Providing effective treatment for substance and alcohol abuse requires looking at more than a patient’s current state; it’s a matter of understanding how they got there, according to Gary D. Hees, MA, LPC, vice president of professional relations at Decision Point Center, an Arizona-based treatment facility.
Speaking at the Summit for Clinical Excellence in Falls Church, Va., this week, Hees said clinicians sometimes fail to see the big picture with patients.
“Obviously, there was a progression of events that took them into a substance use disorder, and then like most of us, they woke up one morning and said, ‘Oh my God, I can’t stop,’ ” Hees said. “Let’s stop putting a Band Aid on a gash. Let’s stop looking strictly at putting a plug in the jug. How about finding out how it developed and addressing the things that keep it going?”
Hees offered two pieces of advice for treatment providers. First, he implored them to take a collaborative approach to treatment in order to build a rapport.
“When you approach somebody in a non-collaborative way, that’s what you’re saying: my way or the highway,” Hees said. “In my experience throughout 22 years, when you approach somebody that way, they will either go complain or they’ll terminate treatment when it’s something they need very badly. The bad part is the treatment industry has pointed to them and said they aren’t ready. That’s not true.”
Second, he said it’s important to understand that mistakes happen in recovery, and that it’s critical for providers, as well as the family members of patients, to be understanding when it comes to relapses and setbacks.
“When can we finally define making a mistake when someone is in recovery as a learning experience?” Hees said. “Lots of people say, ‘They could die from that.’ Yeah, they could. I could die from driving home tonight, but I’ve driven enough to where usually I don’t get into a situation where I’m going to be hurt. The same thing applies to the addiction field.”