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Published:

March 6, 2014
 
Tagged: Derner School of Psychology, School of Social Work

Addicted: Change is Possible

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Part IV of our four part series on addiction, by Samantha Stainburn

Social workers and psychologists from Adelphi are also studying new ideas for helping people overcome addiction.

Dr. Temme at Western Carolina University decided to earn her doctorate at Adelphi’s School of Social Work after 20 years of managing drug treatment programs in Suffolk County so she could teach and conduct research on treatment options, including emerging practices like meditation.

“I’d started to meditate and saw the change it made for me,” she says. “I thought it would be great for my clients.” Dr. Temme wrote her dissertation on a meditation study she conducted while at Adelphi.

She led ten 40-minute guided meditation sessions for 93 adults at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Brooklyn. The meditation sessions were designed to help the participants become more aware of how they felt physically and emotionally. “Once my clients got into it, they loved it,” she says. “Part of it was the novelty. Substance abuse is a chronic, relapsing disorder. They’d been in treatment before, and it was the same thing over and over, and here was something different.”

The inexpensive treatment also had a positive effect. “What I found was that the participants who were in my meditation group had significantly improved mood and a significant decrease in their risk for relapse, and it was a result of the meditation practice,” Dr. Temme says.

Now Dr. Temme is investigating meditation’s effect on mood, substance abuse relapse, and post-traumatic stress disorder among veterans in North Carolina. “PTSD and substance abuse is a combination we need to work on together,” she says. “We’ve made progress in understanding that you can’t just treat the substance abuse first, then the mental disorder second like we did long ago.”

That possibility for change, no matter how dire the circumstance, is why Adelphi faculty and alumni say their work is not only important, but rewarding.

“People change—they change dramatically, they change in small ways, they change quickly, they change over years,” Dr. Wilkens says. “You just have to have the perspective that habit change is really hard and does not happen in a dramatic moment. It happens with effort, over time, and there are real ways to motivate people to do that. Then they start to feel better and do better, and you see a whole life being changed.”

“People who are abusing substances are scared and vulnerable and oftentimes stigmatized by society and just really need people who take the time to understand them and the pain they’re going through,” Ms. Monti says.

“When people get sober, you help them put their lives back together, but you also help them process all the feelings they’re now experiencing because they’re sober, so it’s a pretty transformative process,” she adds. “I think it’s actually an honor to help them through that. They were numbing themselves for so long, and once they work through a lot of issues to get sober, they have a flood of feelings. We help them learn how to manage those feelings and also enjoy things in life that maybe they weren’t able to enjoy before.”

This piece will appear in the Adelphi University Magazine Spring 2014 edition.
 
Tagged: Derner School of Psychology, School of Social Work