Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are international fellowships with millions of members, and chances are, these support groups are fairly familiar to you. Maybe you’ve seen the meetings portrayed on television programs. Maybe a friend, family member or someone you know has attended a meeting. Maybe, you’ve even attended one yourself. These 12-Step programs are truly the hallmark of substance use treatment.
However, you may not be as acquainted with Emotions Anonymous (EA). Emotions Anonymous, an offspring of AA and NA, tailors the 12-Step program to meet the specific needs of those with mental health disorders rather than substance use disorders. EA has existed for decades, but unlike its parent programs, it’s not nearly as well known or as popular. Rosecrance has been trying to change that.
Rosecrance began introducing clients to EA meetings last year after introducting its residential mental health services for adolescents.
The Rosecrance residential mental health services is a 30-45 day program that includes treatment for primary mental health diagnoses, including mood disorders, bi-polar disorder, depression, anxiety, PTSD, suicidal behaviors, co-occurring disorders and more. There are two units, one for adolescent boys and one for adolescent girls, and each unit attends weekly EA meetings accompanied by Rosecrance staff members.
“Our vision continues to widen,” says Sandra Knezevic, Rosecrance Addiction Counselor. “We are working with different clientele now and we realize that these kids have different needs too…our foundational tool has always been 12-Step programs, so Emotions Anonymous makes sense for us and it makes sense for our clients too.”
LaShonda Walker, Rosecrance Unit Coordinator, adds, “We all have mental health and that means something different for everyone. A mental health disorder like Depression doesn’t look the same from one client to the next…these Emotions Anonymous meetings help to remove the stigma and the uncomfortable feeling of being an adolescent who isn’t emotionally well. It allows our clients see other kids and adults who have gotten through it.”
EA provides a warm and accepting atmosphere where individuals can share experiences in a group setting without fear of criticism. Through weekly support meetings, members discover they are not alone in their struggles.
“It can be difficult for clients to share their stories in the first place,” says Sarah, “but when they hear other people start to open up, it rationalizes what they are feeling. It gives them hope and it keeps them excited to come back to meetings because they know they are going to find that level of support there.”
Although EA is relatively new to Rosecrance and its clients, the success has been apparent. According to Rosecrance staff and experts, the clients seem extraordinarily eager to participate in EA. Many clients continue to attend long after they leave Rosecrance.
One such client was admitted to the Rosecrance specialized services unit last fall. She had dealt with depression and anxiety for years.
While in treatment, staff noticed a drastic increase in this client’s self-esteem and confidence. They attribute a lot of this transformation to the client’s eager involvement in the EA program.
“She found a place of peacefulness where she could actually talk about things and work through them rather than putting them on the backburner and allowing herself to be angry at the world,” said Sarah. “I think EA had a lot to do with that.”
This client is now living back at home in Iowa and her mother drives her to Rockford to attend EA meetings with the Rosecrance group.
“This is a family who understands and supports Emotions Anonymous,” says Sandra. “This is a family who takes time off work, gets in the car and drives their daughter several hours to attend meetings. This is family who has been able to see the progress at home.”
Sarah adds, “That story is a success in and of itself,” adds Sarah. “There is always a turning point for our clients. They are different people when they leave Rosecrance than they were when they came in….and the kids that keep coming back to these EA meetings are the ones who recognize that’s what they need to do to help themselves.”