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‘Moving Forward’ clinic grads notice improvement with stress

By Staff | Dec 2, 2016

Chronicle photo by Vanessa McGuigan Moving Forward program coordinator, Ardyth Gilbertson and acupuncturist, Andrea Brown.

The ‘Moving Forward’ de-stress clinic finished its ninth week with a graduation party for participants at Renova Clinic in Kearneysville.

This was the fifth installment of the Moving Forward integrated health initiative sponsored by the Jefferson County Health Department, as a means to help clients alleviate symptoms caused by stress-related conditions.

At the onset of the class, participants were given the Veterans RAND 36, which is a survey about health, asking questions related to overall health, mobility, pain, anxiety and mood.

The participants are given the survey again on graduation night to compare results over the nine-week session. Additionally, the clients take self-assessments each week to track stress levels, pain, anxiety, etc.

Although each week brings different challenges and emotions, the majority of participants in this class saw an overall improvement in stress and pain levels.

The program is designed to act as a means of support and community for participants who may be struggling with addictions, pain, grief and other issues related to stress. The evening begins with participants enjoying a meal together and filling out the self-evaluation.

Then there is a quiet time of relaxation where acupuncturists Andrea Brown or Erika Weshinsky (both practicing in Harpers Ferry) administer auricular acupuncture, according to the NADA protocol for treatment of addiction and stress.

One of the participants who wished to remain anonymous, said, “I had never acupuncture before. I was really nervous about the first time, but everybody was getting it, so I thought I might as well do it too.”

He continued, “It does make a difference for me. I feel more relaxed on the nights I have it done compared to the other nights of the week. It’s just easier to relax.”

Other participants had similar results, none of whom had ever had acupuncture before.

“Having intensive outpatient treatment available is the one of the best things we can do for patients who have limitations with money and insurance,” said Brown.

In many parts of West Virginia there are whole communities that are riddled with opiate addiction; that’s another reason why it’s important to have lay people do the ear acupuncture because in many places there’s not going to be any accessibility to an acupuncturist.”

Ardyth Gilberston, program coordinator said, “One of the missions of the NADA protocol is to make auricular acupuncture available to as many communities around the world as possible because of the success rates with it.”

Brown continued, “There’s a group called Acupuncturists Without Borders, since Hurricane Katrina they’ve been doing disaster relief and have gone on to work in other countries affected by disasters. They do the acupuncture, but if they can, they teach people in the communities to do it-social workers and the like.”

Both Brown and Weshinsky offer free auricular acupuncture to participants who complete this program.

After acupuncture, the therapist, Laura First, comes to talk and interact with the participants. First is an expressive therapist, meaning that she uses the arts, things like movement, drawing or storytelling to engage clients.

Each week has a particular theme for discussion such as creativity, love and loss, heart issues, finding one’s voice, and other topics.

“The three things that really tend to lead to addiction are trauma, chronic pain or anxiety,” said First.

“This originally started as a program for people with addictions, but we broadened the base because these underlying issues are all interconnected. People come here and they want us to reduce their stress. I tell them they get acupuncture for that, but I’m going to give them skills that will help them reduce stress for the rest of their lives.”

As with any therapy, in order for healing to begin, underlying issues need to be brought to the surface. This is where the expressive therapy comes into play–it allows what is in the unconscious to come to the surface.

“Trauma is remembered through movement, arts and stories,” said First.

“Through these methods we can bring things to the surface in a non-threatening way. It’s less scary for the patients. We use movement for bilateral stimulation, which means things get moving on either side of the body.

:That heals trauma too. I have to adapt some (of the movement) I do when people have pain or mobility issues. So one of the other things I do is tell stories-really big stories that sometimes last 40 minutes or more. They are old tales that have underlying themes: trauma, strength, resiliency. I can see it in a person’s eyes when they connect with the story. We can discuss it as a parallel to their lives and they talk about the story-it’s more comfortable to people that way, while still addressing their issues.”

Another of the participants who has severe pain and mobility issues said, “I have many things going on with my body that will never be fixed, but this program has given me tremendous support and tools. It has helped me greatly and the people that run it are very dedicated.”

Gilbertson offers a once a month meditation workshop at community ministries in Charles Town and is planning the next 9-week de-stress clinic to be held at the Jefferson Community Center.

Program information can be found at www.jchealthdept.org, under the “clinical services” tab or by contacting Ardyth Gilbertson at ardythg@ gmail.com.