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Blue Heron Recovery: Finding Serenity at Nature’s Embrace

Christina Varela Mayer | PhD | Chief Executive Officer | Blue Heron Recovery
Christina Varela Mayer | PhD | Chief Executive Officer | Blue Heron Recovery

Founded by Christina Varela Mayer and her husband, Blue Heron Recovery is a ray of hope for those navigating early recovery from addiction. Recognizing the challenges of transitioning from inpatient care to outpatient programs, Christina was determined to bridge this gap. Drawing inspiration from the serene setting of residential treatment, she envisioned an outpatient environment that mirrored its magic, but closer to home.

Their vision materialized on an expansive 18-acre wooded property in San Antonio, Texas. Here, clients find solace amidst nature’s embrace, fostering a sense of community and support. With a focus on evidence-based therapies led by experienced providers, Blue Heron offers a comprehensive range of services, including partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient programs, and outpatient therapy.

Christina’s expertise in various therapeutic modalities ensures clients receive tailored, effective care. The center’s unique approach combines the best of both worlds – the tranquility of residential settings and the comfort of home. With dedicated medical and psychiatric support on-site, Blue Heron Recovery stands as a testament to their relentless commitment to empowering individuals on their journey to sobriety.

Insights Care recently had an insightful conversation with Christina, delving into her professional journey in recovery and exploring how her dedicated team at Blue Heron is making profound positive changes in people’s lives.

Highlighted below are key excerpts from the interview:

Please introduce yourself and share a few significant details about your professional journey in the rehabilitation industry.

Professionally, I must say that this is the most inspiring group of clients with whom I have ever had the pleasure to work. The beginning of my engagement with mental health was focused on trauma and violence. Having had some opportunity to work with gang members, abused children, military service members and families, it seemed the underlying issues with which we all grapple are shared: anxiety, depression, attachment, stress, shame, loss, and guilt to name a few. I came to the alcohol and drug addiction community by chance when I accepted a part time position as a group therapist at an inpatient residential treatment facility nearly 20 miles away from my home. There, I grew to love the world of recovery and the people who fight relentlessly to overcome addiction. I was inspired by my clients and quickly gained a great deal of respect and admiration for those who are willing to engage in treatment. Additionally, the inpatient aspect of treatment seemed to be key. The environment was not only safe, but incredibly therapeutic. The land, the trees, the sky, the natural elements were so soothing and comforting, removed from the hassles of clients’ everyday lives. There, the inpatient residential clients became substance free and after a month or so were ready to take back their lives. Or so it seemed.

Brief our readers about Blue Heron Recovery highlighting its mission and approach to rehabilitation.

According to native lore, the majestic blue heron represents self-determination, evolution of spirit, and independence. We believe this to be the perfect description of recovery. Hence, our company name. Fittingly, blue herons’ nest along the banks of the creek here on property. It’s positively magical.

We strive to bring a community of recovery to the city of San Antonio and surrounding areas which includes a professional outpatient treatment program, flexible to fit your life, with the highest quality resources within a serene, tranquil setting.

As one of the most trusted rehabilitation centers, what unique services are offered at Blue Heron Recovery?

We provide services that are not found at other outpatient centers, such as our strong commitment to medical and psychiatric services with our dedicated physician and psychiatric practitioners on-site, our commitment to evidence-based therapeutic services, and our open-door policy for past and current clients. We are continuously updating the curriculum to remain current and offer the most effective addiction medicine treatment modalities.

Another unique opportunity is that our Blue Heron clients, current and graduated, are always welcome to return for a visit. We encourage everyone to stop in for coffee, experiential groups, a game of pool, or to just sit out on the expansive deck and relax by the creek. Our home is your home. Always.

How does Blue Heron Recovery ensure a personalized and effective rehabilitation experience for each individual?

The phrase “body, mind, and spirit” is ubiquitous in our industry. How do we attend to each of these concepts in ways other than curriculum?  At Blue Heron Recovery, these words hold meaning and concrete descriptions that align with specific treatment plans in three different professional arenas: Body is Medical, Mind is Psychiatric, and Spirit is therapeutic. Our method of attending each facet differentiates us from the expected, and at no additional cost to our clients.

Body: our Board-Certified Medical Director leads a medical class each week and is physically present to engage with all the clients. Mind: our certified Psychiatric Practitioner is available each week and has individual scheduled appointments with our clients. Spirit: our licensed counsellors lead groups and offer individual therapy sessions each week. All services are included in the treatment at no additional cost and allow for detailed personalization. This is our approach to “Body, Mind, and Spirit,” more than just words on a page.

Could you share some insights into the range of programs and treatments offered at Blue Heron Recovery to address various types of addiction?

Addictive behaviors are complex and often found with co-occurring disorders. Our program specifically addresses depression, anxiety, trauma, attachment, stress, and other ingredients associated with compulsive thoughts and behaviors. Our staff is well trained in Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Brief Solution Focused Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Motivational Interviewing Techniques and more.

How does Blue Heron Recovery incorporate innovative approaches to enhance its rehabilitation programs?

Our goal at Blue Heron Recovery is to make sure that not only are you getting the treatment you need, but also gaining insight to how the treatment process works and why. This way, you’re not tethered to a therapist for the rest of your life. You are learning the processes and able to develop them on your own for a lifetime.

Our approach is deliberate: We have a day dedicated to each therapeutic modality. On Mondays, for example, we focus on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Our first one-hour segment is a CBT experiential group led by a practitioner in the yoga studio. The second one-hour segment is a CBT education class led by a second instructor in a window-lined classroom overlooking the creek. The third one-hour segment is taught by a third therapist just across the courtyard in a quiet sanctuary space where clients are engaged in CBT focused deep process therapy. In three hours, you will have attended three separate groups in three separate spaces with three separate instructors.

How do you see the future of Blue Heron Recovery in 2023 and beyond?

We believe it is possible to normalize sobriety. We believe you should be able to enjoy a party without feeling like the “odd one out” who isn’t holding a cocktail. We believe we can show our kids that we don’t need alcohol and substances to have a good time. We believe these things because we’re doing them.

In 2023 and beyond, we want to grow this environment that normalizes sobriety and is attuned to the needs of families. For individuals and families who are in our program and those who graduate from our program, these hallowed grounds become home. At Blue Heron Recovery, you and your family are welcome to come back and enjoy all the fun and excitement our community has to offer.

What would be your advice to young enthusiasts who want to contribute to the rehabilitation industry?

Ask questions. Volunteer to share your own skills: art, music, cooking.  A well-rounded treatment center will offer experiential classes to encourage activity and interests for the clients.  As a volunteer, you can watch how the day progresses, how crises are managed, how counsellors engage in genuine client-centered approaches as they attend to their caseload.

Recovery is a dynamic process that can be both challenging and rewarding in a single day. If you become involved in the world of treatment, in the pursuit of supporting others, you must remember to take time for your own self-care too!

A True Sanctuary for Recovery

“Are you looking to get better and have tried other places and no results then THIS IS THE PLACE. The staff and counsellors ACTUALLY care about YOU. This is a 1 stop shop to recover. If they cannot help, they WILL refer you to someone else. I LOVE everyone there. The campus is beautiful and alcohol and drug free. These people really care. Everything that you need is here, counselling/therapy, meditation, yoga, group therapy, PHP, IOP, doc to get your meds right…. they have it ALL. I have trauma issues and with their programming and referral I FEEL this was a blessing. If you’re unsure just please give these guys a chance, you WON’T regret it. Be safe and take the step to reach out to them.”

– Steve D. 2023



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