Addiction and its side effects don’t just disrupt lives – they disrupt brain function and the ability to plan and complete a task.
Deficiencies in executive functioning are quite common in recovering young men. Whether it’s an inability to get out of bed on time, pick up after oneself, or follow simple directions, addiction can take a toll on brain function. The result is a young man who may score highly on an IQ test, but lacks coping skills, is immature, and suffers from entitlement issues.
Executive Function is a higher cognitive process that involves communication and organization across multiple brain sites and pathways; it is the interconnecting virtual pathway that brings all aspects of brain functioning together. At Westport House, residents learn and practice the basic skills of responsible self-care and empowering mature decision-making. Over the course of a client’s stay, executive functioning is restored by forming new healthy habits and repeating them over time.
How We Help Improve Executive Function:
- Fundamental Self-care: Cooking and eating regular, nutritious meals, getting enough sleep and exercise, and maintaining personal hygiene.
- Time management and follow-through: Making and keeping a reasonable schedule, balancing competing responsibilities and desires, being accountable for completing tasks, and striving for goals.
- Mindfulness: Being aware of one’s own and others’ emotions and reactions to immediate situations. Slowing down and being in the moment.
- Community Living: Forming relationships, managing interpersonal conflicts, sharing responsibilities, caring for personal and communal spaces, respecting rules and boundaries, and practicing compassion.
- Exercise: Executive functioning reaches its peak levels in young adults, and yet it can be improved still further with aerobic exercise. Studies on young adults find that those who exercise regularly post quicker reaction times, give more accurate responses, and are more effective at detecting errors when they engage in fast-paced tasks.
- Moderation: Recognizing and overcoming tendencies to overindulge, even in non-addictive areas of life. Learning to self-motivate to overcome inertia and boredom.
- Budgeting: Managing money. Making considered choices about immediate financial needs and long-term goals. Learning strategies for defusing impulsive spending.
- Culinary: Cooking can be a daily chore, a social experience, or an entertaining leisure activity. Cooking can also be therapeutic. Dinner preparation is a life-skills exercise that provides clients the opportunity to gain practical experience with healthy food and to work side-by-side with professional chef Theresa Kapusta, or as we know her, Chef Theresa. Theresa focuses on proper cooking techniques, special dietary requirements, and an introduction to cuisines that clients may not have tried on their own. Clients learn about diet and nutrition and develop a healthy relationship with food.
- Resident Leadership: In order to promote a group dichotomy, we use a system of community leadership amongst the residents. The residents are either elected by their peers or volunteer for these positions. The purpose of these roles is to help the residents take responsibility not only for themselves, but for their housemates as well. These young men are living in the same environment and they will serve as a significant support system for one another throughout this process.