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Meet Dr. Kimberlee Wilson, Medical Director of Arcadia Trails Center for Addiction Recovery

Dr. Kimberlee Wilson is the addiction psychiatrist and medical director of Arcadia Trails INTEGRIS Center for Addiction Recovery and is one of the top experts in addiction psychiatry in the state and surrounding region. 

A native of Stilwell, Oklahoma (also known as the Strawberry Capital of the World), Wilson always knew she would become a physician, but throughout her studies, she surprised herself when she felt led to the area of brain pathology and addiction.

At Arcadia Trails, her expertise is a perfect fit. Situated among the rolling hills of Lake Arcadia in Edmond Oklahoma, on the medical campus of INTEGRIS Health Edmond, Arcadia Trails is at the intersection of the promising field of addiction science, the rigorous and time-tested 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and a holistic focus on mental health throughout addiction treatment and recovery. Arcadia Trails is unique in its mission to give equal treatment to addiction, mental illness and  underlying trauma.

Though the program is built on the medical model of addiction as a disease, patients at Arcadia Trails especially enjoy the experiential therapies, such as art and animal therapy, as well as guided imagery and recreation therapy. Experiential therapy, used alongside traditional talk therapy, allows patients to gain deeper access into processing their own feelings through creativity and interactions with others. Arcadia Trails offers varied spiritual paths to aid in recovery as well as an integrated family program and comprehensive aftercare planning which includes teaching navigation and coping skills post-discharge to ensure the greatest success and minimizing relapse.

Recently, we spoke with Dr. Wilson to learn more about addiction psychiatry.

Q: How did you become interested in addiction psychiatry?

I became intrigued with brain pathology and the behaviors that result from that pathology during medical school. That’s why I chose psychiatry as a specialty. Early in my medical residency, I spent a lot of time working in the Emergency Department and we had a special section in the ED for psychiatric patients. 

Most of my patients there had co-morbid substance disorders and because of that, they needed more intense medical care in addition to requiring acute psychiatric stabilization. I was and still am most gratified by helping someone with such an acute need recover safely as quickly as possible.

Because of the nature of the illness, addiction patients have many repeat emergency visits. This can be very frustrating for medical providers but for me, it was a challenge I wanted to take on, a problem I wanted to solve. 

Many of my colleagues did not share my interest in addiction, so I became the residency expert in substance use disorders. From there, my knowledge level and experience grew so when I was given the opportunity to choose a fellowship, addiction was an obvious choice.  Since choosing psychiatry, I have worked in three different psychiatric crisis centers where substance-induced psychotic disorders prominently present, and I would do it again.

Q: What exactly does an addiction psychiatrist do?

I am a physician first, a psychiatrist second, and then a specialist in addiction disorders.  I focus on how the addiction developed and how we can reroute the brain reward pathway away from the addiction detour and back on the road to recovery, so patients can live a healthy and fulfilled life. Of course, there are medications and therapies tailored for this treatment.

Q: How has the field of addiction psychiatry changed in the last decade?

Finally, there is more attention on addiction as a chronic brain disease and more emphasis on neurobiological diagnosis and treatment. Many more physicians are choosing to earn the education and credentials to treat their patients with addiction. More insurance plans are covering the medications, and hopefully, more will cover residential treatment for the necessary length of time as they would for any other chronic disease.

Q: Why are addiction psychiatrists needed in today's world?

There is a nuance to practicing the diagnosis and treatment of addiction, and there are more patients presenting for treatment in this country than the number of current practicing psychiatrists.  We have available to us new medications, therapies and programs, but initiating and managing those well requires training and experience. Primary care physicians often can’t devote the time to expand their practice for this. An addiction expert can offer assistance to other psychiatrists and other specialists.

Q: Explain your training and your journey to your position now.

One has to walk a long road to become a physician, and that’s what sets us apart from other health professions.

I earned a Master of Science degree and took additional science courses before attempting medical school, so I already had gone to school for a long time when I started. It’s four years of study and practical rotations to earn a medical degree.

Then I worked four years in psychiatry residency, and one year in addiction medicine fellowship. My training was at the University of Arizona in Tucson and Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago. I am dual board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and American Board of Preventive Medicine and a fellow in the American Society of Addiction Medicine. 

Before coming to Arcadia Trails, I worked in several different environments, including psychiatric crisis centers, inpatient psychiatric hospitals, VA health system,  and rural hospitals via telemedicine. I was a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at OU-Tulsa School of Community Medicine and served as medical director of an assertive community treatment (ACT) program and practiced addiction medicine in residential centers in the Tulsa area, as well as an outpatient clinic. 

Additionally, I served as clinical assistant professor of the new psychiatry program at OSU School of Osteopathic Medicine and was the primary attending physician for the inpatient psychiatry service.

Q: How can people best benefit from addiction psychiatry?

Patients have a specialty-trained and credentialed medical advocate for their recovery when they work with an addiction psychiatrist. It can streamline their treatment process to see a physician who can treat a psychiatric diagnosis and addiction simultaneously.

The Arcadia Trails solution

Arcadia Trail’s mission is to educate all patients about their addiction condition in every way. This includes teaching about brain and body wellness as well as coping and life skills. Arcadia Trails hopes to lead Oklahomans to a healthier and more vibrant community for all. Continue to the Arcadia Trails INTEGRIS page for more information. 


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