Faces of Rosecrance: Abby Nelson

November 2, 2017

Photo of Abby Nelson

Abby Nelson has been with Rosecrance for 17 years and is the therapeutic recreation coordinator.  She got her degree in exercise physiology and coached high school varsity basketball before coming to Rosecrance. “When you coach at a varsity level, it’s very matter-of-fact: you’re there to win,” says Nelson. “My approach was a little bit stricter, and when I came to Rosecrance, I had to loosen those reins. I had to be in touch with different situations, stories and circumstances rather than just being focused on completing the task.”

The adolescent clients at Griffin Williamson Campus use the fitness center three days a week and participate in recreation twice a week. Typically during “rec,” they play games such as basketball, kickball or volleyball.

“These kids’ bodies are in terrible condition. They haven’t done a good job of taking care of themselves in terms of their physical health, so they need to rebuild that. I think one of the biggest misconceptions about our department is that it is just playtime for the kids. These moments when they are relaxed are when we can make the biggest impact. As an organization, I think we’ve gotten a lot better at being intentional with those moments.”

Photo of Abby Nelson

Abby Nelson talks about the importance of recreation in the recovery process:

“A big part of participating in experiential therapies (art, recreation, drumming circles) is having fun. If you’re not having fun and enjoying life when you’re sober, you’re not going to stick with your recovery. We need to find something that these kids connect with. We also know they need repetition to learn things, so we cram in as much recovery knowledge and practice as we can get. It’s a lot easier to practice those recovery skills in a game. When we talk about assertively communicating, or holding each other accountable, it’s a little bit easier to get practice at that skill when they’re in rec. Sometimes they let their guard down when they’re playing games and they don’t even realize that they’re practicing those skills.”

“We process after every activity that we do. Playing a game is great, but taking it to the next step and getting that deeper meaning are what we do in therapeutic rec. We have them talk about how they will apply that skill in other areas of life.”

From her 17 years of experience working with the teen clients at Rosecrance, Abby is confident of this:

“Recovery works. If people are willing to make a change, it works. It looks a little bit different on everybody. Just because a kid is in treatment doesn’t mean that they are mess-ups or that they aren’t capable of healing or becoming productive members of society.”