A client-centered recovery program that designs services to fit “clients’ individual experiences, perceptions, and needs” and where staff works with clients “on learning choice-making skills as an essential part of recovery” has scored impressive outcome improvements with a challenging dually-diagnosed populations, says an article in the July issue of Behavioral Healthcare (www.behavioral.net). The choice-based program, called CHANGES, targeted a high-risk population with multiple psychiatric hospitalization histories, including jail time. As a result of the program’s individualized approach, “clients previously considered ‘treatment avoidant’ became treatment receptive.” (p. 36)
This finding will not surprise savvy LifeRing participants (or other readers of the Recovery by Choice workbook). The traditional mental health and substance abuse approaches too often are designed to serve the interests of the providers and payors, rather than clients. Providers frequently assume as rock-bottom truth that clients are incapable of making choices, and therefore must have prefabricated solutions rammed down their throats. Instead of learning to make choices, clients are made to dwell on their moral defects and to affirm their powerlessness to change. Why are people surprised that this kind of approach produces “treatment avoidant” clients and has a dismal outcomes track record?
Millions of taxpayer dollars are wasted every month on treatment programs that are ineffective and in many instances abusive. Lonny Shavelson’s “Hooked” details many of the absurdities in the system. The CHANGES program — embodying some central tenets of the LifeRing philosophy — not only showed significant outcomes improvements, it yielded substantial cost savings. The CHANGES approach deserves consideration and creative emulation by other professionals in the mental health / substance abuse fields.