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Patients at Michigan center will experience serenity through nature

July 5, 2016
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Environments for Recovery
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Having worked in the milieu of wilderness therapy early in his career, the CEO of Skywood Recovery learned early on about nature's healing power.

“In our world today, most people don't get to experience it,” says Adam Marion. “It is a challenge to find peace and serenity, for our people.”

At Skywood, a Foundations Recovery Network treatment center that opened in early April, leaders will emphasize to patients the need to slow down and experience a serene quiet, amid the disquiet of confronting their addictions and co-occurring mental health issues. A pastoral campus of around 300 acres offers numerous opportunities for this.

Cottage atmosphere

The southern Michigan property, located within a small village in Kalamazoo County, previously had housed a golf and conference resort. Foundations has kept many of the buildings largely intact. Marion describes the interior feel as a combination of upper Midwest cottage and Northeast beach house.

Some of the major changes to the property are taking place in the outdoor environment. While the resort's driving range and putting green will stay, some of the golf fairways will be converted to savannah featuring sweeping fields of wildflowers. A land restoration project on the campus will involve input from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, says Marion.

Patients will have access to numerous locations on campus that are ideal for reflecting and for experiencing nature. A boggy area with boardwalks features a high spot that Marion says is perfect for journaling or for conducting mindfulness groups. And patients will experience the outdoor surroundings year-round, despite the sometimes harsh seasonal climate in the upper Midwest.

“We're going to take walks in the winter,” Marion says.

Discussing the initial impressions of Skywood's patients since the opening, Marion says, “They're pretty stunned that this is a treatment center.”

He describes what leaders are trying to convey by using a favorite quote: that patients “can be comfortable while getting uncomfortable in treatment.”

Skywood, which offers detox and residential treatment services, is gradually working its way toward a full capacity of 100 patients. As testament to the need for more behavioral health services in this region of the country, Marion says, “We've already experienced a decent number of Michiganders coming here.”

Other amenities on the campus will include a climbing wall and high and low ropes courses; Skywood will be upgrading facilities that already exist on the property and getting them certified for use. Marion also beams about the efforts of Skywood's executive chef and culinary team, who were hard at work perfecting recovery-friendly recipes well before the treatment center's opening.

“They were making lunch for the staff back in the winter, experimenting,” Marion says. He says of the overall mindset among both clinical and non-clinical staff, “Everyone here is involved in patient care.”

Skywood leaders say they are prioritizing the integration of therapeutic services with the restorative environment of care that exists on campus.

“We can help patients find peace outside of themselves,” says Marion. “They will learn that it's OK for life to be tough and to go through things, because it's not forever.”