Psych Clinical: Substance Abuse

This semester, I will be spending several weeks participating in a psychiatric rotation for nursing school in units such as stabilization, child and adolescent, and general men’s and women’s units. This week  I spent the day in the outpatient substance abuse unit at a mental behavioral health hospital. In the morning, there was a group session of about 20 people in which each person went around the circle and rated their anxiety, depression, pain, and anger, stated their drug of choice, and their primary problem and goals they would like to focus on. Afterwards, there was a lecture in which a licensed professional taught about the effects of drugs and alcohol on the brain, its effects on thoughts, mood, and behavior, and positive coping mechanisms. The morning ended with a longer and more intimate group session involving around 8-10 people with substance abuse disorders, with ages ranging from 19-60. It was interesting to hear about the different problems in their personal lives which had led them to seek drug abuse, and the vulnerability each individual was exposed to as they expressed their innermost hopes and fears. At the end of the session and during the breaks, I was able to have one-on-one interactions with several patients.

The main patient I spoke to had been admitted several times throughout her life, and reported that her primary issues related to drug abuse and the personal life events leading up to it were negative thinking and ineffective coping mechanisms. I spoke to her about positive thinking and directed her to other resources where she can get help if she needs it. I reminded her that negativity is an inevitable part of anyone’s life, but that it cannot be avoided and must be dealt with because that is what makes us alive and human. I also encouraged her to deal with difficult emotions in positive ways such as journaling, meditation, exercise, and support systems rather than drugs, because those are all a regular part of my lifestyle that keep me feeling peaceful and content despite stressful life situations. We then worked together to further discuss potential solutions to her problems that would be beneficial in the long run even if they seem difficult to do now. Lastly, I spoke with her about the power of the mind and positive thinking, because it is the only (and most important) thing we have control over! When she asked me what my favorite and most useful coping mechanism is for life, I was surprised but did not hesitate to answer “faith”; I told her I attend my religious center about 4-5 times per week, and that this is what keeps me going in the right path in both my spiritual and material life. The highlight of my day was when she actively made plans to attend her place of prayer, practice the coping mechanisms I spoke with her about, and reported feeling better and more hopeful immediately after speaking with me. 

“The sun is outside shining; seems like Heavens not so far away”
At the end of each clinical week, our clinical group is required to write an extensive clinical journal answering specific questions about our experience. An important part of this that I wanted to share this week was the section involving identifying a caring need for yourself; the caring need I identified for myself this week was taking out time to actively engage in a hobby I enjoy to take my mind off other life stressors. Throughout my entire life, I have always been involved with music in some way- choir, band, music minor, radio DJ, backstage staff at a musical performing arts center- and I realized this is the first time in my life I am not a part of anything related to this hobby that makes me so happy. So, I signed up for an interactive music session with two very well-known Bollywood composers in which I will be able to interact with others with an interest in music as well as discuss potential classes or volunteer options for continued incorporation of music back into my daily life. I also received complimentary tickets to attend their concert on Saturday with my family for which I could not be more excited! The clinical experiences I encounter during my psychiatric rotation are beneficial in both my personal and professional life, and may be an area of nursing I will consider working in after graduation. 

If physical diseases were treated like mental illness

*If you or someone you know is suffering from mental illness or substance abuse, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to find a resource near you.

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