Self-Direction: Will This New Addiction & Mental Health Recovery Method Work For You?
What is Self-Direction?
Self-direction is an approach towards goal actualization (such as mental health management or addiction recovery), that is personalized to fit your individual strengths, weaknesses, goals, and desires. Unlike other traditional forms of goal actualization, self-direction doesn’t adhere to rigid rules or archaic methodologies and it isn’t a one-size-fits-all program of the month. Nor does it set you up for failure before you even start. Instead of starting where the facility or behavioral therapist wants you to be, self-direction starts with where you are at this moment, meaning you are an active participant in your own treatment from the very beginning. For example, perhaps you are struggling with alcohol addiction. Though your family and friends may be concerned with the alcohol affecting your health, maybe you are more worried about paying your traffic fines so that you don’t lose your only mode of transportation and potentially put your job at risk.
This method towards goal actualization was initially implemented amongst elderly people, patients recovering from a brain injury, and disabled persons, but is now gaining momentum in the mental health and substance abuse sector. In the United States, there are currently more than 300 self-direction programs and over one million participants actively involved in these programs.
The core principles of the self-direction method are to promote:
- Individual strengths
The method is based on the assumption that you know exactly what is best for you and with enough support you can achieve it.
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How Does Self-Direction Work?
First, the participant is assigned a support worker to help develop goals and design a plan of action. Then, the support worker and participant meet for weekly one-on-one meetings, where the support worker reviews the progress made and gives feedback. Not only is the participant responsible for setting their own recovery goals, but they are also taught how to manage their own finances.
One of the key differentiators of Self-direction is the financial support element. Many people struggling with mental health or substance abuse problems are also struggling financially, thus trapping them in a never-ending cycle of needing help but not being able to afford treatment, thus turning towards self-medicating with substances or self-sabotaging behaviors.
The emerging research proves that when you help people break down the barriers preventing them from accessing health care services, they are more likely to realize their intended goals. Current self-direction participants who have been taught how to adhere to a budget are now able to easily allocate funds towards transport, dental and medical bills, and psychiatric medications.
Why You (Or Someone You Love) Needs Self-Direction
The current addiction treatment system has a lot of barriers to entry including accessibility, affordability, and adaptability.
These barriers to entry prevent the majority of people struggling with addiction and mental health disorders from seeking or receiving treatment. As many as 90% of people struggling with alcohol abuse don’t seek professional help while the drug overdose rates have been steadily rising over the last 30 years.
Luckily more and more options to the traditional model are now emerging, methods that seek to reduce the stigma attached to labels, promote the privacy of the participant while keeping their integrity intact by providing discreet online courses. Some of these programs include IGNTD Recovery, Integrative Harm Reduction Therapy, The Sinclair Method and Medication Assisted Treatment.
Though it may sound radical to some, to those who have benefited from the self-direction approach, it’s revolutionary. No longer do you have to carry the guilt and shame of failing to meet expectations placed on you by the traditional model. No longer do you have to feel trapped by outdated systems and methods. No longer do you have to carry around the weight of the alcoholic or drug addict label. You can choose your own way and start from where you are right this moment.
Self-Direction vs Other Treatments
More often than not, mental health and addiction rehab facilities focus solely on minimizing symptoms through abstinence. While this may certainly be the participant’s end goal, there are many other things that first need to be addressed before the journey to recovery can begin, things like financial woes, traumatic memories, or low self-worth.
Abstinence-only methods alienate anyone who is even remotely resistant to this as a primary goal and risk being labeled as in denial or oblivious to their own problem by their practitioner.
Though there has been a recent shift towards more people-centered treatment options, we still have a long way to go before self-direction is recognized for its efficacy.
Unlike traditional treatment methods, self-direction starts with where the person is really at, not where the facility expects them to be. By becoming an active participant in your own treatment, you’re less likely to relapse. In other words, traditional methods set a person up for failure before they even step foot in the clinic or treatment center. Imagine what it would be like to have support like this and what a big difference it would make on your overall outlook and mental health.
Efficacy of Self-Direction
Though research is limited, early data suggests that it does indeed work. There is currently a five-year pilot of self-direction programs running in New York State. The goal of the pilot program is to step away from traditional models of mental health programs and instead offer a modern approach to recovery. So far, the study has found that participants in self-direction are:
- More likely to have a stable income and housing situation
- Have lower outpatient and inpatient mental health costs
This means that people who are involved in self-direction programs are less of an overall economic burden in the long-term than those in traditional treatments. The reason is that they require less specialized mental health services and can positively contribute to their community while maintaining secure employment and housing. Self-direction programs offer support, build up the participant’s personal strengths, and eliminate shame or guilt from the recovery process. The outcomes are indeed positive, both on an individual level and a societal level.
The Future of Mental Health/Addiction Treatment
Traditional mental health treatment can learn a lot from the self-direction method. A person-centered and collaborative treatment approach benefits not only the individual, but also the facility (happier clients and better outcomes), and the greater community.
The one size fits all approach to mental health, and addiction treatment is outdated. Self-direction programs build people up and empower them to make their own best choices rather than let them continue believing they are powerless pawns in the throes of an impossible situation. It builds self-efficacy and self-esteem and helps people think of novel solutions and goals they hadn’t ever considered.
Think Self-Direction Might Be Right For You?
If you’ve tried other recovery methods unsuccessfully only to end up feeling worse than you did before, perhaps it’s time to explore other options. Take the time to think about your goals honestly, write down your hopes or intended outcomes, and then find a provider who can help support you on your journey.
A lot of times we think that if we fixed one of the symptoms of our addiction, that we would be happier and feel better. You may be surprised to find out that eliminating a symptom wouldn’t likely improve your overall wellbeing. Instead, it’s the root cause or consequence of your addiction that needs to be addressed before recovery can ever become a possibility. It’s best to get to the root of your addiction once and for all, otherwise, you’ll just be putting another band-aid over your gaping wound. Doing so will not only improve your emotional well-being, but it will place you one step closer to recovery.
Is there one thing you’d like to change in your life right now? What is it? What’s standing in your way?