Speaking at a conference devoted to continuing care, the CEO of Twin Town Treatment Centers last week made it a point to define outpatient treatment as more than a landing point for individuals exiting a residential stay for addiction.
“Outpatient is a valid treatment approach, not just an aftercare approach,” David Lisonbee told an audience at the Addiction Professional Summit titled “From Treatment to Recovery: Embracing a Continuing Care Model.” Lisonbee and Twin Town consultant Susan Musetti delivered a talk on relapse prevention in outpatient treatment settings.
The speakers emphasized that, for what Musetti calls the “sales job” that clinicians must engage in when working with patients in early recovery, there are several aspects of language that professionals should avoid:
Negative terminologies about patient behavior. Focus on the pro-recovery actions a patient can take, not the situations they should avoid. “It's totally counterproductive to say 'not to use,'” said Lisonbee. Likewise, the warning “Stay away from those people” should become “Are you hanging out with these people?”
Pejorative labels for the individual. “Listen for the word 'chronic relapser' in your program—please correct it,” said Lisonbee. The phrase also can become a rationalization for the patient, as in, “I'm a chronic relapser; what did you expect?”
Inaccurate expectations about relapse. Lisonbee said relapse should be neither an expectation nor an admission of outright failure if it occurs. “Relapse is preventable,” he said.