By Sarah Allen Benton, MS, LMHC, LPC, AADC
Over the past year, we have all experienced changes in our sense of community. The pandemic caused us to socially distance, which inevitably led to emotional distance and a sense of disconnection. Each individual experienced different types of social changes, and this shift brought unique challenges for individuals with addiction issues. Individuals use substances for various reason and there are endless theories about the precipitants. However, there are often common themes that exist amongst those with Substance Use Disorders (SUDs). One such theme is that many individuals who abuse alcohol and substances are often searching for a sense of connection to others and something external in an effort to disconnect from their internal stressors.
The pandemic has been the perfect storm of stressors combined with social disconnection. Both statistics and anecdotal evidence have indicated a rise in both substance usage as well as drug overdoses over the past year. Additionally, many individuals in early sobriety and longer-term recovery who had created a balanced recovery plan prior to the pandemic struggled to adjust to the changes in this new social landscape. In-person Self-Help meetings, therapy and sober peer support were a staple for many. Adjustments were made to create virtual options for the services, while the in-person human connections that many craved were discontinued. The social fabric of our country has frayed but many have now realized the importance of this aspect of recovery. Simultaneously, many turned to substances more than they had in the past as a result of life stressors coupled with social isolation.
Comprehensive addiction treatment involves a synthesis of support services that may include: self-help meetings, individual and group therapy, family therapy, medical stabilization and care, medication management, sober peer engagement, self-care (exercise, nutrition and sleep), spiritual pursuits and others. In other words, addiction recovery takes a village that be overwhelming for individuals and loved ones to form in regular times let alone than during a pandemic.
The In-Home Addiction Treatment (IHAT) model creates a treatment center in a client’s home. This year-long innovative and adaptive model is able to operate both in person and remotely, which allows for a truly client-centered treatment approach. Each client’s “village” includes a Care Team and Family Wellness Team. Clients are then connected with clinically indicated services and local community resources.
The IHAT Institute began in Connecticut and is now training staff members in the IHAT Model in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Florida and Indiana. Many healthcare providers are reporting burnout symptoms and feelings of professional isolation. However, when working in a team environment that the IHAT Model provides, it can help to decrease staff burnout. There are advantages both for client and healthcare providers to work together as a “village” towards both reconnection and healing.