Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Rehab center tries new therapies

Alice holds two collages that she's just pulled down from a wall in the hallway.

The collages are covered with magazine cutouts, drawings and handwritten poems representing two sides of her life.

One shows her childhood experiences with sexual abuse and her drug-ridden adulthood. The other depicts the future she's working toward during her stay at the new Guilford County Substance Abuse Treatment Center.

Alice's collages are part of the larger, creative aim of the drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility on West Wendover Avenue in High Point.

The center doesn't allow clients to identify themselves to reporters, so the News and Record could not provide their real names.

"It's amazing what you can do with a crayon," said Courtnaye Adams, who leads the treatment center's creative-therapy programs. She teaches art classes, yoga, leads meditation, facilitates group hikes and even brings in her dog for what she calls pet therapy.

"Sometimes the simplest things can help us more than we realize."

The 56-bed facility, funded by Guilford County, began opening in stages in March and will be fully operational when the last wing opens at the end of this month.

A nontraditional center run by Missouri-based Bridgeway Behavioral Health, the center only accepts addicts with no insurance and can keep clients much longer than the standard 28 days.

"One of our goals is to reduce the revolving door practice of alcoholics and addicts who seem to frequent emergency facilities," site director Mary Jane McGill said.

"If we can do that and we can help give them the long-term treatment, then our goal is to get them out there working and being taxpayers ... instead of draining the tax base."

One of the benefits of the longer rehabilitation time is that — in addition to offering traditional therapy — the center can experiment with solutions such as Adams' classes.

Adams, who has worked at the substance abuse center since April, knows from experience the value of such activities for rehabilitation. A recovered alcoholic, she said she discovered that she felt herself heal when she gardened.

"When I got in the dirt, I was OK," she said. "I would have these moments of serenity. My choices were drink, die or heal, and I chose to heal."

She said she provides a variety of creative activities for patients because each person responds to different activities.

Some of the center's other classes focus on more concrete topics. One client said classes about the brain and what drugs and alcohol do to the human body helped her understand the effects of her addiction and depression.

"I've learned how to clean out the garbage and put in the healthy stuff," she said. "They help you in every area to get you out there and back on your feet."

To prepare clients to contribute to society upon their release, the center offers classes in GED preparation, computer skills and other areas.

Staff also help patients find places to live and work after they leave.

McGill said a highly qualified and diverse staff help prepare patients to go on with their lives. One patient said he wants to go to college and become a substance-abuse counselor after he finishes treatment.

Another client said the message of the center is that patients can learn to take charge of their own futures.

"We don't have to go back to the past," she said. "We don't have to begin our lives in the past."