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Residential center takes manualized approach to 12-Step facilitation

November 22, 2013
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Like other 12-Step oriented addiction treatment facilities, New Jersey-based Seabrook House faces a dilemma related to client engagement. Many of its clients come in unfamiliar with or intimidated by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), but Seabrook staff may not be with them long enough to see their 12-Step educational efforts take hold.

“Sixty to seventy percent of our patients entering treatment have minimal or no 12-Step knowledge or experience,” says Jason Gerner, Seabrook’s clinical outreach representative.

Mindful that whatever patients learn in their residential stay can set them on a productive path post-treatment in the 12-Step fellowship, Seabrook has begun using multimedia toolkits developed by the Philadelphia-based Treatment Research Institute (TRI) as part of its group curriculum. Gerner, who worked on field testing of the toolkits when he was on the staff of another treatment center, says Seabrook has become the first residential-level treatment facility to employ the 12-Step based toolkit in its programming.

The TRI toolkits being used at Seabrook are the Open Doorways Toolkit, which introduces patients to all of the key components of 12-Step involvement, and the RoadMAP toolkit, which focuses on skills for relapse prevention. Each includes both written and video elements, presented to patients in a series of modules over a four-week period as part of primary group activity. “Tuesdays are our toolkit day,” says Michele Smith, Seabrook’s director of clinical services.

Smith says the toolkits also assist clinicians to a great degree because they don’t have to have been involved in a 12-Step program themselves or even to have been in recovery to be successful in applying these learning tools with their clients. Gerner says TRI conducted a brief training of Seabrook’s clinical staff, and he also led training sessions for clinicians over a process that took a little more than two months.

An advantage to use of the toolkits, according to Seabrook leaders, is that they allow for standardization and consistency in the way patient education about 12-Step participation and relapse prevention takes place.

The Open Doorways toolkit uses scripted video to bring to life the concept of what actually goes on in a 12-Step meeting, easing the anxiety that many patients face. “A lot of patients will say, ‘You want me to go into a room with a bunch of strangers, a group of addicts and alcoholics, and ask for help?’” Smith says.

She says Seabrook realizes that much of the meaningful work that will put patients on the road to long-term recovery will occur after they leave what amounts to a fairly brief residential program. Patients’ continued 12-Step attendance post-treatment ultimately will serve as the measure of success for implementation of the toolkits.

“In 28 days you can’t get to the root of trauma,” she says. “You start getting them working on it.”

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