The Therapeutic Community Program at Riggs: New Health and Wellness Program for Patients
by Angela Wilson
In response to patient interest and staff input regarding what might be helpful to patients, the Austen Riggs Center has initiated a Health and Wellness Program as part of the Therapeutic Community Program, an interconnected series of activities aimed at enhancing patient authority, fostering interpersonal learning and creating an environment that supports treatment.
Led by Angela Wilson, LMHC, Kripalu certified yoga teacher and Therapeutic Community staff member, the Health and Wellness Program aims to bring mind/body tools, such as yoga and meditation, to patients in support of their overall wellbeing during treatment at Riggs. Wilson remarks, “Mind/body practices such as yoga and meditation can help patients learn additional ways to take care of themselves and can foster a greater ability to tolerate difficult emotional states. Science is beginning to show that through consistent practice, these tools can build stress resilience and enhance quality of life. I am delighted to be on staff here at Riggs exploring how these practices can support patients.”
Wilson goes on to say “A primary aim of the Health and Wellness Program is to allow patients to explore what mind/body wellness means to them.” To that end, at least one mind/body class is offered each day. In addition, patients have the opportunity to receive one-on-one mentoring to ask questions about the practices or about their own wellness goals. “Ultimately, the tools patients learn through the program can be tools that continue to support them when they leave Riggs,” remarks Wilson.
Research on yoga and meditation points toward enhanced levels of resilience and to the positive impact that these practices have on emotion regulation, stress reduction and improved coping. Studies are beginning to show that, when practiced over time, yoga and meditation have the potential to lower anxiety levels and decrease symptoms of depression and trauma.
In addition, yoga and meditation serve as a gateway to improved body awareness. It is not uncommon for people to feel out of touch with their bodies—in some cases to the extent that awareness of even hunger disappears. Mind/body practices allow people to begin to recognize and discern the meaning of cues from their own bodies. With improved body awareness, people report that they are better able to modulate triggering feelings because they are aware of them sooner and are able to notice and respond to physical and emotional needs more skillfully.
Currently the Health and Wellness Program offers ongoing classes/mentoring in:
- Mindfulness meditation/ Yoga Nidra
- Slowed, deep breathing techniques
- Healthy diet
Wilson notes, “Each of these tools can provide complementary, but different, approaches to support each patient’s individual needs.” The Health and Wellness Program will continue to explore ways to integrate mindfulness and yoga into the Therapeutic Community Program.
Check back next week to read more about the Therapeutic Community Program at Riggs.