Staff Spotlight
Kenny Silver Shares His Recovery Story & Insight

Kenny Silver, Immersion’s Executive Director, joined the Guardian Recovery Network team approximately four years ago, working his way from Immersion’s Associate Program Director, to Program Director, to Executive Director. He now leads Immersion’s team of clinicians, medical staff, 12-Step contacts, case managers and behavioral health support staff in treating clients during every phase of their treatment — medical detox, residential inpatient, partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient. Kenny has more than ten years of sobriety and a deep passion for helping others find recovery. We sat down with Kenny to learn more about him personally, his recovery journey and how Immersion’s unique treatment approach is helping change lives.

Q & A With Kenny Silver

Please tell us about your recovery journey and how you ended up at Immersion?

I got sober in 2010. My sister had gone to a few higher end, “heavy-hitting” treatment centers. In the midst of that, we did a decent amount of family work where we did several family therapy sessions and workshops. I was a young guy at that time. A couple years later, I got sober. But that was my first glimpse of recovery — when my sister went to treatment.

Kenny Silver, Immersion's Executive Director

I then got in some legal trouble and I was court-ordered to treatment, but at that point I wasn’t able to go to treatment the way our clients are able to go. I went to a state-funded facility to medically stabilize and I joined their outpatient program. I’m a big believer in the theory of synchronicity — how certain events happening in a synchronized timeline, leading toward unexpected results, can’t be attributed to coincidence. I ended up getting sober. Almost by mistake.

I got sober, and in 2010 I got an opportunity to start some recovery houses for young men who were also getting sober. I met a guy in the recovery community who had about 30 years sober at the time and offered to help put up the money for us to open the houses initially, and in the next year and a half we went from four to 80 beds. We had a pretty strong, unique fellowship based around 12-Step recovery for men in early recovery. This was when I met Isaiah (current Board Member and Guardian IOP’s first Director of Operations). Isaiah would refer IOP clients to me for structured living. They would live with me in my community, and then they would come to Guardian for IOP.

I was really interested to see what clinical treatment was like when considering a proactive approach, rather than an approach centered simply around separation from drugs or alcohol.

I talk to the staff here at Immersion about this a lot — what, as a treatment team, are we proactively doing to treat clients rather than hoping to yield results from nothing but abstinence. If the treatment style is not proactive — if clients are not living and being tasked to take on an action-based recovery plan — then they normally never go through the “growing pains” necessary for change. Separation from the substances is just not enough. It’s required of course to be medically cleared and stabilized in order to engage in the clinically, spiritually and medically driven objectives required to change; but separation in and of itself is not going to cut it.

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I became more and more interested in therapy and treatment in the early years of my professional experience. I spent a lot of time around clinical social workers who intervened on clients in the true sense of the word and created uncomfortable opportunities to grow between clients and their destructive decision making. I gained experience with that on an outpatient level and then I went through a period of time where I was helping people to open behavioral healthcare centers. Isaiah hired me about four years ago to help open Guardian’s new detox centers in Florida, New Jersey and Maine — to go through zoning requirements, initial staffing patterns, and to help create a uniformed philosophy across all GRN facilities — but I was doing it from a very sidelined point of view until again, after another series of events, which can’t be contributed to coincidence, Isaiah asked me to come join the Immersion Recovery Center team.

At that time I was eight years into sobriety. I hadn’t worked directly with clients for awhile and I got super rejuvenated and super excited to do this type of work. I met guys like Tommy McGee, the Clinical Director at Immersion who has 20 years as a licensed mental health counselor. I met guys like Aaron Shepard, Director of The Plymouth House, and Isaiah who were all implementing the 12-Step recovery program in a treatment experience in a way I had never seen before.

I got to know these guys and there was something really, really special about what they were doing. I saw people doing well here. I loved everything about it. It was perfect for me.

I became the Associate Program Director and then I became the Program Director. I became the Executive Director of the full Florida continuum, and it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime.

I’m also a dad. I have a 7-year-old son. We live here locally in Delray. I love the fellowship of recovery in Delray. I don’t care what you saw on NBC — you can do really well in sobriety in Delray Beach, Florida. I’ve witnessed miracle after miracle, right here in front of my eyes. It is absolutely phenomenal. I have ten years sober. My sister has ten years sober. My mother is an active member of al-anon. We are all real people and a true family in recovery.

And I love treatment. I’m not one to say just go do the 12 Steps and don’t do therapy. And I’m not one to say just do therapy, don’t do the 12 Steps. I can really get behind what it is we do at Immersion — matching the 12-Step process with sophisticated clinical care.

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What makes Immersion stand out from other treatment centers?

I think what makes us stand out from other centers is that we have a true linear plan. We can actually tell clients what the plan is for our continuum of care — and the plan is to enable change. We think that if you can change enough, in your perspective and attitudes, then a full recovery from drug and alcohol addiction is a very real thing. We don’t believe in the idea that you have to be on the struggling end of a battle with this illness. We think that you can be a recovered individual.

You’ve got to follow the plan though. Obviously we are a program deeply rooted in the 12 Steps. The 12 Steps really work. And they create a very linear experience at Immersion. What the 12-Steps help us do is create a timeline of events that helps our clients know what’s coming next. They eliminate the groundhog day feeling that a lot of time people experience in other treatment centers. We’ve got clinically-driven initiatives, which tend to resemble the overall principles of each of the 12 Steps. The ultimate goal is that you change. Clients can change here.

Essentially what we mean when we say change is pretty simply put: while sober you no longer get blinded by what the first drink, drug, or bad decision is going to do for you, you can clearly see what it is going to do to you. And you can also say to yourself, ‘You know what, not today. I’ve become a different person.’ This is what we mean when we say the overall hope at Immersion is a spiritual experience. We are definitely a come-as-you-are party; come just the way you are, as long as you aren’t hoping to leave the way you came.

Immersion is special in that it takes the 12-Step philosophy and combines it with sophisticated medical, clinical oversight.

Each client is given a primary therapist and a 12-Step contact in addition to a medical provider, which is either a psychiatrist or a psychiatric nurse practitioner, and a case manager. Those are your four departments. Then there’s the large group of support staff. The support staff are incredibly vital to the clients experience as they move through their treatment plan. So the client is supported — really, really supported.

What we have found is that there are people who do great in the 12-Steps but they never touch the co-occurring disorders we see so prevalent now in addiction and alcoholism.

Imagine having a great 12-Step experience but also having a licensed mental health counselor or clinical social worker treating your mental health symptoms all at the same time. That’s what makes Immersion so unique.

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Can you elaborate on the continuum of care at Immersion?

Phase one is very much geared toward stabilization and is assessment driven. It’s very informative and educational. It’s intent is to build motivation and resolve to change. But you don’t do much changing yet. You might draw certain conclusions and move closer toward surrender, which often times feels like change but it’s often disguised and misunderstood. I always tell clients who are in phase one — and their clinicians — that we don’t want a client to leave educated, we want a client to leave changed. And those are two completely different things. There will be clients that will say to the staff ‘Thank you so much for the information, but I’ve got it from here.’ No, we don’t think you do. You don’t have it at all from here. Because you are actually leaving the same person as you were when you arrived — just the same person who knows a little bit more. But you’re not actually leaving any different. Phase One is like surgery prep. We arrive, we get assessed & diagnosed, a treatment plan is provided, and we need to help a client and their family to commit to that plan regardless of their discomfort.

Phase two is a much more in-depth, clinically demanding, surgical type experience where we begin to uncover certain things like trauma, deep unresolved resentment, core beliefs which prevent sobriety, etc. In phase one you might have become trauma and resentment informed, but in phase two, we begin to uncover the way the trauma and resentment is affecting your relationships. Phase two is much more clinically and spiritually demanding. We can expect more from a client, they have already committed to the process and are far more stable then they were in phase one.

Phase three of course is great because you get to see how you do now that you’ve had surgery. Phase three is like physical therapy. I always tell people don’t go get braces and not wear your retainer. In phase three you take all that you learned in phase one, all that you’ve garnished in phase two, and you put it into practical application in your life. This is when you begin to go to work again, when you begin to go back to your family, when you begin to build relationships in sobriety and repair damage caused in the past, when you get your first boyfriend or girlfriend. When you do all this stuff, you’re gonna see how well your surgery is holding up.

Our treatment is hard. It’s not a summer camp. But it’s liberating.

They don’t call it growing pains for no reason. It’s an eye-opening and spiritually-freeing experience, but it might hurt a little bit. The pain is worth it! Our clients already know pain. So do their families. They already know what it feels like to hurt. What they don’t know is how to convert that pain to a touchstone of real growth. And they probably won’t be able to do that without help. Our program produces real change.

How have you seen Immersion mature?

What we are getting better at every day at Immersion is the sophistication of individualized cases. We don’t need to be a one-trick pony. We’re growing in maturity where we can take the 75-year-old retired attorney, and we can treat that individual as well as his family, and we can also take the 21-year-old, failure-to-launch issue who got into college by the skin of his teeth and failed out.We can provide unique treatment plans for anyone. Being able to use this clinical philosophy and match it to different experiences is amazing. Whether you’re 75-years-old and an attorney, or a 21-year-old kid who can’t make it through his first year of college, we can treat you. Proactively! So I think that’s what really energizes me on a regular basis. It’s a very personal approach.

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    If you or someone you love has been struggling with an addiction, there is hope. Immersion is a unique treatment program that combines an immersive 12-Step experience with intense therapy work. Clients work with an individual therapist, a 12-Step mentor, case manager and support staff to learn the essential tools to create a fulfilling life in recovery. Clients don’t just get sober at Immersion. They transform themselves, their relationships and lives.

    For more information about Immersion’s treatment programs, please contact us today. Our Treatment Advisors are empathetic individuals passionate about helping you or your loved one get on the road to recovery. We offer a free, no obligation insurance benefit check addiction assessment to help you determine if Immersion is a good fit for you. Recovery is possible at Immersion Recovery Center.

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