Q&A Featuring Sovereign Health of Palm Desert’s Helen Kienzle, Ph.D., Program Director, and Mary Berst, Ph.D., Associate Program Director
Especially during older adulthood, mental health conditions such as a substance use disorders, anxiety and depression can adversely affect a person’s physical health, functional capacity and overall quality of life. Researchers estimate that 1 in 4 older adults has a mental health condition, yet nearly two-thirds of these individuals do not receive the treatment services they need.
Middle-aged and older adult males are particularly vulnerable to substance use disorders and mental health conditions such as depression. Moreover, despite the high rates of mental health conditions among males over 40, men are more likely to downplay their symptoms, be reluctant to seek help and are less likely to seek and accept mental health care services for stressful life events, substance use disorders and depression.
Sovereign Health’s new Personal Recovery Integrating Men’s Experiences (P.R.I.M.E.) program is dedicated to treating mental illness, substance use disorders and co-occurring disorders facing men over the age of 40. Helen Kienzle, Ph.D., Program Director, and Mary Berst, Ph.D., Associate Program Director at Sovereign Health’s Palm Desert facility, developed the P.R.I.M.E. program to address the issues specific to men in their 40s, 50s and 60s.
We asked Dr. Kienzle and Dr. Berst to discuss some aspects of the new P.R.I.M.E. program and the unique issues faced by men over the age of 40.
Q: What are some of the special issues faced by men over 40, and how does the P.R.I.M.E. program address these issues in an age-appropriate manner?
Men over the age of 40 face emotional, psychological and physical issues that are different from any other age. Men are often faced with physical symptoms that hinder their mobility as well as result in feeling separated from the life they thought they would have in their retirement years. These psychological, emotional and physical problems include depression, anxiety and poor self-control, resulting in disconnect from family, peers and friends. P.R.I.M.E is specifically designed to focus on the developmental needs of men over 40 as well as the psychological symptoms they face.
Q: How will the P.R.I.M.E. program account for men’s reluctance to seek and receive treatment, admit they have a problem and address their issues in therapy?
As the P.R.I.M.E. program considers the development stages of a man’s life, all groups and individual therapy sessions focus on eliminating the stigma associated with the stereotypes associated with addiction and mental health treatment. Each P.R.I.M.E. treatment team member is hand-selected for working with this population and can relate to the specific issues these men are facing. By relating to the population, the P.R.I.M.E. team, breaks down the stigma and eliminates the stereotyping that has occurred throughout each client’s life.
Q: What are your top three priorities for the P.R.I.M.E. program this year?
To provide mature men with a safe environment where they can focus on their addiction and embrace their recovery, a professional environment that provides them with tools to manage their mental health needs; P.R.I.M.E. is designed with a creative “outside-the box” thinking to help men identify the stage in their life where they feel most challenged and overcome barriers to treatment.
Q: What are some of the evidence-based treatments and nonpharmacological interventions utilized in the P.R.I.M.E. program?
P.R.I.M.E. utilizes evidenced-based therapies including DBT, reality therapy, solution-focused therapy, REBT (rational emotive behavior therapy) and CBT. These interventions will address skill deficiencies and aid men in identifying cognitive impairments, promoting psychological healing and increasing social support. In terms of nonpharmacological interventions, P.R.I.M.E. men will also have the option of selecting from various recovery models, including SMART recovery, 12 steps and Celebrate Recovery.
Q: What future do you envision for your patients and what message would you like to convey to males over 40 who need treatment?
Our goal is to provide men with the resources necessary to help them realize that this is not the end, but a new recovered beginning. The message to men is that recovery happens at any stage of life.
Program Director, Palm Desert
Helen Kienzle, Ph.D., is Program Director of the dual diagnosis and mental health programs at the Sovereign Health facility in Palm Desert, California. Dr. Kienzle received her master’s degree and her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the School for Professional Psychology at Alliant University in Los Angeles, California. Her experience includes clinical internships at the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health and the Behavioral Health Center at Alhambra Hospital. In her career, she also completed a doctoral thesis on the social support needs of women diagnosed with breast cancer. Following the completion of her doctoral work, Dr. Kienzle focuses on providing individual therapy to patients and families, psychiatric crisis intervention and resolution, including the development and implementation of group therapy program curricula.
Associate Program Director, Palm Desert
Mary Berst, Ph.D., is the Associate Program Director of the dual diagnosis and mental health programs at Sovereign Health’s facility in Palm Desert, California. Dr. Berst earned her Ph.D. in psychology from the School for Professional Psychology at Northcentral University in Arizona. Dr. Berst completed a clinical internship at Morongo Basin Counseling and Recovery Center in Yucca Valley, California, and her doctoral thesis focused on treating PTSD using the Community Resiliency Model. While studying for her licensing exam, Dr. Berst continues to focus on providing individual therapy to patients and families, psychiatric crisis intervention and resolution, and the development and implementation of group therapy program curricula. Dr. Berst has lived in the Coachella Valley since 1991 with her husband, where she enjoys spending time with her family, church community and her dog, Mason.