Judith Snow is the Clinical Manager at the Sanford Outpatient Center, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. And during a time when most of the news is negative about the rise of addiction, relapse, and overdoses during the pandemic, she is a breath of fresh air. As a proponent of Carl Rogers, Judith contends, “You have to provide unconditional positive regard for your client.” And she has practiced what she preaches during 2020. She is instrumental in managing myriad telehealth programs at Sanford, and redefining what “outpatient” means in these uncertain times.
In general, people are ill-equipped to deal with the stress of 2020. But the good news, is that those in recovery have developed coping strategies like grounding techniques, delayed gratification, mindfulness, and living one day at a time… There is nothing that puts life in perspective quite like addiction. And it is so broadening if you let recovery inform your life.
Judith Snow, MA, LLP, CAADC
The Good News Benefits of Telehealth
Similarly, in their document Supporting Access to Telehealth for Addiction Services, the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) provides positive guidance to addiction treatment clinicians and programs on the use of telehealth. ASAM lists waivers, changes regarding the state and federal laws and regulations (HIPPA, OCR), and a variety of telehealth platforms as helpful to providing addiction services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
ASAM lists some of the benefits of telehealth as:
- Promoting physical distancing
- Limiting exposure for vulnerable populations and health care workers
- Reduces risk of exposure outside treatment centers, such as public transportation
- Expands the reach of resources
- Allows monitoring without person-to-person contact
- Enables those who are quarantined to participate safely
- Reduces risk of spread in high volume areas like waiting rooms
Good News from the “Trenches”
We all wish we could change the unpredictability of living during a pandemic. In recovery, we learn we don’t have a lot of control over things that happen day-to-day: the weather, other people’s actions and feelings, a pandemic. Because of this, those in recovery learn to accept life on life’s terms. Judith Snow says, “As chaotic as the world has been, we find that the less news watched, the more our client’s stress is decreased.”
Judith Snow lists some of the benefits of telehealth:
- The feeling of safety online, even for those who are uncomfortable in in-person groups
- Being able to treat those from isolated areas
- The ability to treat those who would not enter treatment due to work, commute, or schedule
- Treating those who, pandemic or not, would opt out of treatment if not for telehealth
- Telehealth arose out of COVID-19, but has become a viable treatment model
- Some connection is better than no connection – Judith says, “I’m thinking of a client who is 110 days sober, and all via virtual treatment.”
- You can go to AA in Ireland or New Zealand!
- If you are in treatment, you tend to stay in treatment. Those in telehealth treatment are able to manage the added stressors of the pandemic.
- We are not seeing a distinct rise in relapse, but the more support the better, so we encourage other telehealth options for our clients and their families. There are endless (free) options for connection via virtual platforms.
I can’t really say things are negative at Sanford, or for me. We are consistently busy. We’re helping people develop coping strategies. Our challenge is to bolster our clients to sufficient mental health, so that they get through this pandemic pretty well. It’s all any of us can ask for…
Judith Snow, MA, LLP, CAADC
Supporting Access to Telehealth for Addiction Services: Regulatory Overview and General Practice Considerations
American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) 9/18/20