How To Prepare for Mental Health Treatment: A Conversation with an Admissions Specialist at HopeWay
October 25, 2018
By Morgan Liles, HopeWay Admissions Specialist
You are finally ready to reach out for help dealing with the depression that has darkened your life for years. Or you are desperately seeking help for a family member who needs further treatment after again being hospitalized following another attempted suicide.
Whatever the reason, you have heard HopeWay is a unique mental health treatment center that fills the gap between acute hospitalization and outpatient care. But you’re understandably anxious based on your past frustration in trying to find the right diagnosis and treatment.
You have many questions. How is HopeWay really different? What should I expect when I enter HopeWay’s voluntary residential program or one of our day programs? What’s a typical day like? What kind of therapies are used? What should families expect?
As an Admissions Specialist at HopeWay, I hear these questions and many more every day. I’ve been privileged to meet hundreds of clients and families when they first visit HopeWay – and then witness how our team of over 85 psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, nurses and others provide them with hope and healing.
One of the things I love about my role is that I have the opportunity to try and ease some of that anxiety before someone becomes a client. Here are four messages I try to convey during the admissions process.
1. Feeling anxious or scared about entering treatment is normal.
Anyone can make a referral to HopeWay, but if the family or a therapist is the one making the initial call, then we always like to talk to the client to get an understanding of where they are, mentally and emotionally, as they consider coming into treatment. When someone is dealing with anxiety, depression or any psychiatric illness, it’s typically really hard to make decisions. I try to educate and support the client and family through the process, acknowledging the difficulty they are experiencing and “normalizing” their feelings.
I handle each situation a little bit differently depending on a person’s resistance or willingness to come to treatment. If someone is opposed to treatment, we offer a tour so he or she can see HopeWay and start to conceptualize what it would be like to be here – and to recognize that HopeWay is probably different than any treatment they’ve had in the past. Especially if they are projecting a hospital experience onto HopeWay, giving someone the opportunity to see how we are different and what we have to offer can help ease their anxiety. Then we assist them by completing the clinical assessment, arranging the meeting with the doctor and working through the various steps to get them settled into one of our programs.
2. The first few days can be stressful, but we help you get through it.
I try to educate the client and the family and be transparent with them that the first couple of days are going to be uncomfortable. It’s a new environment. They are here to work on something that’s really hard, and they generally don’t feel well. It’s important to recognize that being uncomfortable is very normal. I also try to educate the family that if they get a call from their loved one saying “I don’t want to be here” or “this isn’t what I expected,” that is also very normal -- but there is a turning point, typically three to five days in, when clients start to feel engaged and acclimated to the environment. The staff is more familiar to the client, and he or she has developed relationships with other group members and feels support from people who were mere strangers just days before.
One of the benefits of having an open admissions process is that we have clients in different places in their recovery. A therapy group might include someone who is in their first day of treatment and someone who’s being discharged in two days. The client who has been at HopeWay longer can relate; they can look at that person who is in day one and assure them it gets better because they’ve sat in that seat before.
3. Clear communication with your loved ones is important.
Clients can have visitors from the first day of treatment; however, some clients prefer to become acclimated to the program before having visitors. It differs depending on each individual and the situation. Clients need to decide what’s best for them in this transition. As admissions specialists, we encourage families and clients to have that conversation up front so everyone is on the same page and share the same expectations.
The key is if clients don’t want their family to come visit, they need to communicate that message to them. A family may come every day and think they are doing the right thing, but it may not be good for the client’s progress. If the family doesn’t know that, they will show up regardless. Clear communication is important.
Another thing about visitation: Because those first three to five days can be tough, I’ve heard clients say “it’s nice to know in three days my family is going to come visit.” It gives them something to look forward to, something to keep them going. We often help clients explore their individual needs and how visitation might play out in their specific situation so they can make the decision that is best for them as they start treatment.
We offer an “expectations” workshop for families, stressing that recovery is not linear but has ups and downs. We have observed that clients typically show an immediate improvement and then around day 10 have a dip down. Usually this dip relates to the realization that treatment is hard work and it can be a long road to recovery.
Families should be prepared for clients to not want to talk. Treatment is emotionally and mentally exhausting. Clients are actively engaged in therapy and are working hard on themselves throughout the day. Our advice: Do not pester clients to open up about treatment but let them know you are available if and when they need you.
4. Change is hard. Trust the process.
It’s normal to feel overwhelmed. It’s normal to feel anxious. There is a lot of information the client and family are learning and that can be daunting. Change is hard in any situation, and going into treatment is a big change. Clients are making a significant commitment to put in a lot of hard work and that can be scary. It would be for anyone. I tell clients and families, “I work every day with clients who are being admitted to the program, and I see these same feelings every single time, so you’re not alone.”
One key to success in treatment is trust. I encourage each client to trust the process, to trust the staff. Everyone at HopeWay is a professional with years of experience. They are here to support our clients and do what’s best for them in their care. Clients need to trust that. It can be difficult for families to trust the process, especially from afar. But trust is truly what is best for the client’s experience.
The client has to recognize on some level, no matter how small, that they want something in their life to change. If they can believe that, then there’s at least an ounce of motivation to do the hard work necessary. Then we, as staff, can build on that.
Some final thoughts.
In any behavioral health program, a client’s involvement and commitment to his/her treatment is vital. We work with clients to identify treatment goals during the admissions process, specifically during the initial clinical assessment. We ask that clients actively and consistently participate with their team to create goals and an effective discharge plan that will allow them to successfully return to their home, family, work, school and community.
Above all, we hope clients don’t let added anxiety keep them from getting the treatment they need and deserve. We are here because we want clients to feel better and heal. We are committed to lead clients through this program so they can get back to their lives and to their loved ones with a renewed sense of hope for the future and with the tools to help them in their journeys.
For more specific information, please reference the Client Handbook.
About Morgan Liles, MSW, LCSWA:
Morgan Liles joined HopeWay as the first employee in May 2015 after she and her husband relocated back to Charlotte from Nashville, TN. In her initial role as the development and marketing coordinator, she was involved in the day-to-day operations to bring best practice mental health care to the Charlotte region. After HopeWay became operational, Morgan transitioned to admissions specialist to utilize her clinical background. As admissions specialist, Morgan assists families and clients through the admissions process and completes the necessary clinical assessments prior to being admitted to HopeWay. She also helps facilitate groups when needed.
Morgan grew up in Charlotte, earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from North Carolina State University, cum laude, and received her master’s degree in social work from Virginia Commonwealth University with a clinical concentration. Morgan recently passed the clinical licensing exam and is working to gain full licensure, which she anticipates completing in the next 18 months.
Prior to joining the HopeWay team, Morgan worked as a school social worker for Gaston County Schools (NC) and Williamson County Schools (TN), serving the needs of multiple schools with many different socioeconomic backgrounds.
Morgan and her husband have a two-year-old daughter and a three-year-old fur child.