Mental Health Awareness Month: #MoreThanEnough Means…
May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the U.S. and this year, The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) is recognizing it with a campaign to reinforce the fact that everyone is “inherently worthy of more than enough life, love and healing.” NAMI’s “More Than Enough” campaign is designed as a reminder that people struggling with any condition deserve respect, safety in seeking treatment, and hope.
While so many factors can impact someone’s mental health recovery journey, building a strong therapeutic alliance with the right provider is one of the most important considerations to ensuring quality care. Every patient should know they are “more than enough” and feel empowered in the relationship with their provider so they can be confident and comfortable in their therapy. At its core, therapy is facilitated through the human relationship, where only the person seeking care can decide if the relationship feels right and is a good fit.
Effective therapy is built upon empathy, shared understanding, and collaborative partnership between patient and clinician to work towards mutually agreed upon goals. These elements are all key to a strong therapeutic alliance. Patients should know they are more than enough to deserve a strong alliance, and should know how critical it is to helping them achieve a positive therapeutic outcome.
When patients are engaged in care, they are often addressing and sharing vulnerable thoughts, feelings and behaviors, discussing the impact on their lives and their hopes for the future. Patients want (and deserve) to be heard and understood, and trust that their therapist can envision a path forward for them.
There are many factors that influence the bond between a therapist and patient. For example, cultural competency can contribute heavily to a patient’s experience of being seen and understood in treatment. Goal consensus and collaboration is another important factor where an attuned therapist should help their patient articulate goals they can work together to achieve.
Without the right balance among these factors and more, it can be easy for a relational barrier — real or perceived — to occur between a patient and provider. A clinician’s ability to address any barriers, particularly if there is a communication barrier or perceived abrasion in the connection, can be integral in moving through issues toward a stronger therapeutic alliance.
“Cultural competency can contribute heavily to a patient’s experience of being seen and understood in treatment.”
Liz Jones, LMHC, CCM – AVP of Clinical Strategy
Patients should feel empowered to discuss their concerns with their clinician. Therapists, in turn, need to provide the environment — and sometimes encouragement — for a patient to do so. Ultimately, patients should feel safe, supported, and that their provider is willing to walk alongside them in their journey, meeting them where they are. Everyone is more than enough to expect these basic components of a strong therapeutic alliance.
When a relationship is impaired, or when a patient lacks a strong therapeutic alliance with their provider — or worse yet, loses trust — it can have a negative impact on their engagement in treatment, adherence to goals and overall treatment outcomes. This can lead to early treatment attrition, as well as a larger disengagement with the behavioral health care space overall. Those with limited health care literacy, or without knowledge about how a therapeutic alliance should look or work, can quickly become discouraged and disengage with all providers due to a bad experience or two.
But when the therapeutic alliance is strong, there is ample evidence of a positive impact on overall treatment outcomes.
Embracing the Role of “Matchmaker”
Lucet helps connect people in need of mental health services with providers who can help them. In this position, we understand how important a “right fit” is between a provider and patient, and the impact it can have on accelerating a person’s path to positive outcomes or even their lifelong outlook on the value of a therapeutic relationship.
As a company that believes strongly in a human-centric approach to mental health, our first priority is ensuring that our care navigators who interact with health plan members are well-equipped to guide people to care that will be successful. At a time when there’s still a huge mismatch between the demand for mental health services and supply of providers, some people seeking care are content with any appointment they can get, with any provider. At Lucet, we optimize a health plan’s behavioral health network so we can quickly connect members to care, but make sure that it’s the right care.
Our Navigate & Connect solution is a tech-enabled service that empowers care navigators to schedule appointments for members in real-time, even on their first call. It also integrates data about a member alongside insights about available providers that enrich a care navigator’s ability to find the right fit. Using these insights alongside their training, intuition and human touch, our care navigators help ensure that members are getting the right care from the start.
We also provide clinicians with a suite of measurement-based care tools that include scales to measure the therapeutic alliance. These scales can help facilitate and foster a treatment environment where discussions about the quality of therapeutic alliance is both expected and encouraged, further empowering members to engage in sometimes challenging conversations with their treating providers. With these tools, providers can also monitor progress through the life of a relationship.
This Mental Health Awareness Month — and every day of the year — we recognize that everyone is #MoreThanEnough and deserves the right care. By merging our technology with the human touch of our care navigators, we make sure our members get the care they need.
Liz Jones, LMHC, CCM is AVP of Clinical Strategy at Lucet, The Behavioral Health Optimization Company.