CARE Plus is rooted in the concept of attachment theory. Attachment theory states that our ability to form emotional and physical attachments to other people throughout our lives is determined by the ways in which our parental figures care for us when we are infants. In our program, we utilize mentalization and attachment-based therapy, including The Circle of Security(™), in order to support mothers’ attachment to their infants and children (and thereby set the next generation up for success). Through these methods mothers become more aware of their own attachment needs and how those can be met by all the important people in their life.
Attachment is both the cause and cure when it comes to substance use.
Dr. Joanna Chambers, perinatal psychiatrist, shares that insecure attachments and substance use disorder are highly correlated. Helping mothers strengthen or build new supportive and healthy relationships is core to the CARE Plus approach to recovery from substance use disorder.
Support & Encouragement:
The traditional healthcare system is not designed to provide the holistic support needed by mothers seeking help with substance use disorder. Whether sharing resources to help with housing and food insecurity or simply being a shoulder to lean on, peer recovery coaches are able to step in where the system fails. Our coaches – who have experienced substance use disorder in their own lives – are trusted sources of support for women in the CARE Plus program; empowering, educating, and linking them to resources within their communities.
She said to me, ‘I just want to let you know that you were my guardian angel and that your words of encouragement touched me. And I look forward to starting this new life with you.’
Community health worker and Certified Addiction Peer Recovery Coach, LaTasha Timberlake, provides non-judgemental support and motivation to over 100 mothers living with substance use disorder. She sees her role as both a calling and a passion.
Most of the mothers in the CARE Plus program have experienced trauma in their past. This trauma manifests as insecure attachment and distrust. To overcome these negative feelings and learned behaviors, our therapists use mind and body techniques with mothers to explore and heal their trauma. Mothers learn tools to manage their emotions and soothe their children while also building a foundation of trust and healthy attachment with their therapist. This relationship becomes a source of strength that empowers them to build healthy attachments with others in their lives.
Our only agenda is to understand them and help them understand themselves. That’s it. That’s our agenda.
Attachment therapist, Debbie Vargo, explains that many mothers seeking help with substance use disorder must learn to trust others. She workss to create safe spaces for mothers to do that work.
Prenatal & Postpartum Connections
Giving birth is a monumental event in a woman’s life. While it can be joyful, it is also a time of high stress. For mothers giving birth to a baby with NAS it can be even more stressful. While we believe women who have just given birth are often newly motivated to modify their substance use and other risky behaviors, we have also realized the value of building relationships during pregnancy. Any pregnant or parenting woman struggling with opioid use disorder is invited to join the CARE Plus program.
Coaches and therapists focus on the woman as a mother; as a person rather than someone with a substance use disorder. We understand that substance use disorder is just part of the complexity, but it doesn’t define you.
Dr. Debra Litzelman explains the benefits of her team’s holistic and empathetic approach to providing care to their patients.
Research & Care
At the outset, our team considered CARE Plus to be a research project. However, it soon became clear that this patient population – mothers with substance use disorder – face so many urgent and complex challenges that we were fundamentally obligated to combine research with care in order to better meet their needs.
While this dual approach complicates research design, as human-centered healthcare providers we feel we must keep the mothers’ needs at the center of our work. We provide real and tangible benefits to women and their children through therapy and the support of a peer recovery coach, while using research activities such as surveys to inform services, track progress, and measure outcomes. The confidential research work will inform and enhance the development of treatment for others in the future.
I am proud of the responsiveness of the program and the constant reflection on its content, delivery, and engagement in order to create an approachable, helpful, and supportive service for these moms.
Dr. Sarah Wiehe, part of the research team, highlights the mom-centered mindset that drives the interactive and responsive approach for supporting mothers living with substance use disorder.