Maryland Addiction Recovery Center Primary Therapist Amber Berkhart, LGPC, offers some thoughts on how clinical professionals working in the mental health and addiction field can take steps to help prevent client and patient burnout while receiving addiction treatment services.

“We all have heard about caregiver burnout and how easy it is for mental health professionals to quickly tire and exhaust their own emotional resources while caring for others. But what about the patients who are in addiction treatment or residential care AND quarantined? How do we, as mental health and addiction professionals, support them in potential emotional stress or burnout while they are quarantined, but also need to continue to receive lifesaving and life-enriching addiction treatment services? I’ve noticed that a lot of patients get a glazed overlook in their eyes when they continue to hear about COVID-19, when they are told how they are fortunate to be in a safe and supportive space, and when they are told that we have no idea when this all is going to end.

Here are some ways to prevent your patients from burning out during the ongoing coronavirus public health pandemic:
  1. Instead of focusing on their feelings related to COVID-19, try to focus instead in on their actions. Inquire about the activities that they are participating in, what they would like to be doing, ways that they can find to engage in enjoyable activities and explore how these behaviors are positive/negative.
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  3. Print out COVID-19 memes. Twenty-somethings love anything social media related, and you would be surprised how happy they were to just have memes again. It’s okay to find humor in this unprecedented situation, as it allows patients to be a little more at ease.
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  5. Try something a little less clinical and step outside the box. For example, my group and I came up with a great idea of emotions charades! It’s fun and makes for a great opportunity to discuss how others exhibit their body language when expressing themselves.
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  7. Ask about new friendships they have been making. For example, instead of “What did you do this weekend to keep yourself busy?” try “What kind of ways did you get to know someone else this weekend?” This quarantine is a pretty lonely experience, and those suffering from addiction and substance use disorder tend to isolate at any given chance, so enforcing everyone to reach out to others whenever possible is imperative.
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  9. Find a funny documentary to suggest to the patients to watch and take a little bit of group time to laugh about it – our current favorite is Tiger King starring the starlet Joe Exotic and arch-nemesis Carole Baskins. It allows the group to connect and can offer many valuable clinical opportunities during the discussions that ensue.
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  11. If possible, schedule a Zoom call with families only for the patient. During treatment, patients are used to physically seeing their family members during family sessions or family passes, and this is a huge part of their own recovery that may be missing while they are quarantined. While phone calls are available, there’s something inherently valuable to being able to actually see your family. Patients can see the pain or the joy, the discomfort or the unhappiness on their loved one’s faces and in their body language. And while everyone is going through a unified trauma and fear of the unknown, it is comforting for patients to see and connect with their families and loved ones. What I have been doing is working on my documentation and turning my second screen around for the patient to visit with their family as I do my work.
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  13. And if all else fails, share pictures of your animals. Dogs are usually a big hit. Don’t have a dog? Google it. They’ll like it either way. Everyone loves dogs. And monkeys.”

At Maryland Addiction Recovery Center we understand that as the entire world is dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, and learning to deal with daily anxiety, unease, discomfort, fear, and a “new normal”, so are our patients, while also dealing with the often uncomfortable process of early recovery from addiction. Our clinical team at MARC are taking daily steps to make sure that our patients are safe, healthy, and secure, are aware of the ongoing issues throughout society, while also focusing on their vital treatment to overcome substance use disorder. This is new to all of us, and we want to make sure that our patients are taken care of during this time, aren’t overwhelmed or burned out by the constant chatter and unknown of the COVID-19 crisis, so that when this is all over they will be more than prepared to live a life free from addiction and face life successfully.

If you or someone you know needs help for addiction or co-occurring disorder issues, please give us a call. Maryland Addiction Recovery Center offers the most comprehensive dual diagnosis addiction treatment in the Mid-Atlantic area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or your loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at (410) 773-0500 or email our team at info@marylandaddictionrecovery.com. For more information on all of our drug addiction, alcohol addiction and co-occurring disorder services and recovery resources, please visit our web site at www.marylandaddictionrecovery.com.

Zach Snitzer is the Director of Business Development at Maryland Addiction Recovery Center and is responsible for the business development, marketing, branding, public relations, communications, and social media strategies of the organization.