North Shore Community College (NSCC) and Recovery Centers of America at Danvers (RCA Danvers), an area alcohol and drug addiction treatment facility, teamed up this spring to offer occupational therapy assistant (OTA) students a unique clinical rotation in addiction.

Under the supervision of a licensed faculty member, OTA students planned and helped lead therapeutic groups for three hours per week over a ten-week period with different patients in the Women’s Unit at Recovery Centers of America/Danvers. RCA Danvers treat patients on an inpatient and outpatient basis who struggle with addictions to alcohol, heroin, cocaine, opioids and prescription drugs. The groups were focused on reengaging patients in healthier, more effective ways of living. Group topics included self-care, leisure pursuits, identifying community resources, communication skills, stress management techniques and coping skills. Sensory-based approaches were also incorporated such as the use of weighted blankets and stress balls.

Fieldwork Supervisor Elizabeth Fleming OT, OTR, said, “The groups were designed to promote feelings of enthusiasm for sober living. Each week patients explored how they could be successful in their individual recovery processes through meaningful group discussions and activities.”

Maureen Nardella, North Shore College’s Occupational Therapy Assistant Program Chair, says both the college and students were pleased with the new clinical rotation at RCA. “Our students really furthered their knowledge of what people with addiction are dealing with and the creative process needed to help engage patients in their recovery using occupational therapy.“

According to Nardella, occupational therapy practitioners help patients look at habits, routines and behaviors that occur each day, throughout the week and then show patients how much of their daily life activities revolve around drugs and alcohol. New “occupational” roles are then constructed by determining sober activities and healthy interests and environments that bring personal satisfaction and are conducive to the individual’s recovery. This is the process of Lifestyle Redesign that the occupational therapy supervisor and OTA students built their group programming around.

Laura Ames, CEO at Recovery Centers of America, said patients were also pleased with the joint program. It truly was a unique experience for RCA patients. Not only was it rewarding for them to learn life skills to assist in their recovery, but it was equally rewarding for the North Shore students to be exposed to substance use disorder treatment and the impact that it has on our patients.” 

All agreed that with the death rate from overdoses in Massachusetts far exceeding the national average - 2168 residents died because of their addictions in 2017 - teaming up to help those in recovery makes a lot of sense.

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