Unfortunately, there is a stigma that continues to surround mental illness. For many, that stigma and the fear of being seen as weak or less-than that keeps them from seeking the treatment that they need. Further, there are unknowns or uncertainties surrounding treatment that keep these individuals away – some of those things are created by this previously-mentioned stigma.
With those things in mind, we decided to sit down with a few of our staff to provide a window into treatment through SMA Healthcare. We wanted to give the community an opportunity to learn more about what they can expect from treatment and what goes into it. Anna Torres (AT) is the Clinical Director for SMA Flagler; Kristin Green (KG) is the Clinical Director in Putnam County; Susan Hinson (SH) is the lead clinician for the Medication Assisted Treatment program; and, Katy Redel (KR) is the Outpatient Director for East Volusia County.
What is the number one goal for treatment?
AT: “To reach goals identified by the client who enters the desired treatment. For many of SMA clients the goal is to increase quality of life, decrease negative symptoms of mental health and substance use. In the words of many of my clients it is to ‘Feel better, and live better.’”
KG: “The number one goal for treatment, whatever it may be, is always chosen by the client. In order for the client to be successful, they must WANT to achieve whatever goal has been decided on. Common goals for our clients are: ‘I want to be sober,’ ‘I want to be healthy,’ ‘I want my life back,’ ‘I want to be reunited with my family’ or ‘I want to feel better.’”
KR: “For a person that is seeking services, it is to better their life, to enhance some part of their life in a way that they are wanting to improve. As the clinician, I am trying to give them the tools to better their lives, to teach them the coping skills, and teaching them even how to identify their own triggers — stuff in their lives that brings them to a negative place.”
SH: “The number one goal for the counselor is to find out what the client wants and to help the client reach that goal. Often included in this goal is a desire to better actualize the client’s potential, improve relationships, and find ways to cope with disorders that have interfered with the client’s quality of life.”
Before beginning treatment, what is one thing you want the clients to know?
AT: “For ‘treatment’ to be successful it takes investment from the person seeking it. We are here to help, support, and teach as a provider. However, it will take willingness and openness from a client to give us permission to “treat them”. It will be different, it will be new, and it may be at times uncomfortable — but let’s remember the goal of this process, which is ‘feeling better, and living better.’”
KG: “I have always wanted clients to understand before beginning any type of treatment that I am their partner in healing and I walk beside on their journey. I am there. I help them unlock the strengths and gifts they have inside which will enable them to heal. I can’t do it for them, there is no magic wand, it is not simple or linear; sometimes there are set backs. Even if you have tried before and have not been able to get where you want—there is still a chance. I first started at SMA in 1996 at Detox. I would see the same people come in and out; I knew their client numbers and birthdays by heart, from seeing them so many times. My belief is this — they may have tried 152 times to get sober and the time wasn’t right. Maybe for them its time #153. The phrase I always think of when people are struggling with relapse (be it client or family member) is ‘Where there is breath, there is hope’ — as long as there is life — there is still time.”
KR: “I want them to know that they can come into a safe environment and share openly their concerns without any judgment. I want them to know that what they are doing is a process of self-care for themselves. This is a way to do that and it’s not in a judgment type of way.”
SH: “The individual seeking treatment needs to know the treatment is for him/her. The goals need to be individualized and personalized. While counselors put forth much effort, the client is the one who will be making changes. Change is often uncomfortable What is familiar is sometimes hard to give up even if the familiar is interfering with a person reaching the goals he/she has set.”
What does a treatment plan look like?
AT: “The concept of the treatment plan is way more than just an outline or to do list. Treatment planning is a ‘living process’ of change. It offers tools, structure, and guidance towards real goals that clients choose to set for themselves. As clients experience the process of change, at times goals or venues of achieving objectives may change…frequent review of the treatment plan allows for those changes to be identified, formatted into action steps and implemented into a plan.”
KG: “A treatment plan is one way of conceptualizing the path to achieving one’s goals. It is a document that breaks down the steps and identifies the tools required for the client to reach their goals. It provides motivation for some by time- limiting the process through target dates etc. It can also serve as somewhat of a contract; the client and the therapist sign it.”
KR: “In general, a treatment plan would be something that the client wants to work on. They come into sessions with certain goals that they would like to accomplish, and we help them build the objectives or steps to help them do that. And, we assist in putting the action plan into place.”
SH: “Individual treatment plans may have some similarities but are also tailored for the individual. A treatment plan states the problems to be worked on, the goals set by the individual, the objectives to help reach the goals, and the interventions that will be used. A treatment plan helps conceptualize what the individual desires from treatment and provides opportunities to reach goals. The treatment plan provides measurable objectives so the individual can see progress and be encouraged by it.”
Why is treatment so important?
KG: “Treatment provides hope for a more peaceful existence — maybe by balancing chemicals in the body through medication, or processing a horrifying trauma that was experienced, maybe through education by learning how to cope with challenges.”
SH: Treatment, when needed, is very important in order to allow an individual to become the best he/she wants to become. Treatment allows introspection in a non-judgmental atmosphere. It helps individuals find ways of dealing with difficult (sometimes seemingly impossible) situations in life. Often a person needs an opportunity to explore, express, and be heard by someone who has no personal agenda in the matter other than helping the individual reach the goals set.
KR: “There are a lot of people who need to learn how to make better choices for their life and make better living habits. Counseling is underutilized and not used nearly enough as a resource of help. I supervise a lot of court ordered programs in my role, so I think that when it gets to the point when someone is court ordered into treatment, it’s important because they reached a low point in life where they need to make changes.”
What are the differences (if any) between treatment and counseling, as it pertains to both substance use and mental health?
AT: “When we look at the concept of treatment we look at a holistic approach to addressing health and wellness issues that our clients come to us with. Therapy/counseling is an essential part of this holistic process. There are many components that fall under ‘treatment,’ for both mental health and substance use services treatment including a combination of psychotherapy, pharma-therapy (medication management), life skills, building self-sufficiency skills, and addressing underlying physical health issues. The holistic treatment approach that is practiced at SMA allows clients to improve health, regenerate, and manage their body, mind, and spirit.”
KG: “I consider treatment to be an overarching term that refers to many treatment modalities; counseling is only one form of treatment. The counseling intervention may be used alone or combined with other interventions such as medication management, case management, etc. Different people may need varying combinations of treatment to achieve their goal (s) — i.e. no single type of treatment is right for everyone.”
KR: “I do think there are differences. However, in the terminology, they can mean the same thing. In substance use, we use treatment; we don’t use counseling, as clients are seeking treatment for their substance use disorder. In mental health, if they are working on their depression, anxiety, or mental health symptoms, we tend to call that counseling.
Going a step further, in treatment, you are treating your substance use disorder. In mental health, you are treating your mental health disorder.”
SH: “At SMA Healthcare, treatment involves many aspects, one of which is counseling. Each individual has individual needs and some are primary. If these primary needs are not first met, counseling may be ineffective. It is important that treatment include resources for mental health, physical health, financial health, and emotional health, whether in the form of resources present or referred. Treatment may include pharma-therapy, peer support, group process, individual counseling, medical care, and referrals to outside resources. SMA Healthcare strives for healthiness in all aspects of a person’s life.”
What is one thing you would like to express to the general public about what you do?
AT: “We assist in transforming lives, we give people an opportunity to find support, professional care, and comradery in their process of becoming healthier, stronger, and more independent in all spheres of their life.”
KG: “In my humble opinion, there is no career in this world that could be more poignant — you, as the therapist, are somehow, and in some way, allowed into someone else’s inner world; you have the honor and trust and privilege of witnessing their transformation and the healing of their soul — this experience — it stays with you forever.”
KR: “When I talk to the general public, the thing people need to get over is the stigma of going to counseling or treatment. Everyone thinks that when you seek services that you are ‘crazy’ and that you have problems that you can’t help on your own. I think, because of that stigma, people don’t seek out the help when it is needed and wait too long. I want the public to know that anyone can seek out counseling at anytime. It doesn’t have to be for major things; it can simply be for self-care.”
SH: “I and my co-workers love our jobs. We think it is a privilege to be able to be there for someone in need. We are not there to judge. We are there to partner with our clients while helping them improve their quality of life.”
Is there anything else you would like to add?
KR: “Clinicians/Counselors are people, and it is okay not to connect with a clinician and share the lack of connection so a better fit therapist can be located.”
SH: “I would love to say thank you to every individual that has offered me the chance to work with them. It has been a great privilege to see them grow, become healthier, and able to meet their goals.”
KR: “To piggy-back on Susan’s answer — I want to thank the people who come for services, because they have allowed us to be part of their journey. And we are appreciative of that.”