Project Courage: A Substance Abuse Recovery Center

Project Courage’s goal is to effect change in their clients and in the substance abuse treatment field. Not everyone benefits from the standard procedures and treatment methods for substance abuse recovery, and this can deter clients from continuing treatment. At our treatment center, we believe that mental health professionals should constantly evaluate themselves and the traditional practices in the field in order to discover and utilize the best treatment techniques possible.


We use a treatment model that we believe truly works for young adults, and we avoid treatments that we believe show little success. Our focus is on evidence-based models that will help our clients reach recovery goals.


As brain imaging technologies become more and more advanced, new research shows that substance abuse disorders and mental health conditions are physiological issues more than psychological issues. While many people may believe “it’s all in your head,” there is plenty of evidence that substance abuse and mental health disorders are caused by physical, measurable changes in the brain.

To provide effective assessment and treatment, mental health providers must understand the role of brain development and functioning in substance abuse disorders. Furthermore, providers should know how environment can affect the manifestation of substance abuse disorders or other mental health issues in the brain. Therefore, Project Courage takes a brain-in-environment, or BIE, approach to treatment.This perspective may change how clients and their families view substance abuse disorders. Rather than viewing their struggle as a psychological issue that causes weakness, clients can see it as a biological issue that developed so they could function in their environment.

The BIE perspective also changes the treatment itself. We focus on treatment interventions that create a physical change in the brain. Although talking through struggles can be helpful, the brain benefits much more from actually doing something instead of just speaking. With this information in mind, we utilize experiential, physical interventions that engage the brain. For example, we use meditation techniques because they activate the frontal lobe, which is underdeveloped during adolescence. We also focus on treatment strategies that involve emotional regulation, which works with the limbic system, a region of the brain that tends to be very dominant during adolescence.

Change Theory

Our other major treatment perspective is Change Theory. According to Change Theory, everyone makes progress in clear, defined stages. To provide the proper treatment interventions, it’s essential for mental health providers to be able to identify which stage of change a client is in.

While other treatment models try to force clients to conform to their own vision for change, our approach allows care providers to meet clients at their current level of change. Some clients may begin treatment with an awareness of the need for change, and others may be far from acknowledging their need for change. Wherever the clients are, we can identify their stage of change and work with them from there.

Family Focus

Educating and supporting families is an important step in the treatment process. Project Courage uses family-based interventions, including parental coaching, educational sessions, and family therapy, to help families of people receiving treatment. We can assess families and help them decide on the level of intensity of their family work.

Thorough Assessment

Assessment is a critical part of the treatment process. However, it can be tedious and time-consuming for the client and the clinician. Therefore, we use a creative approach to make a comprehensive assessment with less administration time. In addition to the traditional assessment topics, we can also assess the client’s brain, development, readiness to change, family, and client’s strengths, all of which help us create a treatment plan.


Project Courage understands that there are significant differences between adolescents, young adults, and adults with substance abuse disorders or mental illnesses. These differences often require separate treatment interventions.

In our treatment plans, we utilize developmental theory. Individuals can develop when their biological and genetic make-up complements their environment. Physical, cognitive, emotional, social, moral, and spiritual growth only happens when individuals are in the correct environment. Situations like stress or trauma create a challenging environment for development and can cause the individual distress or confusion.

Adolescents and Young Adults

New discoveries from brain imaging and brain scans suggest that the physical development of the brain during adolescence can have a serious impact on substance abuse tendencies or mental health issues. The way we think and feel is often affected by development in the more primal regions of the brain.

During treatment, we focus on obstacles that are appropriate for different age ranges. With adolescents and young adults, developing leisure skills and forming healthy relationships is important.

We also address developmental needs that conflict with traditional recovery principles. For example, many treatment modalities for recovery require clients to admit powerlessness. However, independence is an important developmental milestone for adolescents. This discrepancy can be conflicting for young adults in treatment, but we acknowledge this issue with care and attention.

The Therapeutic alliance is essential for successful treatment for all ages, but it’s especially important for adolescents and young adults. For this age group, it is important that a rapport is developed, otherwise, progress and retention rates can be effected. We focus on creating a welcoming and encouraging community for our clients, which helps them cultivate a therapeutic alliance with their clinicians.

Multidisciplinary Staff

Our staff is made up of substance abuse specialists who know the best treatment methods for working with families and distinct age groups. Our diverse team of professionals provide a range of disciplines including psychiatry, substance abuse counseling, family therapy, peer advocation, and clinical social work.

Project Courage also emphasizes staff self-care. For clinicians to provide effective treatment, they must be in a state of wellbeing themselves. Our staff members have much smaller caseloads than the industry norm, which allows them to give plenty of time and attention to each client.

Our Modalities

Project Courage has a “less is more” philosophy. We would rather take more time and care with fewer treatment modalities than overload our clients with different treatments. Our three major modalities are acceptance and commitment therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and twelve step facilitation.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

The goal of acceptance and commitment therapy, or ACT, is to accept that struggles or problems will always be a part of life. Instead of trying to control or avoid a problem, clients work on living a fulfilling and valued life despite their struggles. This treatment modality fits within the Twelve Step philosophy, so it works well with clients who are engaged in the Twelve Steps.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a highly effective therapy for many mental health issues. This therapy helps clients identify negative or self-defeating thoughts and behaviors. Over time, clients gain the skills necessary to replace those negative thoughts with positive and productive thoughts and actions. This empowers clients to take responsibility for their struggles and gives them the tools to continue with their recovery journey even after treatment has ended.

Twelve Step Facilitation

Twelve Step facilitation encourages clients to become involved with a Twelve Step group program. The Twelve Step Program is very popular and reaches a wide audience. It can be effective, but it can also create obstacles for some demographics, especially adolescents. With Twelve Step facilitation, clinicians focus on these obstacles and help the clients determine how to overcome them. This allows the client to continue with the Twelve Step program and gain the full benefits.