A commitment to recovery in the time of COVID-19 means maintaining your group therapy and connection through virtual platforms. And the usual hustle and bustle of the in-person Sanford Outpatient Center has been subdued during the past three months. As we are all adjusting to the protocols and safety regulations, substance use disorders (SUD) continue to develop. And the available treatment of SUDs is even more important at this stressful time.
Commitment to Recovery & Redefining Outpatient Treatment …
The Sanford Outpatient Center has become a hub for all manner of virtual addiction treatment. And it offers the same evidence-based practices that our in-person programs provide, but in the comfort and safety of home. During the coronavirus pandemic, we are all redefining what “outpatient” means. With the increase in telehealth and online recovery community connection, outpatient can often be a couch, a laptop and a phone.
The subject of our interview, Judith Snow, MA, LLP, CAADC, is new to Sanford Addiction Treatment Centers, but has been in outpatient private practice for 24 years, and a longtime referral partner to Sanford. She arrived as the Clinical Manager, Sanford Outpatient Center, and a month later we were facing physical distancing and stay-at-home orders. The true test of her professionalism was her ability to establish and/or maintain the excellent programming at the center. She also rolled with the punches, incorporating the new normal of virtual connection to clients and therapists.
Recovery is a big commitment. And the pathway to recovery is lifelong. In the early stages you have to tip the scales – make it your life – tip it the other way from drugs and alcohol … Judith Snow, MA, LLP, CAADC
The Limelight Interview: Judith Snow, MA, LLP, CAADC, Clinical Manager, Sanford Outpatient Center
1. Let’s start with the times we are living in. Do you see a fit for virtual treatment long-term?
Yes. Virtual treatment is certainly safer for the near future with the pandemic. And long-term, it really opens up our ability to treat those in other states or those in parts of Michigan without appropriate options for treatment. Also, it allows us to maintain connection to clients who do not live in the Grand Rapids area.
2. What is your primary focus? How do you personalize your work?
Connection with the client. Trust, care, cultivating a relationship. I think people, clients must feel that you are yourself. They have to feel, I’m on your team and you can do this.
3. What is your treatment philosophy – those things you know to be true about addiction therapy?
As Carl Rogers said, you have to provide unconditional positive regard for your client. And earn the right to address their issues.
4. Why did you become a therapist? You seem well suited for it.
I grew up in a family of people in the service of others. My mother was a social worker for Grand Rapids Public Schools and my father was a Circuit Court Judge.
Was there pressure at home to go into this line of work?
Not at all. I just fell into it naturally.
5. What is the key to successful outcomes in recovery?
There are a few keys to success. Commitment to recovery. You must stay the course, draw on support, talk about it. The pathway to recovery is lifelong. In early recovery you have to tip the scales – make it your life – tip the other way from drugs and alcohol. Everyone wants things to be easy and fast, but recovery is a process not an event.
6. Speaking of commitment, what are the biggest pitfalls to recovery?
Sometimes it’s dual diagnosis. Or denial – when someone leaves a little room open to use. One might be able to acknowledge their drug/alcohol disorder but it is a process to internalize acceptance of it. And awareness of post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) is important. Because recovery is challenging early on, one might think, “If this is sobriety, I don’t want it!” So it’s important to give it enough time to experience the rewards that recovery brings.
7. How do you see COVID-19 and virtual treatment impacting adherence to recovery?
Most of our clients are accepting of virtual treatment. They miss in-person connection, but are grateful for the venue. During our daily check-ins, I continue to ask about cravings, successes, and challenges. But I also ask our clients to share how they are faring with the COVID-19 stressors. And I always say that our clients have been trained to cope with these difficult times. After all, they have learned to live “one day at a time”, and that is a good method of managing the uncertainty.
8. What is the “fun” part of your job?
I am fortunate to meet wonderful people and become a part of their lives.
9. And the most challenging part?
When someone is stuck at a point in their therapy – and it happens – sometimes for a long time. Maybe they are in an unhealthy relationship and they feel guilty or overly stressed. Or they are getting intermittent reinforcement – one time a loved one reacts with violence or other abusive behavior, the next day its flowers or a candle-lit dinner and it keeps them off balance.
10. Do you read for pleasure?
(Smiles) I l love my work and psychology – so I mostly read things that pertain to the profession. Or biographies – I like to read about people who have been through painful journeys and come out better for it.
11. What is your favorite journey?
Living life is a pretty great journey. But my heart is in Mexico
12. Your most marked characteristics?
I asked a couple friends what they would say about me and they said I was a good listener and that I had a good sense of humor. So, let’s go with that.
13. What’s your motto?
Treat others the way you want to be treated.
Words to live by. Thanks Judith.