The Washington Post tells us that the coronavirus pandemic is pushing America into a mental health crisis. Anxiety and depression are on the rise, and with the increase of mental health concerns comes a spike in substance abuse and relapse rates. There is an old saying that relapse can be a part of recovery, and it is also part of the landscape of working with those who have the disease of addiction. At Bridging the Gaps we are seeing clients relapse at a rate we have not experienced in 20 years of offering substance abuse treatment.
The current environment and added stress of the pandemic are certainly contributing factors in the risk of relapse but it’s not the only factor. The way that we provide treatment has also been drastically changed. We are offering our core therapeutic services via telehealth including psychoeducation, group therapy, individual therapy, living skills, creative expressions, experiential learning, and consultations with the doctor. A recent client survey revealed that clients feel like their therapeutic progress is still on track despite initial challenges with engagement on the telehealth platform.
If therapeutic groups and individual sessions utilizing evidence-based practices were all that it took for clients to maintain abstinence, then the current rate of relapse would not be as high as it is. What we know at Bridging the Gaps is that individuals in early recovery benefit from an integrative approach. Our philosophy is to support the client through multiple therapeutic modalities so that our clients can truly heal – mind, body, and spirit. Our program is about so much more than attending group sessions which is why our rates of relapse have historically been low.
We know that good nutrition and proper nutritional supplementation helps to rebalance neurochemistry providing clients an extra edge to combat cravings. Our program prohibits sugar and caffeine, for example, which allows the client’s mood to stabilize and creates a physical environment – in the body – for the client to be receptive to the therapeutic work. Good luck telling someone at home, cooped up and isolated, to not eat any junk food and to replace sugary snacks with high quality protein sources when they are already battling cravings for alcohol and drugs. It is an uphill battle to educate clients on nutritional changes, but without the nutritional support we know our clients are starting off at a disadvantage.
We also provide an array of other supportive services in our traditional program that cannot be safely conducted within the current parameters of social distancing. For example, while nutrition helps to rebalance the brain’s neurochemistry, Neurofeedback helps to rebalance the brainwaves. We cannot, at this moment, conduct the twice weekly Neuro sessions that would support a client’s healing. Not only are our clients missing out on the supportive therapies we utilize, they are also missing out on a sense of community. Whether it is their community of peers here at Bridging the Gaps or their 12 step community, the clients are not receiving that love and support in person. They don’t get to cuddle with Rodie, our therapy dog in training, when they are having a tough day or grab a counselor to chat in the halls between groups.
As long as we are in this strange environment of the pandemic, our program cannot be as robust as we are used to, and it impacts the clients. Some of this is out of our control but we have our eye firmly fixed on the steps that we can take to safely begin incorporating changes as the country begins to open back up. We are making plans on how to safely start our residential program back up. We are making plans for how to bring our clients back into the community. We are making plans to ensure that we put all of our modalities back into the schedule as soon as it is safe to do so.
We know that our clients are better off in this environment receiving the care that they are through telehealth then if they were facing their struggles alone. We are walking through the stress with them and providing support. We are there, as a clinical team, to help pick up the pieces when a client relapses. Across the boards we are proud of the work our clinical team has continued to do with our clients in this very challenging environment, and we are so grateful that we can continue to provide high-quality services. We are also hopeful as we make plans for the future knowing that with our full range of services we can truly get to the roots of addiction and lower the rate of relapse once again.
If you or a loved one needs substance abuse treatment, please reach out to our Admissions Director at 540-535-1111. Please ask about the services we are offering in this rapidly changing environment.