In Massachusetts, an individual with a first offense of operating under the influence must participate in group sessions to address their impaired driving and substance use. As a part of the Massachusetts Impaired Driver (MID) Program, participants are able to reflect on the impact that their substance use has had on their behavior.

Participant Kara Lally is “very grateful” to have ended up doing the MID program, on MHA’s virtual platform with Rachel Pilver, a clinician in MHA’s BestLife Emotional Health and Wellness Center and MID Instructor.

“Rachel takes the approach you made a mistake, so let’s make this a learning experience,” Kara said. “She puts the information out there less like a teacher and more for you to reflect on it. She pushes you to think more deeply around information that is not just black and white in understanding. She has reiterated things that I have tried to educate myself on and reinforces my commitment to learning and recovery.”

Kara, who celebrates two years sober this month, regards Rachel’s approach in delivering the content of the structured, two-hour sessions, as coming at the right moment in her life as she completes the court-ordered program.

“She has changed my life for the better,” Kara said. “Everything Rachel has taught in the sessions in an unbiased, documented way has reinforced what I have read and made me understand I am not a bad person despite all the ups and downs. It has been a long ride to get here but well worth it. I am very grateful.”

Kara’s offense dates back to a fall 2018 accident; she sees her journey to being in the program with Rachel as “something that found me.” She had been waitlisted, partly due to the pandemic, for a program in the Boston area where she lives. However, the delay was encroaching on the time period allowed by probation for the completion of the course, and she was referred to MHA’s program.

MHA is licensed by the state’s Bureau of Substance Addiction Services to provide the MID program, and currently offers it six days a week.

Kara added that the course with Rachel “is pushing forward” her desire and interest to use what she has learned in managing her own recovery to help others. Kara plans to obtain, and give, continued support to others through self-help meetings when she completes this program next month.

Rachel said the program includes an intake assessment, 16 weeks of class, homework assignments, and an exit interview. The classes follow a curriculum “that the state puts together with information it believes participants should become more knowledgeable about to help them make a better decision to not be impaired while driving.”

She describes Kara as someone who “very actively participates in and contributes to” the group sessions.

“Kara is fantastic to have in class,” Rachel said. “She is actively working at living a sober life and brings to the group her own lived experiences. Kara has shared about the process of adjusting her lifestyle in terms of where she lives, who she is around, and what types of supports best help her in her recovery. She is motivated and excited about learning in the group sessions. She shows that she enjoys the time spent learning in the group despite being mandated by court to be there.”

Rachel added that when a participant like Kara is willing “to bring in their own personal experience and share it that is usually when the conversation sparks up. This motivates other participants to join in and say things like, ‘Oh, yeah, I have had to deal with that too.’ These moments of connection help participants see that they are not alone in this process and in fact are surrounded by a group of others who understand them and can support them.”

Rachel said she enjoys her work as an MID Instructor as it further diversifies what she gets to do as an MHA clinician.

Providing therapy for a varied population, both via telehealth and in person, for MHA’s BestLife Emotional Health and Wellness Center is also a part of Rachel’s every day work. She also facilitates a biweekly Dialectical Behavioral Therapy skills group to women with severe mental illnesses, substance use, and trauma in one of MHA’s residential programs.

“It is incredible to get to do so much different work on a regular basis,” said Rachel who earned dual master’s degrees in 2020 from Boston’s Suffolk University in mental health counseling as well as in crime and justice studies. “This experience has allowed me to work with and serve people diverse in their diagnoses, cultural background and lifestyle, and all with an organization that is unwavering in its support for staff and clients.”