Across the U.S., Beginning Efforts to Replace Drug-Based Therapies

While preparing last week’s column, “Spirituality is a new component in Juvenile Detention Centers”, I discovered many more stories than could possibly be written in these posts. Across the US, beginning efforts to replace drug-based therapies with yoga, mindfulness, meditation, and faith based practices in adult correctional facilities as well as juvenile detention centers are on the rise.  I’ll share two:

The Mind, Body, Awareness Project is currently carrying out a joint pilot program with Children’s Hospital and Research Center in Oakland, California.  At the city of Alameda’s long-term youth detention camp, Camp Sweeney, physicians working with adolescents in the probation system are writing a prescription for mindfulness training as a way to counteract conditions that have been traditionally treated with drug based therapies.

The Mind Body Awareness Project was founded in June of 2000 by Noah Levine and a group of his close friends. As with many self-destructive kids, Noah’s search for meaning led him first to punk rock, drugs, drinking, and dissatisfaction.  Having clearly seen the futility of drugs and violence, Noah reached a turning point when he began practicing mindfulness-based meditation while locked up in the Santa Cruz juvenile hall. Meditation had a transformational effect on Noah, and he wanted to share what had changed his life with others.

At the Barbara Culver Juvenile Detention Center in Midland Texas, a youth lecture was given by a Christian Scientist. It is one example of talks on how youth can grow their spirituality to turn away from destructive behaviors available to these facilities throughout the US. A portion (full report here) of what the speaker shared:

“I was lead to challenge them. I challenged them to be a thermostat, not a thermometer. A thermometer just rises or falls according to what is happening around it. However, a thermostat, on the other hand, regulates.

I challenged them to be healers, spiritual healers. I explained that by what they will learn in their spiritual journeys they could be regulators, thermostats. They could turn situations higher, holier. Everyone they will meet would be happier and healthier because of having met them.

I told them that Peter, one of Jesus’ followers, healed others when his shadow fell on them. Just so, the shadow or powerful mental weight of their growing spiritual maturity and understanding would help others. The more weight they put into the side of good, the more good they will do. They will use laws, spiritual laws, which heal minds and bodies.

At the end, a young man asked, “What is it like to come in here and change someone’s life?”  The smile on his face and tenderness in his eyes told me that he was taking up my challenge.”

These exempliary programs have been initially introduced on a small scale.  Their consistent success in transforming lives through first transforming thought, is the dawning of a new era in rehabilitative treatment.

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