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TCIV: Meet clients where they’re at—really

December 6, 2017
by Julie Miller, Editor in Chief
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Most treatment centers pride themselves on their individualized approach to care and how well they’re able to “meet clients where they’re at.” Paul Auchterlonie, CEO of University Park Behavioral Health, has a novel message for providers: You’re doing it wrong.

Auchterlonie points out the fact that only 10% of individuals who need addiction treatment connect to care, and a large part of the reason is because those potential clients simply don’t want what the industry has to offer. The way providers communicate today fails to resonate outside of the industry’s own inner circle.

“Our industry hasn’t cared about what people want, and our industry thinks people don’t know what they want,” Auchterlonie said, speaking at the third annual Treatment Center Investment and Valuation Retreat in Scottsdale.

Too many providers speak in terms of billing codes—such as “intensive outpatient treatment”—or simply expect the clients to hand over their trust just because a clinician said so. Even if the approach has worked reasonably well in the past, times are changing, he said.

Unmet need

The biggest population of patients and potential patients are those in the millennial generation—a demographic group that is even larger than the baby boomers. Millennials aren’t going to be willing to give up their smart phones during treatment, for example, and they are less interested in hand-written journaling or religious aspects of life, opting instead for their own gut feelings on what suits them best.

“If you say to them ‘here’s a book from 1935 that you have to read,’ does that engage them?” Auchterlonie said.

Meeting people where they’re at means putting in the time and resources to deliver innovative solutions. Technology tools such as apps and digital communities are far more likely to appeal to millennials and lead to better outcomes, for example.

“The relapse and recidivism rates are horrifically embarrassing,” Auchterlonie said. “The lack of outcomes data is also horrifically embarrassing.”

To engage millennials and truly meet them where they’re at, he recommends that clinicians should adopt the attitude that every client is “someone who is awesome and talented but is going through a rough time.” Such an approach will offer hope that is too often lacking in treatment programs.