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Using a Web-Based Addiction Education and Treatment Delivery System

Author: Dr. Stephen F. Grinstead, LMFT, ACRPS, CADC-II/Thursday, April 8, 2010/Categories: Addiction Medicine

Co-authored by:  Terrence T. Gorski, M.A. & Wayne Blampied

We live in a time when the need for addiction treatment has never been greater and in an era where technology has the potential to improve the human condition as never before. Unfortunately, this potential is not being fully used in the treatment of addiction and concurrent disorders, where providers are continually pressured to do more with less, as finances or insurance limitations dictate treatment. At the same time, funding agencies are looking for quantified results of program effectiveness, and treatment programs are looking for ways to gather that information.

This fact points to a strong need for a Web-based system that combines effective, consistent, research-based and easy-to-use educational content; self-application e-workbook exercises; and self-awareness tools to deliver a powerful treatment and recovery experience. To be effective, a Web-based system needs to provide interactive educational and clinical tools that support and enhance all stages and modalities of treatment.

However, it is important to remember that a Web-based system is not treatment in and of itself, but can enhance and facilitate addiction and mental health treatment through its educational and self-awareness tools. A system that can quantify the client’s program and personal progress through a series of quizzes, assessments, exercises and self-awareness inventories will provide clinical teams with valuable information to support their clients and treatment centers with the necessary statistical data to satisfy their funding sources.

Addiction and mental health recovery is a lifelong process that needs to provide a continuum of care. A Web-based delivery system could be used to extend the educational window to include the time period before traditional treatment, during treatment and after treatment to create this long-term, continuing care. So, potentially, care could start even before the client arrives for primary treatment and extend years beyond their initial treatment experience.

In this system, treatment becomes the core therapeutic recovery process in the continuum-of-care model by pushing some content and clinical tools into pre- and post-treatment. By doing this, providers can gather data about their clients that can be used to enhance and personalize the treatment process, which then becomes less educational and more therapeutic — truly client-centered. Treatment is no longer a time-limited process but evolves over time to meet an individual client’s needs.

At the beginning of treatment, counselors often have to put most of their time, effort and focus on the educational process. Implementing a Web-based system that delivers consistent educational content would allow counselors to focus more on the therapeutic process. This new technology also enables treatment programs to monitor individual clients to ensure everyone receives the crucial educational material necessary for a successful treatment outcome.

When a client leaves primary treatment, he or she often lacks evidence-based relapse prevention education and self-awareness tools to continue their recovery process and avoid relapse; nor are they adequately equipped to transition from the safety of the abstinence-based setting to the real world. A Web-based system can facilitate this process by helping clients with their ongoing recovery needs. Continuing care or post-treatment is very similar to treatment in a continuum-of-care model. The main difference is the level of involvement by the treatment center and the level of responsibility expected from the client.

A Web-based delivery system can empower a client, with the guidance of his or her support team, to create an ongoing recovery plan. This system gives clients complete charge of, and responsibility for, their recovery process. Clients who have worked through their denial and successfully completed treatment are then given the opportunity to follow through on their own with education and self-awareness tools that deliver an ongoing recovery experience. The value of a Web-based delivery system is in its ability to assist the treatment process by offering effective, consistent, science-based, easy-to-use educational content, as well as its ability to assess and quantify a patient’s progress.

Keeping a client motivated to recover is a major challenge that treatment providers face. The ease of access, the recovery team and community concept, as well as the philosophy that the client has not left treatment — just moved on to a different phase of treatment — can support clients to stay motivated. Only time will demonstrate how effective such a Web-based delivery system will be, but for now it is possible that many of the difficulties the addiction treatment field faces in delivering effective, evidence-based, affordable care can be addressed.

Terence T. Gorski and Dr. Stephen F. Grinstead have partnered with Wayne Blampied and Cognit™ to provide Web-based education and clinical tools. Their program, Gorski E-Care™ will continue the legacy of Terence T. Gorski and allow him to achieve his personal mission that “By the year 2010, all people will have access to affordable resources for developing effective recovery and relapse prevention plans for addiction and coexisting mental and personality disorders.”

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