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TOPIC TITLE: Extended Treatment Programs and Mental Illness
Created On 12/2/13 1:12 PM
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12/2/13 1:12 PM
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(Originally appeared in the August 2013 issue of Mind, Body & Soul in The Jewish Press)

By Jaime DelGrosso, LCSW

Mental illness is, unfortunately, a widespread problem throughout our nation. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 1 out of every 17 people suffers from a seriously debilitating mental illness. Many of these people are continuously accessing health care services through local emergency rooms and hospital psychiatric units, and the cost of these admissions can run into thousands of dollars.
For many individuals with a mental illness, finding appropriate and helpful aftercare is their biggest challenge. Many patients return home from a hospitalization to the same surroundings that often played a role in their admission in the first place. The aftercare system has got to change, to provide relevant and effective services.

Extended treatment programs (ETP) are specifically designed to facilitate that change. They offer a viable alternative to multiple hospitalizations or residential programs. These programs are designed to be either a short-term or a long-term option. In extended treatment programs, clients receive both the clinical services they so desperately need, and at the same time, are guided through their daily life activities with a qualified support system. The latter is an important component of aftercare that is most often missing.

The services of the qualified support systems are delivered by life coaches. The main responsibility of these individuals is to assist their recovering clients in managing the challenges of daily living. Life coaches hold, at a minimum, a bachelor’s degree in a human service related field, and they utilize tools from a variety of disciplines, including psychology and sociology.

One of the most important components of the life coach’s job is to help a client identify and work towards achieving specific goals. It is important to note that a life coach is not a clinician and while they may provide guidance, they do not provide therapy.

Specifically, some of the help that life coaches offer comes in the form of teaching clients how to schedule, organize and manage their time throughout the day. They may assist clients in budgeting, shopping, scheduling appointments, seeking employment and integrating into their community. Besides helping clients to develop daily routines, which are so helpful but so elusive to those with mental illness, a life coach is someone who is available on call, after hours, when needs may arise and a client needs someone to lean upon. It is important that clients feel they are not alone in this struggle.

As mentioned previously, clinical treatment is a vital portion of ETPs as well. Clinical services provided within an ETP setting include but are not limited to: psychiatric consultations, medication management, varieties of therapeutic support groups and various insight oriented groups. Many other common types of therapies are also offered. Levels of clinical care will vary depending on individual facilities. Clinical services are an important area to pay attention to when searching for the appropriate ETP program.

Extended treatment programs offer the perfect combination of clinical services and life coaching. Someone suffering from a mental illness often needs multiple support services wrapped around them. ETPs are specifically designed to do this. Life coaches coordinate their efforts with the clinical team in helping clients to successfully complete their treatment plans. This interdisciplinary effort provides the formula needed to help avoid re-hospitalization.
An important benefit of an extended treatment program is that it may be utilized as a long-term treatment option for those who cannot live an independent lifestyle without strategic support mechanisms. Often, these tasks fall upon a family member, and ETPs can effectively relieve them of these responsibilities. ETPs help people become independent and manage their illness. They are an ideal solution to those looking for a longer term program of care The main goal of the ETP staff is to encourage a client to achieve their highest level of functioning, both clinically and in their day to day life.

Cost can often be a deciding factor when seeking services for someone with mental illness. Most ETP programs work with insurance carriers for their payment. It is important to note that while insurance may cover the clinical services, it may not cover all ETP costs and there may be a fee to the client/family for uncovered services. These fees may vary, depending upon what services are warranted for the individual client to achieve treatment goals. To find an ETP, clients and families should consult their local NAMI office or conduct a web search.

In summary, extended treatment programs are the missing link between a hospitalization and a client’s successful return to the community. ETPs allow for a long-term option of care for an individual who cannot maintain a healthy baseline at home. The combination of life coaching and clinical therapy provides an ideal wrap-around service for those who require this level of support in order to live a healthy life. Becoming involved in a treatment program that is designed to address all areas of someone’s life will allow them to progress with a higher level of confidence. This confidence plays a key role in ending the cyclical nature of hospital admissions that plague so many with mental illness.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any agency. One should also consult with a medical professional before determining aftercare appropriateness.

Jaime DelGrosso is a licensed clinical social worker and the head of the community outreach department at Blue Sky Behavioral Health in Danbury, CT.

Edited: 12/18/13 at 2:21 PM by JewishPress

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