Many people quickly recognize San Diego as the beautiful, sunny vacation destination, popular to visitors around the world. What many are now discovering, is the value San Diego brings for those in need. San Diego has promoted innovation and increased resources for those struggling with mental illness and addictions. Some of the most effective tools coming from psychology and neuroscience are readily available in San Diego, drawing in those who have not found help or success in other areas. San Diego has paved the way for trauma-informed care, recovery-oriented approaches, and the risk-responsivity model, all proven methods to promote long-term recovery.

If you look back at the various methods of addiction and mental health treatment, you will find themes of what help a person finally stay on the road of healthy living. These themes included building a base of support for basic life needs, healing the body and brain, and connecting people back into society and relationships. The recovery-oriented approach to treatment is well researched and validated by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), one of the leading agencies advancing behavioral health in the U.S. This approach emphasizes hope and expectation of recovery, connecting people to resources, individualizing treatment, and using techniques proven to work well. San Diego is filled with organizations dedicated to helping connect people to resources, such as, housing, jobs, medical care, psychiatric evaluations, transportation, legal services, and more. We have found that if these basic needs are met, the likelihood of relapse is significantly decreased. A great example are the monthly “PAC” meetings held in San Diego for individuals recently released from prison. The meetings are filled with resources from the community to help attendees, such as, parenting classes, help getting a job, information on receiving medical care, steps to go back to school, and much more. Most of these resources are free to use and it is amazing to see the foundation these individuals have during a very difficult time of transitioning back into to society. This is just one example of the many resources available to help people in need in San Diego.

San Diego also leads the way in trauma-informed care. The helping profession has made significant advancements in studying the impact of trauma on a person’s brain development and how that may create high risk situations for criminal activity, drug and alcohol addiction, domestic violence and much more. We have also discovered the brain’s natural ability to repair itself through healthy relationships. An agency trained in trauma-informed care understands the damage of trauma on the brain and the best method for creating an environment and connection with others to heal the brain and give hope for long-term recovery. San Diego includes several influential leaders pushing for the training and implementation of trauma-informed care throughout the county and other countries are now watching and copying this effective method.

Many in San Diego have also recognized and implemented the need for connection to overall health and wellbeing. It is often not enough to merely “stop using” or “manage a behavior” but rather people need to connect with others in meaningful relationships for long-term health. San Diego has fostered this sense of community in many ways, but especially in the recovery community. There are a number of strong communities built in San Diego for those recovering from addictions. These communities have been described as a family to belong to and people within support each other for years, often knowing quickly if someone is not doing well. This allows for their recovery family to hold them accountable for any actions that would jeopardize recovery. Their recovery family is also there if they relapse and support the person getting back on track quickly. They understanding the long process it sometimes take for life-long recovery. The goal is also to reconnect people back to their immediate family and friends and to help them live and enjoy life. San Diego knows that addiction is not some problem in society, but rather a person. The person needs support, love, connection, and the ability to recognize and meet their individual needs. These simple and yet powerful shifts if viewing and and treating addiction and mental health difficulties has allowed San Diego to catch the attention of surrounding counties and people from across the U.S. and the world. It is worth looking into.