Rosecrance gets serious about play, expands therapeutic recreation program

February 16, 2015

Stacy Veldhuizen, Rosecrance Recreation Therapy Specialist, leads a morning session of yoga for the staff at Rosecrance Ware Center.

Stacy Veldhuizen, Rosecrance Recreation Therapy Specialist, leads a morning session of yoga for the staff at Rosecrance Ware Center.

Rosecrance is taking steps to standardize its therapeutic recreation program, recognizing the importance of activities such as fitness, meditation, music and art and the roles they play in the recovery process.

Staff started phasing in the changes this month at the newly relocated Rosecrance Ware Center, where thousands of Rockford-area adults seek outpatient mental health services each year. The efforts also coincide with Therapeutic Recreation Month in February.

For many years, Rosecrance has offered experiential therapies as part of substance abuse treatment at its adolescent Griffin Williamson Campus and the adult Harrison Campus. But these expanded efforts will help integrate therapeutic recreation into both the substance abuse and mental health arenas, with special focus on the science of this type of care and measuring outcomes.

Keri Fager, Rosecrance Therapeutic Recreation Coordinator

Keri Fager, Rosecrance Therapeutic Recreation Coordinator

Keri Fager, a certified therapeutic recreation specialist, brings 15 years’ worth of experience rooted in inpatient psychiatry to her new role as therapeutic recreation coordinator. Fager has spent the past six years leading experiential therapy efforts for adults at the Harrison Campus, and she’s excited to broaden the program’s reach.

“By having the standards and following the best practices, we know we’ll get the best outcomes,” Fager said. “So if we know a client is drawn to art and is very creative, an assessment will help gather that information, and then we can build a treatment plan that embraces that person’s strengths.”

Rosecrance employs several certified therapeutic recreation specialists, as well as art and experiential therapists who provide services at various locations, including the behavioral health unit at SwedishAmerican Hospital.

Clients work on painting flowers during an Art Therapy session at the Rosecrance Griffin Williamson Campus.

Clients work on painting flowers during an Art Therapy session at the Rosecrance Griffin Williamson Campus.

The Griffin Williamson Campus started offering experiential activities for adolescent substance abuse clients more than a decade ago, and clients still explore recovery through fitness, recreation and hands-on work with nature using the Healing Garden and Ipsen Conservatory. RGW and the Harrison Campus employ full-time art therapists who provide structured counseling through the arts and creative expression. Rosecrance also has started incorporating art therapy through trained clinicians involved with outpatient and adolescent mental health programs.

Stacy Veldhuizen, a recreation therapy specialist, joined the team in December to lead Ware Center and Mulberry Center therapeutic recreation programs.
“Our hope is to continue to enhance and standardize these therapies into all of our programs and to expand on the possibilities these therapies can offer,” Fager said.

As part of the therapeutic recreation offerings, clients will participate in a year-round gardening group soon at Ware. Staff members will learn about the scope of the therapeutic recreation practice during a symposium later this month.

A staff-organized Leisure and Recreation Fair for clients will take place at the Harrison Campus, and many other events throughout February carry the therapeutic recreation theme. Ware staff members are even participating in morning wellness activities such as yoga, progressive muscle relaxation and guided imagery.

Promoting staff wellness has been shown to improve employee-client interactions, reduce burnout and improve overall staff health, Veldhuizen said. Many clients, because of their disorders, isolate themselves and never learned proper leisure skills or how to socialize sober. So a big component of therapeutic recreation is education and making activities applicable in a community setting, from helping clients sign up for gym memberships to taking them to a concert or a ballet.

“We really work with them to help get over the barriers that their illnesses give them,” Fager said. “It’s about empowering them.

“Part of our process is helping them to know what resources are available and help make that within their reach. It’s helping them be more independent and to see fun and happiness in everyday activities.”

Rosecrance’s successful foray into therapeutic recreation has been helped along by top-down, administrative support for the unique treatment approach.

“Therapeutic recreation is an important part of the early recovery process,” said David Gomel, Rosecrance’s senior vice president and chief operating officer. “Some clients learn best by doing, and this program allows them to do that in a tactile, supportive environment.”

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