DBSANCA support group member who participated in 2012 (Dominion)
When attended: For two weeks in 2011, April 24 – May 5.
Her experience with the program:
She came from the outside at the recommendation of a friend. She was suicidal and needed to get away from life. At that point she was not on medication. The staff from the program explained that if you are going to come in and you are not interested in going on medication this not the right program to be in. Intake took between 45 minutes and hour. She started the next day.
The daily program, from 9 am to 3 pm, was very regimented which she thought was good. It began with a check in which took about an hour. We would fill out a survey about how our evening went, what we did, what our goals for the day are, how our meds were working, what side effects if any we were experiencing and how we were feeling. This was followed by a 15-minute break, which in turn was followed by two one-hour segments. There was a lunch break for an hour and a couple more one hour segments afterwards.
Every afternoon there was a group focusing on cognitive behavioral therapy that was facilitated by a social worker. There were sessions on techniques for dealing with mood disorders, stress, and anxiety. There was an education program every day focusing on medicine, eating well, coping with grief. In art therapy patients were encouraged to make collages and to journal. Some patients made bracelets, others read. The goal was to talk with people and to journal in order integrate the things you were learning during the day.
We saw the psychiatrist assigned to us every day or two for about ten minutes except for the first meeting that was 30 minutes. The psychiatrist would ask how you were doing, how it was going with the meds.
The final activity every day was a check out session. We would fill out another, similar, survey to the one we filled at the beginning of the day about how the day went, did we reach our goals, what our plans for the evening were, goals for the evening and how we were feeling.
Participants were constantly coming in and out of the program. There was a good mix of participants in terms of age and gender. There were people from their 20s to their 60s. In terms of ethnic composition it was pretty white.
The typical stay is two to four weeks. When the program started there were 35 participants, when she left there were 20. The group broke in two for group therapy; the rest of the time they were together.
There was a range in terms of quality of care among the staff. The expressive therapist was excellent. One social worker was better than the other. She liked her psychiatrist who she continued to see after she left the program
Aspects of the program that she particularly liked:
For her it was exactly what she needed.
If you go in willing to do the work it is excellent; it is designed to be helpful in a quick period of time.
It was a great thing that we could hold each other accountable for goals we were setting. For example, one guy wanted to start exercising. So every morning I would ask him if he exercised until finally he could say yes. It’s that peer support that really helped us work on ourselves and want to be successful.
Expressive therapy was by far the best; the therapist was excellent.
It is very successful for those who are higher functioning who need a little boost to get back on track; she is not sure how good it is for people who are struggling.
Aspects of program person did not like:
It was not as helpful for people who needed hand holding who were not willing to put in the work.
Lunch was included in the program but that she brought my lunch every day because she didn’t find it particularly healthy.
At the beginning it appeared that there was a lot of free time, then she saw this was beneficial.
Whether, if she needed to participate in an outpatient program, she would sign up for this program again:
Does she recommend the program to other DBSA members, and if so with what caveats.
Yes, but only for people who are fairly high functioning, overcommitted in life, who need to take a step back, be reminded on what they need to heal, and to get tools to help themselves.
Impact of the program on her:
She came out with useful knowledge and tools, medication, and a psychiatrist. It was a temporary reprieve from the stresses of life in an environment that was healthy and constructive.