Project BOAST Helps Recovering Women Re-enter Society

Project BOAST Helps Recovering Women Re-enter Society

An innovative program developed with Rowan psychology Prof. MaryLou Kerwin rewards positive behaviors of women recovering from drug and alcohol abuse.

It isn't yet famous like the world-renowned Skinner Box but a new program designed to change behaviors of addicted women is providing Rowan psychology students an unusual, first-hand experience.

Dubbed Project BOAST (Behavioral Office-Based Achievement and Success Training) the program at MatriArk, a unit of Seabrook House in Cumberland County, helps women in the 12-month, in-patient program develop job and parenting skills for success back in the world.

For Caroline Gleeson, a psychology major with concentrations in behavioral sciences and women's studies, there couldn't be a better program in which to gain clinical experience. BOAST trains recovering patients in such areas as workplace decorum and positive interaction with their children, then rewards them for doing well with "MatriArk money" to spend in an on-site store.

"We focus on what they're doing well," said Gleeson, a 2008 Rowan graduate. "They get reinforcement for, say, coming into work on time and being dressed appropriately. Gaining recognition for positive behaviors makes a person more inclined to do them again."

BOAST was funded with a three-year, $295,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation plus matching funds from Rowan and Seabrook House.

Rowan psychology professor Dr. MaryLou Kerwin, one of the designers of the program, said the goal was to develop a "therapeutic workplace" in which patients simultaneously get well and train for their future - both in a career environment and in the home.

"BOAST is a model that we believe will catch on - a therapeutic workshop in which patients are rewarded on-site," Kerwin said.

Tax-deductible donations to the on-site store are welcome - everything from nail polish and greeting cards to household items like pots, pans and dish towels. For more information, contact Seabrook House at (800) 761-7575.