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Local Facility Helps Those With Substance Use Disorders or Mental Illness

Photography Provided by The Willow Center

After several years of working in the field of substance abuse and recovery, Ashley English had witnessed a number of limitations people faced when trying to enter recovery or get mental health assistance. She longed to create a safe space where folks could overcome those barriers and limitations. In 2012 she founded The Willow Treatment and Recovery Center, a certified outpatient counseling facility.

“Ashley wanted to create a place that would inspire people to evaluate and transform their lives by guiding them through their journey of growth, healing and sustainability,” says Chase Cotten, executive director. “We meet them where they are are, and help them take the next step towards a sober or recovered lifestyle.”

The staff of 11 stays true to their values by practicing what they call the Willow Way. One of those values is providing clients with a dignified, encouraging, human-centric experience.

“Often [those seeking treatment] will tell you that they are treated more like a number than a human with a story,” Cotten says. “We believe the humanity needs to be the central focus.”

The Willow Center is built around compassion and respect.

“We understand what our clients are going through, and we offer them empathy,” Cotten says. “We all need accountability, and we have accountability measures built into our programs. However, we are treating human beings.”

Historically, mental health and addiction have been shrouded in shame, which can prevent individuals from seeking treatment. The counselors at The Willow Center want to change that.

“We want people to feel welcome, human and normal,” Cotten says. “There’s nothing to be ashamed of. We want to reduce the barriers that people feel in making that first phone call.”

The Willow Center serves a variety of individuals – usually between 275 and 300 clients at any given time. Half of these people are self-referred or referred by doctors. At least one-third are court ordered, and under some kind of legal supervision.

“Something we are proud of is that when you’re sitting in an outpatient or recovery management group, you don’t know who is court ordered or who is self-referred,” Cotten says. “We try to encourage a non-judgmental attitude so everybody feels welcome. We want to create community and connection.”

Since there is no one-size-fits-all approach to mental health counseling or addiction treatments, therapists at the facility develop individualized treatment plans. They assess a client, pair them with the counselor that best suits their needs, and build a treatment plan around those needs.

Though The Willow Center’s primary group of clients is involved with outpatient support services for substance use disorders, the facility also has counselors who work exclusively with those coming in with mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Since the start of the pandemic, they have seen an uptick in interest in mental health services.

“Many people are grieving the loss of loved ones, the loss of normalcy, the loss of routine and the loss of jobs,” Cotten says. “There’s a tremendous amount of hardship right now in the U.S. and in central Indiana. We want to do whatever we can to help meet those needs.”

Cotten has coined the term “ambient anxiety” to describe the fact that since mid-March, anxiety has almost become the air we breathe.

“The conversations we are having are tinged with anxiety and tension,” Cotten says. “We are all unilaterally experiencing chronic stress. As a result, it gets stored like trauma memory.”

That, in turn, can cause a host of health problems, including digestive issues, heart disease, isolation, and poor eating or exercise habits. According to Cotten, there was a 1,000% statewide increase in the number of calls to suicide hotlines from April through July.

“When an entire world is going through chronic stress, the result of that is not going to be a pretty one unless there’s some sort of both personal and communal intervention,” says Cotten, who recommends that people engage in mindfulness practices such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and prayer to try and calm the mind and body.

A brisk walk in the sunshine is also a good way to release endorphins that will serve to counteract stress hormones. Connecting with people is also crucial.

“I’ll admit that I have a love-hate relationship with Zoom at this point, but studies have come out saying that even face-to-face video calls is better than nothing,” Cotten says. “Taking 30-minute lunch breaks or eating dinner together virtually can do tremendous things for us.”

Cotten calls human connection the greatest tool we can give ourselves in preventing symptoms of mental illness.

“The opposite of addiction is connection,” he says. “That’s what counseling is – a professional connection.”

The Willow Center accepts all major insurance types, including Medicaid. For those who are not insured, they will occasionally offer a sliding-scale fee, depending on the situation. They will also work with clients individually, as well as those who are currently incarcerated or under legal supervision.

“There are options,” Cotten says. “Seeking mental health treatment is not as cost prohibitive as you may think it is. We are always accepting new clients. We will never turn anyone away.”

The Willow Treatment and Recovery Center is located at 515 North Green Street, Suite 402 in Brownsburg. For more information, call 317-852-3690 or visit thewillowcenter.com.

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