March 27, 2018

Taking Care of Our Own: Addiction Treatment and Recovery for Health Professionals

The University of Michigan Addiction Treatment Services (UMATS) supports the recovery of health professionals dealing with addiction or mental health problems

The University of Michigan Addiction Treatment Services (UMATS) offers a specialized program designed for healthcare workers battling addiction or other mental health problems. The program, called Addiction Treatment and Recovery for Health Professionals helps licensed healthcare workers through safe, respectful, private treatment.

Substance use disorders occur when genetics, environment, and exposure all create the perfect storm. They can manifest when someone has a genetic predisposition to addiction, if their environment is stressful, and/or if they are exposed to the substance itself. Medical professionals are particularly vulnerable to prescription drug addictions because they have more access to addictive substances like narcotics and their jobs are stressful, demanding and often expose them to trauma.

Many health professionals face increased stress, due to recurring critical decisions, a fast paced work environment, and the 24/7 nature of healthcare delivery,” said Edward Jouney, D.O., an addiction psychiatrist and clinical instructor with UMATS. “They are a vulnerable population and we need to be aware of this. Health professionals experience the same amount of depression and anxiety as the general population and during certain high-stress periods, such as when in-training, they are at particularly high risk for increased mental health symptoms.”

According to the American Psychiatric Association, “addiction is a complex condition, a brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequence. Studies show that drugs and/or alcohol cause changes in the areas of the brain that relate to judgment, decision making, learning, memory and behavior control. Changes in the brain’s wiring are what cause people to have intense cravings for the drug and make it hard to stop using the drug.”

“Just as with other diseases, if addictions are left untreated the problem tends to get worse,” said Wendy S. Yallop, LMSW, clinical social worker with UMATS. “With this program, we are trying to help people get back to work so they can meet their full potential.”

Individuals may be referred into the Addiction Treatment and Recovery for Health Professionals through the state of Michigan’s Health Professional Recovery Program (HPRP), through the U-M Employee Assistance Program, or through their provider via U-M’s MiChart. Others are self-referred. Once referred into the program, individuals are evaluated by an addiction psychiatrist and given an individualized treatment plan that may include medication, individual therapy, group therapy, or a combination of the three.

"The problem doesn’t have to be devastating before you feel better,” Yallop added. “Once treatment begins positive changes occur quickly, it’s much better to get help early on. We encourage any health professional who is concerned to reach out and get a confidential assessment. This can help them make an informed decision about their options.”

The UMATS team provides treatment and guidance in a supportive and caring environment, and are committed to helping health professionals achieve recovery. If you or someone you care about is dealing with an addiction, please visit University of Michigan’s Addiction Treatment Services at

Learn more: Science Says: Addiction Is a Chronic Disease, Not a Moral Failing