A weekly dose of recovery information

February 1, 2007
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Weekly refresher courses can help sustain recovery principles and practices

We all probably have had the experience of attending a training event and getting very excited about implementing new recovery-oriented ideas once we return to work. But when Monday morning rolls around, and we’re faced with all the work that wasn’t addressed while we were away at training, plus all the immediate demands waiting for us, our enthusiasm takes a backseat. We say to ourselves, “I’ll just handle all this stuff first, and then I’ll start doing the new things I learned in the training.”

By noon we still are optimistic but realize that our new ideas might have to wait until tomorrow. By 4:30 we find ourselves happy to be just sort of caught up. By Tuesday, we’ve forgotten half of the good ideas, and by Wednesday we’re back in the same old groove, not thinking much about new ideas.

We have watched this happen to staff in many behavioral health organizations. Staff miss out on implementing new ideas, and the organization misses the opportunity to improve the quality of recovery-oriented services—the reason it paid for staff to attend the training event in the first place.

To address this challenge, we try to add an implementation-planning exercise to our training events, which gives attendees an opportunity to create a purposeful means of applying the information when they get back to their jobs. But let's face it: It's challenging to keep remembering that we want to change or improve things when we’re faced with the daily aspects of providing services.

In addition to post-training–implementation planning, there are other ways to significantly improve the chances of sustaining newly learned concepts and skills. One model was developed by Chris Martin, a family member to someone who has received behavioral health services and who has received services himself. Chris has worked for META Services for the past six years and has been a key contributor to developing and delivering recovery training.

One of Chris's primary assignments is to teach peer employees how to enter the behavioral health workforce well-prepared and ready to contribute to the recovery process. He realized that many of them would be working in settings that had not yet embraced recovery principles and practices. He was concerned about their ability to sustain their own recovery when their contributions were not necessarily understood or appreciated. Thus, he devised a method that an organization could use weekly to develop and reinforce recovery skills and concepts among the entire staff.

Chris calls this program Keeping the Recovery Skills Alive (KRSA), which includes 52 recovery skill refresher courses to train and reinforce a recovery culture on a weekly basis. The 52 sessions cover competency-based topics that any health service organization would want as part of its culture, such as Accountability, Teamwork, Pushing Through Fear, Moving to a New Comfort Zone, Conflict Resolution, Hospitality, and so on, all with a recovery culture focus. Each of the refresher courses is deliverable in a 15- to 20-minute session and is ideal to use as an opening at weekly staff meetings.

Perhaps the most powerful component for ensuring the KRSA training takes hold is based on who delivers it—the organization's leadership team. As every manager and supervisor delivers these sessions in their weekly staff meetings, the message becomes clear to all staff members that recovery and wellness are the expectation, not the exception. And just as important, the supervisors and managers who deliver the weekly sessions become predisposed to model the skills themselves.

We like KRSA because it supports and sustains the development of a recovery culture, and we encourage you to find ways of doing this in your organization. Whatever approach you use, try to address the key points of recovery weekly and explain how to apply them in your organization. If you need help thinking about what these points might be, please see previous editions of this column.

This continuous training approach also provides a context for getting all staff interested and immersed in your organizational vision and mission. If you think they already know what your vision/mission statement is, ask them to recite it. We have found that most staff, even high-level managers, often cannot recite their organization's vision/mission statement. If your organization's vision/mission statement does not yet reflect recovery principles and practices, update it so it's consistent with weekly recovery training sessions. Furthermore, if you have particular organizational values that you want to keep in the forefront of each employee's mind, add them to the list of weekly staff meeting “recovery openers” from your leaders. Once this process becomes part of your weekly routine, it will be easier to continue the recovery conversation and make real changes.

Lori Ashcraft, PhD, directs the Recovery Education Center at META Services, Inc., in Phoenix.


William A. Anthony, PhD, is Director of the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation at Boston University.

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