Eagleville Embraces Wellness into Recovery Treatment
Eagleville Hospital is committed to patients creating a balanced life as part of their recovery process. Through Eagleville’s Wellness Program, patients are learning to connect with their bodies in new ways that will bring not only health benefits but inner peace and emotional strength as well. Combined with medical therapies, Eagleville’s Wellness Program is an integral part of the recovery program. This Wellness Program includes both yoga and meditation and is taught in a manner that is specifically designed to work with patients in recovery.
The Wellness Program is led by Irma Sciarra MS,HS-BCP, 500RYT, who came to Eagleville in early spring 2016. She began by introducing both yoga and mindfulness to patients in a limited scope, but soon realized that the program was beneficial to all of the patients at Eagleville. The Wellness program is now part of weekly treatment and conducted on each unit. Meditation and yoga are both mandatory programs and there are opportunities for private sessions, upon the patient’s request. Wellness programs have been met with great acceptance and positive feedback. These alternative treatment options have become a key part of the recovery process.
Knowing that patients have had trauma, mindfulness and yoga can be a scary activity. The experience of connecting the mind to the body can be overwhelming to patients who have been disconnected to their bodies through addiction. Ms. Sciarra is aware that even the act of closing one’s eyes and sitting in silence can be distressing. As she explains, “The acts of inward reflection and self-observation are so powerful when starting to take the leap onto the healing path. Along with recognizing the nurturing ability of these processes and the benefits of stillness much sensitivity has to be observed surrounding what can surface in the space of stillness. Compassion and safety are essential in supporting this path of inward reflection and new beginnings.” Through gentle poses, yoga’s gentle postures and breathing practices are utilized to support calming the nervous system and focusing the mind.
One of the goals is to teach techniques that can be replicated after a patient’s stay at Eagleville. The poses and breathing techniques are reviewed each week so that they will be learned and internalized. Patients can learn to trust their own bodies through the mindfulness practice and learn how to breathe in a healing manner. These tools are critical for patients who move beyond the walls of Eagleville Hospital and need to rely on their own inner strength when facing recovery.
The results of the Program have been transformational. Even the simple act of getting patients to leave their care units and be in a predictable space that is soothing and calm has had a positive impact. There is a marked shift in the energy of patients after experiencing a weekly session. The sense of tranquility and peace is immediate for many patients. Medical therapists have come to rely on the Program for these benefits.
In addition to working with patients, Ms. Sciarra has extended her sessions to include a program for staff. Recognizing the benefits of mindfulness, Eagleville encourages staff to participate in yoga and meditation. The staff has eagerly embraced this addition to their own schedules and has seen positive outcomes from this practice. As Denise Kitson, Director of Counseling Services at Eagleville Hospital, explains, “It is important to recognize that meditation, wellness and yoga make for a happier staff/team and in turn helps with patient care.” This program is strongly tied to Eagleville’s approach to trauma informed care for patients and all staff.
The Wellness Program is beyond the scope of the reimbursable expenses from government support. Since 95% of Eagleville’ patients do not have private insurance, these programs are not funded. Eagleville must rely on donations and is in need of additional support. The goal is to transform a current storage space off of the gym into a meditation space for patients to use. A quiet, dedicated space would help patients learn to self-calm and self-soothe. The Wellness Program continues to grow despite these obstacles and even staff members have taken advantage of the benefits that it offers.