Director of Activities Therapy Allison Sullivan Moyer sees patients in a different light—sunlight. Mornings or afternoons–depending on the season– three days a week, she and her staff are on the ropes course near the entrance gate. Shouts of “You can do it!” mix with yells and clapping as patients complete the high elements. The mood is more subdued for the low elements, but the intensity is similar.
Therapy is Part of Recovery
“Activities therapy is more than rocks and ropes,” says Allison, referring to rock painting and the ropes course, two contrasting aspects of the program. While there are physical achievements for both, there are also lessons relating to recovery. “For example, when patients are on a low element of cables strung between trees, we ask them, ‘Where are you strongest?’ At the trees, which we liken to their AA group? Or out in the middle with only the cable supporting them and more likely to fall?” Allison also notes the similarity to the 12 steps in the practice of having patients who have completed an element go back and help others accomplish the same goal.
Patients are Different During Activities
Allison encourages case managers to watch patients on the ropes course because patients behave differently there. “I’m a real strong believer that nature nurtures. When a patient is on the ropes course or engaged in other activities, what you see is the person, not the patient.” “They are more likely to let their guard down and just be themselves in activities therapy.”
A Huge Give-Back
“Helping patients see the good in themselves and helping them grow and do things they didn’t’ think they could do is what I enjoy about this work,” says Allison. “Seeing people be sober, seeing them live happy, fulfilled lives that are available to them if they let the miracle happen.” “That’s a huge give-back for me.”
A Week Full of Activities
Allison leads low elements on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the high elements on Fridays. Thursdays find her leading a CORE exercise class. These movements train the muscles in the pelvis, lower back, hips, and abdomen to work in harmony, leading to better balance and stability. On Wednesdays she also teaches a discharge group, and on Fridays during the summer she leads water aerobics at the pool. She also teaches Satori Alternatives to Managing Aggression (SAMA) to the Direct Care staff, training them to de-escalate conflict situations verbally.
Made Her Imprint on the Program
Allison holds a bachelor’s degree in Therapeutic Recreation from Texas Woman’s University. A Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS), she is also certified as a personal trainer, ropes course facilitator (level one), and SAMA facilitator. After graduating from college in May 1993, she served a brief stint at La Hacienda, then worked in the psychiatric unit at San Antonio’s University Hospital. She returned to the La Hacienda staff in 1995 and has been here since During those years, she created the Fit Trail on Serenity Hill and developed the ropes course to its current configuration.
Born to Run
Raised in Abilene, Allison has been a volunteer EMT for more than two decades. In 2021, she received the Kerrville Rotary Club’s Kerr County First Responder of the Year award. A fan of the outdoors, she bicycles around the Hill Country with friends and has completed four 50k trail runs and 10 Ironman Triathlons. With a group of gal pals, she hiked 80 miles on California’s High Sierra Trail to the top of Mount Whitney. On the home front, she is a beekeeper and trains June Bug, her BDE or “best dog ever.”