A holistic approach to treating addiction

Photo/Grant Welker
Photo/Grant Welker
Stephanie Pratico, a clinical supervisor at AdCare Hospital in Worcester, says people can feel a "spiritual disconnect" when going through addiction.

When she moved to Worcester from her native Tucson, Ariz., to attend the College of the Holy Cross, Stephanie Pratico envisioned a career in music therapy. She studied math and music at Holy Cross, and taught math while going to graduate school at Lesley University in Cambridge for a degree in expressive therapies and mental health counseling. Pratico doesn’t work in music therapy today but as a clinical supervisor helping those with drug and alcohol addiction at AdCare Hospital’s outpatient facility in Worcester, where stresses the holistic and mindfulness aspects of overcoming addiction. Many of her patients join her group programs from AdCare’s 114-bed inpatient facility.
How does mindfulness help someone’s recovery process?
We use the phrase “spiritual disconnect” often to describe what happens during addiction because it’s such a part of addiction. It’s a chicken-and-egg type of situation. Who knows which comes first? I don’t throw the clinical aspect of addiction treatment to the wayside. But the biggest piece of mindfulness and spirituality with addiction is slowing down and being in the moment. It’s about thinking of where you are in the present instead of having your mind on being in the liquor store.
Does that aspect of recovery differ if someone is struggling with alcohol addiction compared to drug addiction?
I think at the core, the feeling of being trapped is the same no matter the substance. It can just look different on the outside because of our social views on alcohol or drug addiction. But I think people would be surprised at how many functional opioid addicts there are. They can be walking around in a shirt and tie.
How has AdCare been affected by the opioid epidemic?
We’re obviously very affected by opioid addiction. We’ve always dealt with alcohol and other drugs, and sometimes gambling in addition to other addiction disorders. I’ve been here six years, and anecdotally, the intensity of people’s opioid use has really seemed to escalate in that time. We get some people who come in having overdose on fentanyl, which is a much stronger opioid. People can be really disconnected from how deadly the action is of overdosing on opioids.
How do people often end up coming to AdCare?
It’s a really wide range. We have some people who wake up one day and say they’ve had enough and that they’re going to seek help. Sometimes they come from the hospital or they’re urged by the family members or a legal situation. We staff the hospital so that when someone decides that they need help and want to come to us, they can see someone right away.
How much are family and friends or other factors stressed as part of your therapy for someone overcoming addiction?
When they’re here, we look at their living environment, mental and physical health, family support and what would be an appropriate fix for them. We’re realizing, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution to helping those with addiction. There’s no magic pill for it. The medicine community wants quick answers, but people don’t instantly heal.
This is a job with many rewards through helping people, but also a situation where many relapse. How do you react to those two ends of the spectrum?
Unfortunately, the statistics show that chances of a relapse are high. I’ve had cases where people have sat here in my office and then went home and overdose and died. You try to do absolutely everything you can for people. It’s important to keep the hope. It’s really inspiring to see the types of situations that people pull themselves out of.
This interview was conducted and edited by WBJ News Editor Grant Welker.