Intensive Outpatient Program
The five principles of The Synapse System are implemented in a rigorous, 12 hours per week, outpatient program that is an integration of evidence-based practices with the latest findings of neuroscience. The goal of treatment is to intervene on the progressive nature of substance use disorders and help the client set a course toward the maximization of his/her full potential. The components of The Synapse System are delivered by a Licensed Psychiatrist and three Licensed Psychologists with over 80 years of experience in the treatment of substance use disorders. Services are delivered in the Zen like environment of The Fountains at Piedmont Center.
Our 12-week program includes two group meetings weekly lasting three hours each. Each group meeting consists of three separate modules – an experiential/holistic module, a psychoeducational module and a psychotherapy module lasting 45-50 minutes each. In addition to the group meetings, each cleint will participate in weekly, individual psychotherapy sessions, bi-monthly family therapy sessions, and periodic medication management when applicable. The client will also be on-site at Synapse for another three hours for brain fitness training. Complementing the required on-site training, clients are expected to engage in a program of brain training with a minimum of 4 additional sessions per week. These sessions can be completed on any web capable device at a time of the client’s choosing. These sessions are monitored from the Synapse office.
We offer both day and evening versions of our 12-week program. With an emphasis on evidence-informed treatment methods and on brain fitness, clients will show improved cognitive functions, learn to build healthier relationships, gain insights into behaviors, develop emotion regulation and critical thinking skills, and practice essential relapse prevention tools for a life in recovery. Synapse provides the client with the support and structure needed to grow spiritually, emotionally, mentally, cognitively and physically thus allowing for the creation of a successful recovery experience. We are here to help adolescents and adults unlock their fullest potential and reclaim the life they want.
Components of Treatment
The components of The Synapse System provide the tools, skills, knowledge, training and support for healthier brains and a stronger recovery. Our components are informed by the latest findings reported in the empirical literature integrated with more traditional treatment modalities that have withstood the test of time such as 12-Step Facilitation. As a result of this integration, clients experience intensive educational opportunities, experiential therapies, and receive a variety of holistic services.
Below, please find the list of treatment modalities that comprise The Synapse System. Simply by clicking on each component you will be taken to that section within the website.
Comprehensive Diagnostic Assessment
Psychiatric Assessment and Care
Comprehensive Diagnostic Assessment
Prior to beginning the Synapse Program, clients undergo a battery of neuropsychological tests and personality measures, the results of which will help guide treatment, as well as, provide a baseline against which progress can be measured. This computerized battery of tests will include an objective assessment of cognitive strengths and weaknesses, backed by the world’s largest brain database. The findings of the cognitive assessment are integrated with findings from a thorough assessment of personality and psychological function. The result is a standardized integration of self-reported and objective information to support a diagnosis and guide treatment options including a personalized set of emotional and cognitive exercises for each client.
The computerized cognitive assessment will be re-administered after 6 weeks of treatment and again at 3 months to compare changes in assessment scores. This type of computer-driven performance battery, thus has the capacity to maintain a running profile of outcome scores, facilitating empowerment and feedback, and reducing the cost of expensive re-assessments over time quite dramatically, as well as, highlighting those clients who need more advanced testing procedures.
Through these highly sophisticated testing measures and assessments, our experts are empowered to understand all that is unique about you or your loved one, allowing us to tailor our comprehensive program to meet each client’s specific needs. By treating individual issues, we help resolve the problems that may have made sustaining sobriety challenging, and support the desire to achieve lasting recovery.
In addition to the thorough and extensive testing that all patients receive in order to guide treatment and to measure outcomes, Synapse offers psychoeducational testing of cognitive abilities and neuropsychological processes. Should it appear that a patient experiences a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes as manifested by an imperfect ability to listen, think, read, write, spell, or do mathematical complications, this comprehensive assessment will determine a pattern of strengths and weaknesses that will inform recommendations for accommodations for academic pursuits and for high-stakes standardized testing.
Psychiatric Assessment and Care
Each patient admitted to the Synapse program will have a psychiatric evaluation performed by the Medical Director, who is a board certified child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist with extensive experience in substance abuse treatment. Results from the psychiatric evaluation will also be used to determine diagnoses, guide treatment and assess if psychotropic medications are needed. If medication is recommended this will be discussed with the adolescent and adolescent’s parents for permission to prescribe.
If a patient starts a psychotropic medication regime or is already taking psychotropic medication they will be monitored at least monthly or more frequently as needed. The Synapse Medical Director will also have at their disposal the ability to do genetic testing. This simple swab test of oral fluid uses an individual’s genetic code to see how medications are metabolized and potential response outcomes. Knowing about a patient’s genetic profile can increase the ability to select a medication that is more likely to be effective and less likely to cause side effects.
Additionally, the Medical Director will order random urine drug screens (UDSs). Not only are the results of UDSs important measures in assessing progress in treatment, these random UDSs provide accountability for the patient and integrity for the Program to be drug free. The UDSs will take place through contractual agreement with a national testing laboratory. Results of random drug screens will become part of the patient file and shared with the patient.
Psychoeducation is an evidence-based practice that is an integration of psychotherapeutic and educational interventions to create a holistic synergy that stresses health, collaboration, and adaptive coping that is empowering to the individual. Below are two psycho-educational modalities adopted by The Synapse System that not only educate but also provide the critical thinking skills essential to success in life.
BrainWise: In order to successfully transition from childhood to adulthood, an adolescent must develop the skills necessary for analyzing and responding to ever more complex situations, as well as, develop the skills to recognize, understand, and appropriately manage one’s emotions. The BrainWise Program helps patients develop the critical thinking skills and the social problem-solving skills that they need to make good decisions and to manage their risk of relapse. Learning how to control impulsive behaviors, accurately identify choices, analyze the consequences of actions, and make responsible decisions are all taught in this evidence-based program.
Brain25: Based on the belief that knowledge is power, The Synapse System emphasizes the importance of being educated about brain functioning and brain health, and being critically aware of the effects of alcohol and drugs on the brain. Brain25 provides a powerful and prescriptive program that will allow for adolescents and adults to avoid the common dangers and pitfalls that can jeopardize their future while training the brain for a lifetime of success. Through the development of “brain envy” patients will learn how critical it is to understand, protect, and honor the brain. They will learn about how we hurt the brain, as well as, develop strategies to enhance and optimize its function. Brain25 shows exactly what happens to your brain when you hurt it or when you care for it.
The Synapse System redefines the treatment of substance use disorders by employing the latest neuroscientific technological advances. The technologies utilized in The Synapse System address the cognitive deficits that commonly contribute to negative outcomes.
My Brain Solution: Every Synapse patient undergoes computerized neurocognitive testing to identify the neurocognitive deficits that can interfere with learning the principles and skills needed for ongoing recovery. Based on the results of the neurocognitive assessment, every patient receives an individualized prescription of cognitive training to facilitate the building of brain structures underlying abilities such as working memory and executive functions. The Synapse cognitive assessment is unique in matching each patient’s brain profile to appropriate brain training games and insights to enhance brain fitness. Brain fitness refers to having the brain functionality - cognitive, emotional, and executive - to thrive in the environment we face each day, as well as, those we are likely to face in years to come. These brain training exercises are intended for daily use, but no less than 5 days per week for a minimum of 45 minutes per session. While brain training can be done at home, progress is monitored by a Synapse clinician from the Synapse office.
BrainPaint: Every Synapse patient undergoes a computerized evaluation for BrainPaint neurofeedback training. Neurofeedback training, a type of biofeedback that measures brain waves, provides trainees with information on their moment to moment brain function using real-time displays of brain activity. Given information on his brain function, the trainee learns to self-regulate his brain toward more efficient and optimal functioning. Research shows that neurofeedback places the individual in a more receptive state to new learning in both treatment and in 12-Step recovery. In addition, neurofeedback can be helpful for problems such as attention, anxiety, and depression.
N.E.B.A.: A thorough assessment and an exact diagnosis are essential to The Synapse System given that co-occurring disorders are not an exception; they are the norm. Furthermore, the clinical picture is complicated by the neurocognitive deficits associated with substance abuse - deficits that often continue months into the recovery process. Typically, diagnoses are made using no more than a behavioral checklist; however, technologies now exist to identify biomarkers indicative of specific pathology. The Synapse System utilizes N.E.B.A., the first FDA approved system that helps clarify a diagnosis of ADHD. In essence, NEBA helps the Synapse clinician answer the question, “Is it ADHD? Or, is it something else.”
Group Therapy: Group therapy is an effective treatment modality for substance abuse and misuse. Group therapy is a safe space where people can come out of their shell and share problems with people who offer help rather than judgement. Group therapy is important for a number of reasons such as mutual identification and acceptance, peer support, identification with positive role models, being a part of, developing boundaries and acquiring hope. The patient will be participating in two group therapy sessions per week.
Individual Therapy: Each patient will have weekly individual psychotherapy sessions with their assigned psychologist. This one-on-one, weekly session allows for time to discuss personal issues and work on treatment goals. The individual's psychologist will also be their family therapist.
Family Therapy: The purpose of family therapy in substance use disorder treatment is to encourage the family to become aware of their needs. It also works with the family to improve communication with their loved one, restructure their environment to encourage changes in drug and alcohol use and develop personal goals for the family members as well. It is important to involve the family members in this process because the family is a system within which all members are related and influence each other. It is necessary to identify points of weakness and address them to maximize the opportunity for effective intervention. Additionally, family therapy is intended as a preventive tool such that family members do not initiate substance use as a manner of coping with stress. Increased substance use places the family and all its members at risk for negative outcomes.
In addition to the evidenced-informed, neurocognitive, treatment modalities, Synapse programming draws from a large body of empirical findings that address not only substance abuse but also address the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that interfere with an individual's success at home, school, work and within the community. Synapse draws from the following evidence base in creating The Synapse System.
● Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET), is a counseling approach that helps individuals resolve their ambivalence about engaging in treatment and stopping their drug use. This approach aims to evoke rapid and internally motivated change, rather than guide the patient step-wise through the recovery process.
● Contingency Management (CM), is an approach that involves the reinforcement of pro-recovery behaviors. CM is one of the most effective approaches to promoting abstinence among substance users. CM is different from other approaches because it is not a treatment, but rather an active care management program.
● Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), is a behavioral theory and one of the most common approaches for the treatment of substance abuse. The foundation of CBT is identifying persistent negative thoughts and changing these perceptions in hopes of altering the emotions, affects and behaviors that contribute to substance use.
● Brief Strategic Family Therapy (BSFT) is an intervention that targets self-sustaining changes in the family environment of the adolescent. That means that the treatment environment is built into the adolescent’s daily family life. BSFT has been extensively evaluated for more than 25 years and has been found to be efficacious in treating adolescent drug abuse, conduct problems, associations with antisocial peers, and impaired family functioning.
● Yoga is considered an evidence-informed treatment modality for the treatment of addiction. The Synapse System provides for yoga instruction twice weekly during the course of treatment. Through the practice of yoga, patients develop mindfulness - bringing one’s awareness into the present moment of noticing and accepting what is happening in the moment without judgement or reaction. The development of mindfulness is proven to engage the brain and expand its potential. Applying the principles of mindfulness to the treatment of substance use disorders, the practice of mindfulness modulates brain activity to create new neural responses to distress and cravings. Patients can learn to tolerate discomfort and stressful situations with decreased re-activity, allowing them to be in control of their actions and behave in thoughtful, deliberate ways. Even more significant, the development of mindfulness allows individuals to experience distress without increased cravings, interrupting self-destructive impulses and replacing them with healthy coping mechanisms.
While the reasons for the effectiveness of 12-Step recovery are not fully understood, the empirical literature supports the use of 12-Step programs in the treatment of adolescent and adult substance use disorders. Therefore, each patient is encouraged to utilize the tools, skills, and fellowship offered by AA or one of the other many 12-Step recovery programs by attending 12 Step meetings, building a sober network, obtaining a sponsor, and completing the 12 Steps. The progress each patient makes towards this goal will be monitored.
The family members of the patient need education and support as well. In addition to the bi-monthly family therapy sessions with your loved one, the Synapse clinicians will provide a monthly support group for family members to attend and learn about addiction as a disease, as well as, provide support for each other as their loved one is receiving treatment.
After completion of the Synapse program, patients are invited back for weekly aftercare group meetings to receive support from their peers and Synapse clinicians. This continued care is vital to the development and maintenance of the neural pathways that underlie the changes in thoughts and behaviors associated with ongoing recovery. The aftercare meeting will take place weekly for one hour.
An active Alumni Association provides strength and hope to other individuals and allows Synapse alumni to be of service to others. Patients, who complete the Synapse program, are invited to attend the Synapse Annual Banquet honoring alumni for their special achievements throughout the year. Parents may also participate in this celebration of their loved one's healthier brain and overall wellness.