Were service users looking for warm empathetic professionals? Important but not the most important thing. Was it doctors and nurses getting the dose of ORT right? Not on the radar. Was it getting decent housing, getting into employment or building better relationships? No, important as they are, these were not at the top of the list. Neither was it being able to attend nice premises, getting access to acupuncture or having integrated treatment. No, it was something else.
The most important thing for recovery
What did service users at this event say they valued above everything else? Well for these guys it was the instillation of hope. This most important thing, – hope, as it turns out, is not a quantity measured by the average outcome measurement tool.
And how do service users find hope? Well it comes about partly because professionals believe in them and what they can achieve – that was mentioned and valued, but even this wasn’t the key ingredient in the growth of hope. The main hope-inspiring thing for recovery seekers is what happens when they meet other people in recovery.
I wonder how much this is understood by treatment professionals and how ready we are to act on it. Mark Litt and fellow researchers at the University of Connecticut found in a randomised controlled trial that there was a 27% reduction in relapse rates when one sober person was added to a recovering person’s social network.
Yet locally we have evidence that our success rate of connecting people in services up to recovery community resources is still pretty low, despite there being simple, evidenced interventions designed to do just this.
The service users at our event were delighted to be asked what was important to them. Asking people in recovery what they value about treatment certainly seems like a good idea. Lee Kuskutas and colleagues did just that and found some surprising things. It’s been done in this country too.
So the answer for what matters most (at least for these service users) was pretty simple. Hope. But is it simple to deliver?
I’m left with four questions to which I have my own answers, but I’ll put the questions out there for others to mull over:
- How do we start to value intangible essentials like hope in our services?
- How do we make services hopeful places?
- How hopeful are we as professionals generally about the chances of recovery – from the needle exchange to the rehab?
- How do we make sure every service user regularly gets to meet people in sustained recovery