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Giving clients MORE after treatment

March 1, 2008
by Caren Kenney
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Hazelden's clients access online tools to help support their recovery

Since 1949, people have been coming to Hazelden in rural Minnesota from all over the world to reclaim their lives from the disease of addiction. Today, more than 50 years later, Hazelden remains one of the world's largest, most respected, and best known private alcohol and drug addiction treatment centers in the world.

In early 2004, Hazelden began to explore ways to better offer lifelong recovery services. According to Mark Sheets, Hazelden's vice-president of regional services and recovery management, Hazelden wanted to help people remain abstinent and active participants in their recovery programs long after leaving the treatment facility.

“The most difficult part of treating addiction is to change someone's behavior for the long haul,” Sheets says. “We were challenged to find useful tools for our clients to use at home that could reinforce all the important work they had done while in the treatment facility.”

Most relapses occur within the first 18 months of recovery, and most of those occur within just the first six months of recovery. Hazelden's research suggested that if it could keep individuals abstinent for one year, they would have a good chance of staying sober for the rest of their lives. Hazelden considered its options, and decided upon a Web-based program that could be introduced during the individual's stay at the facility and then provide continuity from the treatment facility to the individual's own home, offering reinforcement and ongoing support 24 hours a day.

According to Sheets, Hazelden was challenged to find a company to take its vast resources and knowledge and transform them into a Web-based program. Hazelden decided to partner with HealthMedia, Inc., which creates scalable behavior change interventions with outcomes for health and wellness, disease management, behavioral health, and medication compliance.

Together Hazelden and HealthMedia developed the MORE (My Ongoing Recovery Experience) Web-based addiction recovery continuing-care program. MORE is designed to improve patient outcomes by facilitating a connection to Hazelden as the clients return to their homes and communities after completing residential treatment. An 18-month continuing-care program, MORE provides ongoing Web-based care through support, education, and behavior change intervention.

“By bridging the divide between Hazelden and home, MORE supports clients as they begin living day-to-day with recovery,” says HealthMedia President and CEO Ted Dacko. “Providing Web-based tools enables access to critical support no matter when a person needs it—with programs that are designed to meet the needs of each unique individual.”

MORE is based on proven, effective treatment models, including the 12-Step program for addiction recovery. Supported by Hazelden's research and education, MORE is specifically tailored to individuals' needs, providing interactive tools to prevent relapse. Hazelden and HealthMedia believe it is a first-of-its-kind tool in the addiction recovery field.

“Addiction research shows that many people who are ultimately successful in remaining abstinent require several tries at it,” says Richard Bedrosian, PhD, HealthMedia's director of behavioral health science and a clinical psychologist with 30 years' experience in treating depression, addictions, and anxiety disorders. “It's a process of increasing their abstinence skills to resist cravings, and online programs can specifically address this from a behavioral perspective…. We've developed MORE as an online skill-building recovery model.”

MORE provides essential relapse-prevention resources and interactive tools in seven in-depth online modules. Online workbook activities help people reflect on and better understand everything from working the 12 Steps to developing the skills necessary to live a balanced life. Progress checks let people know how they're doing. An online “Assessment Summary” provides a visual snapshot of movement in six key areas related to working the 12 Steps:

  • Powerlessness

  • Belief in a higher power

  • Surrender and asking for help

  • Inventory and making amends

  • Living recovery principles

  • Honesty

Each MORE user is assigned a personal recovery coach who helps him/her develop a comprehensive relapse-prevention plan before leaving treatment. The recovery coach, a licensed addiction counselor, uses a powerful case management interface to track participants' progress and provide ongoing support. The MORE program is standard in Hazelden's recovery treatment.

The MORE program is not designed as a replacement for 12-Step meetings or working with a sponsor. In fact, MORE is designed to support people in embracing a program of recovery and immersing themselves in the new behaviors and connections that support sobriety. For example, the Commitment Tool helps participants set goals such as completing life exercises, attending 12-Step meetings, contacting a sponsor, preparing for high-risk situations, or even taking time for sober fun. MORE participants also can create a personalized support list and find links to trusted Recovery Resources such as local meeting lists. An area called Serenity offers techniques for managing stress. Resources for meditation and prayer help MORE participants achieve a meaningful relationship with a higher power.