An Interview with Doreen Lafferty, clinical director and Acudetox specialist

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Doreen Lafferty is the clinic director at the Won Institute of Graduate Studies, a licensed Occupational Therapist and Massage Therapist, and also manages programs for individuals and veterans who are in recovery.  When I was a student at Won, I remember Doreen tirelessly trying to help all of us get what we needed while we were in student clinic.  She was always present for us, offering advice and guidance. She kindly took the time to sit and talk with me about the recovery services she does at GoToThem Project clinics during my recent visit to Won.

Tell me a bit about the recovery programs you manage.

 In a Philadelphia, we have three locations for Go To Them Project clinics: Veterans Multi-Service Center, Stephen Kline Wellness Center and ProAct Lehigh.  We also have a clinic at ProAct Bristol. In Bristol and Langhorne there are a lot of recovery houses and meetings.  In all these locations, we do free acupuncture treatments for people in the community. 

ProAct Lehigh was where I did the pilot clinic we based GoTo Them Project on. As the clinic director at Won, I have to make sure that our students get the appropriate amount of clinic experience, in both private and community settings. In 2015, I needed community time for some of our students and we so we did an 8 week program at Pro Act Lehigh. When the pilot ended we did not have funding to continue the project. In 2017 we received a grant from the Disabled Veterans National Foundation and started the GoToThem Project 

What do you find special about treating the patients in these clinics?

I think what we do at the offsite clinics, it’s not just giving acupuncture.  Many of clients have been coming for 2 years and they say it has transformed their lives. 

It took 2 years of us being at Veterans Multi Services Center every week for us to be where we are now, for the vets to trust us enough.  Many of our patients at VMC are traumatized, homeless, Vietnam vets.  Many of them are older, they’re all struggling some way or another but you wouldn’t know it from the way they joke around and their good attitude. They sleep better and their pain gets better after getting NADA. 

 Pro-Act is a recovery community with all kinds of people in recovery. A large amount of the group at Pro Act Lehigh are women from Girard Medical who are in program along with the prison system, where they are in detox instead of prison. They go to Pro Act every week for women’s group meetings and NADA. Many of them are in active detox.  I’ve seen people come into group and they’re shaking and sweating, but after the needles are in, they stop shaking and calm down.  

It’s my dream to have a bus and go right up to the corner in Kensington and offer people acupuncture and ear seeds instead of heroin.  What I also think is that they if they open Safehouse supervised injection site in Philadelphia acupuncture should be in there.

How does NADA acupuncture help people?

NADA was originally developed to help people detox from drugs like heroin.  It is evidence based.  It helps to improve sleep and mood as well as decrease pain and cravings.  I have seen NADA transform the lives of clients who receive it on a regular basis.  The primary care providers at the Stephen Kline Wellness Center appreciate that they have our clinic as a resource for their patients.

Has anything happened in your life that made you want to reach out to these communities?

My brother was a heroin addict.  He had a hard life and eventually died of an overdose of painkillers for back pain because his heart was so compromised from heroin.  Also, my grandfather was a 4th Marine Division WWII Purple Heart veteran. It is those two people I carry in my heart, and my personal reason why I do this. My sister is another reason because she in is recovery from a Meth addiction.  When she was ready, she went to live in a recovery house in Levittown and now goes Pro Act Bristol to get NADA at our GoToThem clinic go to 12 step meetings and she volunteers there too.

Do you have any new projects that you’re looking forward to?

We are submitting  a request for grant funding for a project we would like to start at Salus University called Self Care and Stress Management: Training the Trainer Opioid Prevention Program In Higher Education. We called it training the trainers because the participants will learn techniques for how to take care of themselves using self care techniques like ear seeding and meditation. Then they will be able to teach their future patients the techniques. It is a collaboration between Salus OT, Won Acupuncture Studies and Won Buddhist Studies. I’m excited to have all of the students working together. 

Doreen, thank you so much for everything you do! You are truly making a difference in people’s lives and you are much appreciated.

If you are curious about any of the programs that Doreen talks about, here are the links to check them out:

PRO-ACT - Pennsylvania Recovery Organization - Achieving Community Together


NADA - National Acupuncture Detoxification Association