Q&A with Anna Racicot, DH’s Wellness Coordinator
Q: You’re the Wellness Coordinator here at DH. What does that mean?
A: I act as the organizer for groups like our yoga therapy group, which is one of our most popular. We also have mindfulness and meditation which is a huge part of the recovery process in dealing with depression and anxiety – it’s really beneficial. We also introduced a music group which includes the use of music as a therapeutic tool and is highly effective – it’s really fun, too! The clients absolutely adore it.
Q: How often are these groups available?
Yoga is available at different times for anyone in the program. Our instructor, Bertha, is amazing – she’s been here 8 years. She teaches everyone at the level that they are. Yoga meets several times a week and at each of our locations and levels of care. Music meets once a week, and we’re adding a 2nd class because it’s so popular.
Q: Are there any new groups coming soon?
A: We have quite a bit planned. We added chiropractic care recently. Massage therapy is coming. The smoking cessation groups will restart soon after a temporary pause for COVID.
Q: What about physical activity?
A: Physical activity is a major component of what we do. At the residential campus there is now a dedicated work-out area. There’s also a Commit to Be Fit group that meets once a week that I facilitate, where everyone is up and moving around. We have drumming with pool noodles that everyone loves. One at a time I have a client lead the group in the song and beat of their choice, and everyone follows along. It’s really fun and everyone loves it. They access their inner rock star. It’s really, really a good time. There’s a lot of dancing as well – we all stand in a circle and toss around a beach ball, and when I say stop, whomever has the ball has to give a dance move that everyone follows.
With depression, we can often be in our beds for days at a time, and with anxiety you’re not really moving, so it’s really good to get used to moving around and getting used to being in our bodies again.
Q: What do you do if someone doesn’t want to or is not ready to participate?
A: Everyone’s at a different level. They sit out and they’ll throw the ball. Sometimes I’ll have them be the one to call stop, or they’ll just stand in the circle. The introduction is really important – it gets them loosened up and laughing and not have any expectations.
Q: It sounds like you really love your job, but what do you love the most?
A: I think the #1 thing I love about my job is to see people’s lights come on when they’ve been checked out for so long. It could happen in the blink of an eye. I see it in their body posture. They’re sitting up straight. They look me in the eyes. It’s a big win! You feel like they’re on. “I’m here. It’s OK to be me in this space. I belong here.” So, when the clients get a sense of “I belong, I am, and that’s more than enough.” that’s when I feel like I’m flying.
Q: What’s a simple but effective program?
Being active and moving around. This is very subtle and simple, but walking. Someone who’s been depressed or anxious or using or experienced trauma in their past – often times they haven’t gone on a walk for a walk’s sake in a very long time. So, to get them out in the world and go to the park is great. We’ve played volleyball – and we can do this year-round here in South Florida. We have a therapeutic component to it as well – it’s fun but also helpful in their journey to wellness.
Q: Was there an incident you can think of that was challenging but you helped the client through it?
A: There are challenges every day and I think that really part of what of makes DH special is that we work together as a team. We don’t have to handle these challenges alone. We have meetings and we gather as a clinical team every morning and see what’s coming up, what’s going on, are there any clients that may need some extra support today? That communication is key. We work with each other. With all the experience we have together, we can handle anything that comes up. It’s teamwork in the most beautiful aspect – to change somebody’s life.
Q: Does everyone have the same progression?
A: Sometimes clients come in and do really well and at some point, they may experience a sort of a regression – that’s normal and to be expected…it happens sometimes. Those are the clients that we come up with creative ways to address the situation. We come up with creative ways to keep them engaged. It’s tailored to each individual – what we do for one client would not be what we do for another.
When a client gets to a certain point, or we feel they need some added engagement, in the group setting the facilitator of the group will actually step back and be the co-facilitator and allow the peer to lead the group, which is fun and exciting. We help them to stay engaged by coming up with creative solutions because they work really, really hard and they can get physically, emotionally and mentally tired.
Q: Any other thoughts?
A: One thing that sets us apart is that we’ve been around for over 13 years. We know what works. There’s nothing like experience in the field. Treatment centers often times can come and go very quickly. We have really solid relationships with people in the community and other treatment centers. Making sure that every client’s needs are met in a way that is loving, kind and compassionate to that individual because coming to treatment is traumatic in and of itself. Keeping in mind these people have families, histories, emotions – we make sure their needs are met as human beings with respect and integrity.