Date of Award

Spring 2020

Project Type

Clinical Doctorate

College or School




Program or Major


Degree Name


First Advisor

Donna Pelletier

Second Advisor

Kerry Nolte


Background: In 2017, Health and Human Services declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency (US Department of Health & Human Services, 2017). As a response, access to medication assisted treatment (MAT) programs was encouraged. In 2016, a community health center in Western North Carolina started a MAT program integrating buprenorphine treatment with behavioral health (BH) services. Data from May 2018 through May 2019 demonstrated retention in the MAT program ranged from 65-75% at a given time with behavioral health attendance under 50%.

Aims: The aim of this quality improvement project was to examine if integrating yoga, an evidence-based somatic therapy, into the MAT program would improve attendance and retention in the MAT program. A secondary aim was to assess whether craving scales and quality of life metrics were comparable between yoga and traditional BH attendees. Finally, ongoing feedback from participants and therapists was examined to improve the MAT yoga program. Method: One-hour yoga sessions were offered over 12 consecutive weeks. The curriculum consisted of poses, breath work, psychotherapy and psychoeducation of moral precepts (yamas and niyamas). Opioid craving scales, quality of life measures and open-ended questions were taken at baseline, 6 weeks and 12 weeks.

Results: Participants were young adults, Caucasian males and females, from a low socioeconomic background. Behavioral health attendance during the MAT Yoga project increased from less than 50% attendance to a mean of 70.24% (n=7). Overall program retention was 100% (n=7). Cravings, desire and likelihood of use decreased. There was minimal change in quality of life metrics with activities of daily living most improved. Participants related a reduction in anxiety, depression and stress. All participants signed up for the next series of sessions.

Conclusions: The findings demonstrated offering yoga as an alternative to traditional BH talk therapy is feasible in community health. The findings and participant feedback from this quality improvement project can be used to expand and improve the program moving forward. Participant feedback indicated that offering later sessions, having longer sessions and more sessions is desirable. Larger studies and longitudinal studies are needed to gather more data.