to do more than just help them get clean and sober, but also prepare them for living full lives. This includes embracing creativity and self-expression as part of their recovery. Weekly two-hour sessions of art and music therapy are a crucial component of this unique program.
“Many people in early recovery consider music to be a sort of “lost love” that fell by the wayside during their active addiction,” says Alison Sailer, the board certified music therapist who runs the Rally Point Music Therapy program. Sailer has a BM in Music Therapy and BA in Philosophy from Temple University. Contracted by Rally Point through Palm Beach Music Therapy Institute, she has worked with a variety of populations including geriatrics, those dealing with traumatic brain injury and those living in hospice care, but recovering addicts have a special place in her heart. She especially likes the way music helps them connect with emotions during early recovery.
Another member of Rally Point’s creative therapy team is Marla Berger, who has more than a decade of experience in the mental health field. After receiving her BA from University of Florida and her Master’s in Art Therapy from University of Louisville, she began working with children and adults in a holistic therapy setting. Berger, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Registered Art Therapist, was inspired to become a therapist after a good friend died by suicide as a teen. In her private practice, Berger utilizes an array of therapeutic approaches, including equine assisted therapy, sand tray therapy and other play therapy techniques. During her internship at a facility that had a dual diagnosis unit, Berger developed a passion for working with addicts, who she considers unique, creative people.
Many of the men come to Rally Point without healthy coping skills so teaching them about processing emotions is essential. Approaching this from a clinical perspective is important, but creative therapies give clients a new set of tools they can take with them when they leave rehab. Developing—or rediscovering—a habit of sitting down with a pencil and paper to sketch or write a song when life gets overwhelming is a practice that promotes long-term emotional wellness. Learning to incorporate these types of self-expression in a group setting also builds a lasting sense of camaraderie and accountability amongst the men.
The weekly schedule at Rally Point includes a two-hour session of each art and music. The therapists prepare by reviewing shift reports and chatting with the staff to find out any current issues the clients are facing. Art and music therapy groups typically start with five to 10 minutes of chatting to create cohesion in the group, then they begin a different creative activity each time. Depending on the direction of the session, clients work as a group or independently, but always come back together to share their process and the insights they may have gained.
Music therapy includes a variety of techniques, designed to appeal to everybody—from experienced musicians to clients who have never even played an instrument. Groups do hands-on activities like writing songs and drum circles, as well as more philosophical things like sharing favorite songs, discussing the feelings music inspires and lyric analysis. In a group setting these sessions focus on creating stronger relationships amongst the clients and facing issues like fear and anger that are common in early recovery. Sailer points out that during times of transition and life upheavals, a person’s relationship to music may shift, but the music itself is a constant. This means clients who are in the midst of a struggle to stay sober can find some much-needed stability in music.
Every Friday at Rally Point is art therapy. According to Berger, having art therapy on Fridays gives clients a chance to approach any issues that have arisen during the week from a new perspective. Standard art supplies are available—like markers, crayons, colored pencils, graphite pencils, chalk and oil pastels—as well as fun, unconventional materials like Legos and plastic Halloween skulls. There is usually a planned activity and discussion topic, but sometimes the group takes off in its own direction and that’s okay, too. Clients are encouraged to work at their own pace, refrain from comparing themselves to each other and work through whatever feelings they are currently facing in recovery. In some cases, having a little free expressive time helps clients process complicated issues that they have been facing all week. Sharing this process with the other guys helps the group understand each other better and form deep, meaningful relationships.
Rally Point is committed to providing an individualized, well-rounded recovery experience. This goes above and beyond teaching life skills, encouraging 12-step involvement and providing traditional therapy. One of the many things that sets this facility apart in the crowded South Florida rehab landscape is having licensed, experienced therapists on-site to help clients heal through creativity. Learning how to process thoughts and feelings through self-expression not only serves to create a bond amongst the men while they are in treatment, but gives them valuable coping skills that can be applied to life in long-term recovery.
Photo courtesy of Rally Point; used with permission