COVID-19 adds extra hurdles for those being treated for addiction
While most Americans are struggling to grasp the changes COVID-19 has had on their daily lives, Allison Sehleig, a clinical supervisor at Colonial House, said it's an even bigger challenge for those in recovery.
"It's just not the same — connecting is a big deal in recovery," Sehleig said. "They're definitely missing being able to get out of their surroundings, meeting new people and building support."
At Colonial House, an addiction rehabilitation facility in West Manchester Township, two of the biggest policy changes in recent weeks embrace social distancing by restricting family visitation and moving all group therapy sessions to an online video format.
"We ask them to rely on each other. This is something nobody has been through before," said Chrissi Morrisson, the director of operations. "It's about teaching them how to get through these unexpected life situations, just like we teach them the tools back into society as a whole."
Sehleig, who oversees clinical services and counselors who provide support to the facility's inpatient clients, said the hardest challenge facing patients is maintaining hope and motivation.
With limited resources and the lack of outside networks to uplift and encourage those struggling, time for watching television has increased and an emphasis has been placed on individual in-person therapy sessions, Morrisson said.
"The biggest thing is them not being able to see their families and not being able to provide opportunities for them to network in person, like going to meetings," Morrisson said. "We've tried to keep everything as normal as it can be."
Outdoor activities such as volleyball still take place at the facility, as well as an emphasis on letter writing and connecting with pen pals, two activities Morrisson said have increased since the coronavirus outbreak.
Colonial House, located at 1300 Woodberry Road in West Manchester Township, offers a 90-day inpatient treatment program. The facility also has outpatient services for clients seeking counseling.
"We're willing to help," Sehleig said. "If anyone needs the help, we have beds available."
While Colonial House is continuing limited social interactions with individual counseling, York City treatment facility New Insights II downsized its larger group sessions for recovering patients into average groups of five with appropriate social distancing measures.
"We do our best with all the social distancing," said Sherry Knouse, program director of operations for New Insights II. "If anybody even presents having any cold, cough or sneeze, we do ask them to go home, because we don't know, we're not physicians."
With mandatory temperature checks in place for anybody who walks into New Insights II, located at 517 Carlisle Ave., Knouse said counselors are trying to encourage recovering clients to cope during the COVID-19 pandemic by practicing creative habits such as reading, journaling, meditating and staying in touch with support systems.
While each counselor is trained to handle a number of clients, Knouse said to handle this pandemic therapists are prioritizing therapy methods such as cognitive behavior therapy and motivational interviewing, two tactics that can boost morale, promote self-empowerment and encourage healthy coping skills.
New Insights II is accepting new patients daily in several outpatient programs, Knouse said.
"Our doors are open," Knouse said. "We're there, and I'm hoping that we continue to communicate that we're here."
— Reach Tina Locurto at email@example.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.