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What Is Collaborative Care? And How Does It Help With Addiction Treatment?

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Managing substance use disorder and enjoying a healthy recovery typically requires intervals of different types of regular and long-term care depending on where an individual is in their recovery. This could include initial drug/alcohol addiction treatment, creating and implementing an aftercare plan, recovery groups, or ongoing therapy and frequently involves multiple care providers along the way. The collaborative care model is an evidence-based model and approach to this multi-stage process that ensures coordinated, continuous support to the individual throughout their process and recovery journey.

What is the Collaborative Care Model?

The collaborative care model is a team-based approach to treatment delivery. It integrates behavioral health, drug/alcohol addiction treatment, and health care to treat substance use and mental health. An example of a treatment team might include staff from an outpatient treatment center, a psychiatrist, sober living staff, and a patient’s primary care physician.

At its most basic, collaborative care is communication among a patient’s providers so that each provider is aware of how the others are operating, including the services being provided and the goals and strategy for treatment. When providers collaborate, it frees the patient from having to relay medical and mental health information from one provider to another, which at times can be quite technical and complex.

Research spanning three decades indicates that collaborative and integrative care is effective and efficient in delivering improved outcomes for people with behavioral health disorders. For substance use disorder in particular, collaborative care can increase patient engagement in therapy and programming and provide the most effective support for co-occurring disorders that interact with substance use. Treatment centers that collaborate with other providers are also best positioned to support patients with comprehensive or holistic services that cross different system boundaries, focusing for example on physical health, relationship health, diet and exercise, or educational and vocational goals.

Since its founding, Encore Outpatient Services has been an interdisciplinary center, comprised of a team of therapists, recovery coaches, academic and professional coaches, nutritionists, and medical staff all working together to support patents and families. This is a unique approach to outpatient treatment, however, where treatment teams typically consist of therapists and psychotherapy services exclusively.

Encore’s long-standing interdisciplinary treatment model also naturally fosters a team with the skill and fluency to efficiently and effectively communicate with providers across various disciplines, levels of care, and professional credential types, both internally on the Encore team and with outside providers locally, regionally, or nationally.

How Does Encore’s Approach to The Collaborative Care Model Help the Patient?

It enables the patient to concentrate on their treatment and recovery.

Collaborative care takes the burden off of patients so they can put their energy where it belongs: into getting well. When patients are stressed or overwhelmed with starting their lives in recovery, the last thing they need is an added responsibility for sharing information and coordinating between providers.

It allows for holistic, integrated treatment.

As patients start their journey in recovery and focus on sobriety, issues like trauma, depression, or anxiety that may contribute to their addiction need to be addressed. An interdisciplinary, holistic approach allows patients to address primary issues of addiction while also making progress on underlying or related issues.

It gives patients the freedom to move forward when they are able.

Encore’s collaborative approach enables patients to make progress in all facets of their lives, including physical and mental health, education, and vocation. The collaborative care model can help patients avoid the frustration of “lost time,” when they are encouraged to concentrate on treatment and recovery but are healthy enough to start tackling other issues and working on their goals. At Encore, our approach gives patients the support they need for drug/alcohol addiction treatment as well as the freedom and professional support needed to begin building their lives in recovery at the same time.

How Does Professional Collaboration Work?

At Encore, we serve as a collaboration hub. We often work with patients in early recovery coming from a detox or residential program or coming to us because they need help starting their recovery process. That means Encore is positioned to facilitate collaboration and communication between and among all providers so that our patients can achieve their treatment and recovery goals. Once we have release of information documentation completed, our team starts collaborating with other providers right away and then will maintain regular communication with providers throughout the treatment process.

For example, patients may need medical care that was neglected if not ignored while they were in active addiction, and the addiction itself also may have created health issues that now need to be addressed. Encore can work with a patient’s primary care provider, or we can help patients find providers that meet their needs. We work with physicians and other health care providers to ensure that prescriptions and other medications are safe for our patients. As needed, the Encore team collaborates with individual or specialty therapists, couples and family counselors, staff at sober living houses, college counselors, vocational and academic coaches, and any other providers contributing to an individual’s treatment.

Successful collaboration creates a continuity of care. The Encore team strives to have our patients feel supported and understood, surrounded with expert support and care that enables them to progress through their treatment and recovery so they may fully participate in and benefit from their treatment and ongoing healing.

By Martha Rackets, Ph.D., LMFT, Encore Executive Director, and Kim Ragan, LCSW, LSATP, CSAC, Clinical Director

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