Substance Abuse: How Chennai's TTK Foundation is using music and horticulture to help rehabilitation

Going beyond just regular therapy to help people deal with alcohol and drug abuse, the foundation is helping people come out of addiction 
Therapeutic horticulture is known to calm senses and reduce stress
Therapeutic horticulture is known to calm senses and reduce stress

In a country with a population close to 134 crore people, we find that around six crore people are dependent on alcohol and a further 1.5 crore people are dependant on narcotics like opium and cannabis and only 2.6% of individuals receive treatment for alcohol dependence and 12% receive treatment for drug dependence and even less are cured.  

One of the organisations helping these individuals, TTK Clinical Research Foundation, has introduced some complementary therapy methods, like Horticulture Therapy and Music Therapy, to their already existing ones which are meant to help both patients and their families cope better and goes beyond just talking to them about the problem. They are one among the first to come up with this approach.

Alternative methods: Animal Assisted Therapy is known to improve self-esteem 

Horticulture Therapy, also known as therapeutic horticulture, is meant to give the patients and their family members a way to relax and exert their efforts in something beyond just the therapy at hand. “To watch something bloom in front of you, that too something you’ve planted is very relaxing and helps in handling anxiety,” says Maya Varadarajan the Manager of Aftercare Center. “It gives them something to look forward to,” adds Sheeba Williams, Counsellor and Therapist. Animal Assisted Therapy is another method that TTK Hospital has introduced. “We started this about 2.5 months ago. The therapy animal comes in for our farewell program and our patients are allowed to pet and cuddle him, which will release endorphins and oxytocin. This helps them feel better. His story of previous abuse is also shared with the patients, which helps them deal with anxiety and grief,” Williams said.  

The therapeutic effects of music know no bounds, it is known to reduce stress and anxiety and even reduce stress. Keeping this in mind TTK has included Music Therapy in their arsenal of therapy methods. “Music Therapy is for family members, which helps them relax. When they sing along in a group, they’re able to express themselves and this is a form of release for them,” Williams explained. A safe space is created for the families where they are not being judged for their expression of feelings, which really helps them cope. “You can really see the change from week one to week three because the kind of confidence that they build is tremendous,” Varadarajan added. Yoga and meditation therapy is also one other method that TTK employs, which is meant to be a time for relaxation for both the patients and their families. “Sessions happen once a week with a facilitator, but every day, patients are motivated to either meditate or exercise in the gym every day as a way to relax,” Varadarajan said.

Alternative methods: TTK will be exhibiting puppet shows to bring awareness about gaming addiction

TTK Hospital, through the Primary Care Program, treats patients through physical and psychological treatment. They are taught many life skills and coping mechanisms which are meant to prepare them to go back out into the world. “We believe that unless the family participates in the therapy program, recovery will be very difficult,” said Williams. This is why this hospital has pioneered in the inclusion of family members in treatment programs. The concept of the disease is explained to the family, which consequently helps in the recovery process for both patient and family. To facilitate this, the hospital has included Family Class, Family Group Therapy and Al-anon Sharing sessions, which helps the family recognize the problem and teaches them how they can help their affected family member.

It is often found that affected individuals are in denial of their disease and this only lengthens the process of getting them treated and subsequently the recovery. “Neither standalone physical not psychological therapy is enough, they need both, along with follows ups for at least a period of 5 years,” explains Williams, “This is something that people fail to grasp.” At TTK, each year of success is celebrated as a birthday for the patients, which only motivates them further to keep on their path of sobriety.

They also conduct 15-day camps in villages, which is an abridged form of the Primary Care Program

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