Lois & Jack Schwarz
Tools for Self Discovery
About Jack Schwarz
About Lois Schwarz
1051 NE 6th St., #144
Grants Pass, Oregon 97526
Pilot Project in Prevention of Relapse
with Substance Abuse Teenagers
From August of 1991 to October
of 1994, the Aletheia Foundation carried out a pilot program for the prevention
of relapse into substance abuse. Three small groups of four to six adolescents
and young adults were recruited to participate in a three-year study.
During an initial ten weeks of intensive training, instruction in techniques
of breathing and perceptualizations, eye movement exercises and use of
autogenics to monitor brainwave states were given, along with the principle
underlying their use. Each participant chose a support person who joined
them in a two-hour weekly session following the four-hour intensive. Periodic
follow-up was continued for the remainder of the three years.
- Relapse was prevented in about two-thirds of the clients
who completed the program.
- The instruments and exercises used were manageable
by all participants, including the support people. Those which help
in relaxation and self-knowledge appear to be the most effective.
- Self-esteem of most of the participants increased during
the intensive training period as indicated by the Cooper-Smith Personality
Inventory, self-reports, and observations made by staff in discussions.
- The activities in the program reported as most useful
to participants were the autogenics and EEG work, and the breathing
techniques. The assessment, journal work, nutrition, perceptualizations
and group work were also seen as useful.
- The activities in the program reported as most interesting
to the participants were the breathing techniques and the EEG and the
autogenics work. The group work was also seen as interesting.
- Selecting the "right" support person was
an important factor that fostered improved family relationships and
- The project staff was reported as being loving, caring,
wonderful people working in a friendly atmosphere that generated insight
and positive feelings.
- The participants, as revealed in the autogenics/EEG
work, were usually in the predominantly theta/delta brainwave state
at the beginning of practice. (The usual predominant state is low level
beta.) This meant that we had to reverse the typical autogenics sequence
in order to help participants shift into alpha and beta brainwave states.
The alpha brainwave state was the most difficult to reach by the longer-time
- All but one of the participants who have continued
in the pilot program report that life is better, and that they have
been empowered to better manage stress when it occurs.
Reflections on What We Have Learned From The Pilot Project
It is extremely important that
teenagers have an understanding of how their body functions and ways to
get into the highest level of body-mind harmony. Certainly, they need
to know how to use the breathing techniques, autogenics and eye exercises
to deal with the stress and addictive urges.
Both at inner city schools and
in suburban and most rural schools, these techniques are not made readily
available to children and youth. Our project has made us realize that
it is important to start this education early so that healthy attitudes
toward the body are learned along with understanding of the relationship
of body-mind functioning.
Two of the young subjects (in
their twenties and early thirties) found it tougher than the younger participants
to make the shift away from using substances abusively. This is due to
a number of factors, including denial of addiction and having had a longer
time period of abuse. It is also probable that at least one of the older
participants started using drugs early on as an escape to cope with his
view of the world.
This participant has reported
that both his circle of friends and his colleagues are into "using"
as after-work entertainment; seen as relaxation by some. One's determination
to quit needs to be very strong to be able to say "no" or shift
to a different set of friends or work setting. Several key lessons are
important for recovering substance abusers to learn include:
In Aletheia's subsequent
project of "Helping Children Who Have Basic Learning Skill Problems,"
we have taught similar relaxation exercises. With these young children
we are seeing the same results of empowerment and maturity taking place.
We must continue.
- Ways to deal with the physical urge to use the toxic
substance to which they have become addicted.
- Techniques to relax, regulate stress and sleep.
- Competence in identifying their brainwave states and
understanding the relationship of these to their behavior.
- The importance of scheduling time to continue practice
at home of the various exercises, keeping records of their diet and
practice, as well as, a journal of their feelings and progress.
- Being aware of how one feels about oneself and the
future and how to influence those feelings in a positive manner, along
with the value of having a support person or group to encourage a shift.
Hearing from the clients and their support persons over the last three
years has shown the empowerment received through the encouragement we
continuously gave. The many basic breathing and relaxation exercises
are being used by the clients when anger or stress arises.