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My Mental Health and Addiction Work Experience


Before attending PT school, I received a master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and focused on performing Dialectical Behavioral Therapy with individuals experiencing mental health and addiction concerns.  I became a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor and left the field before becoming a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor.  My background in psychology provides me with the knowledge required to treat individuals with addiction, mental health, and chronic pain concerns with a holistic approach. I have the training and previous work experience to understand the complexity that mental health and addiction add to the presentation of pain and injury, along with the ability to properly respond to these concerns.  My previous work as a mental health and addiction therapist places me in an optimal position to effectively work alongside mental health and addiction therapists to address both the body and mind of patients.


The current model of treating chronic pain, mental health, and addiction is very separated, with mental health/addiction counselors providing their care under one facility and physical therapists providing their care under a separate facility.  It is uncommon for the providers to collaborate when treating these conditions, and it is my goal to change this model.  By adding a contract physical therapist to mental health and addiction facilities, the physical complaints that these individuals experience can be truly addressed with a holistic approach.


Current Concerns with Chronic Pain and Substance Use Disorder


  • 52% of patients in substance treatment report chronic pain and up to 19% of patients seeking treatment for pain report a current substance use disorder;

  • individuals with co-occurring substance use disorder and chronic pain are more likely to be prescribed opioid medications and at higher doses compared to individuals without a history of substance use disorder; and

  • the majority of individuals who reported lifetime occurrence of both pain and substance use disorder stated that the substance use disorder started before the occurrence of pain


What Can Physical Therapy do for Mental Health and Addiction Facilities?


Physical complaints that are often described from individuals experiencing mental health, addiction, and chronic pain concerns include pain, muscle tightness, deconditioning, inactivity, fatigue, and sleep difficulties.  Physical therapy uses exercise, neuromuscular re-education, manual therapy, and pain neuroscience education to effectively address and treat these concerns.  By approaching these conditions with both physical and psychological treatment, we can more effectively help these individuals improve their quality of life and reach their treatment goals. 


Specifically, with the addition of physical therapy to residential addiction facilities, a contract physical therapist can ease the process of treating common orthopedic concerns experienced by their residents.  Rather than referring the patients to a physical therapist outside of the facility, the physical therapist travels to the facility and effectively treats the patient within the facilty. This will provide ease of treatment, eliminate transportation costs, and avoid missed addiction treatment services due to the time required to be transported to and from an outside PT clinic.


Possible Outcome with Adding Physical Therapy to Addiction Treatment Centers and Mental Health Clinics


  • Improved comfort while participating in treatment

  • Improved attention due to reduced pain

  • Decreased likelihood of opioid use due to reduced pain

  • Enhance the likelihood of reaching treatment goals, such as decreased pain, improved quality of life, enhanced engagement in activities of daily living

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Minneapolis, MN


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