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Inspiring Success on the Road to Recovery

Monday, May 1, 2017

Recovery and the Power of Connection

A Daily Journey of Support and Love


How Sierra Tucson goes beyond residential treatment to
assure long-term support for a healthy recovery

By Sierra Tucson Staff

Transformation doesn’t happen in a day. But it begins with a day. That very important day is the day when a person decides that it is time to embark on the road to recovery. While the road ahead is long and no one can ever anticipate the curves, hills, forks, and other inevitable obstacles along the way, it is a road that begins with a mindset of hope for change and knowing that there is no better time to begin than now. 

Sierra Tucson believes everyone is capable of transformative change. The Sierra Tucson formula for change is a personalized and highly customized integrative approach that begins with the belief that individuals have the power within themselves to initiate and maintain change. Our individualized residential treatment program, which is built on our signature Sierra Tucson Model®, is where change begins. We believe that while change begins with us, it continues with the individual and his or her support team. 

The Sierra Tucson Model:
A Blueprint for Success

Our approach to recovery begins on a foundational belief that the mind, body, and spirit are connected. That’s why the Sierra Tucson Model® was founded to promote healing and wellness in all areas of life – physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual. It is a treatment methodology that leverages the body’s own healing abilities. By combining conventional Western medicine with complementary treatments including acupuncture, neuro and biofeedback, yoga, equine-assisted therapy, and stress-reduction techniques, Sierra Tucson treats the whole person. 
Yet, while the programming at Sierra Tucson is what gets individuals to a place where recovery is firmly established, it is the support that Sierra Tucson provides after treatment that is just as valuable. In fact, several studies show lower readmission rates when individuals participate in a continuing care program. One 2004 study comparing the effects of telephone continuing care versus no continuing care indicated significant improvements in better adjustment outcomes and a readmission rate of 9 percent compared to 38 percent for those who didn’t receive continuing care support. Sierra Tucson’s own statistics concur, indicating that 91 percent of those participating in Sierra Tucson's continuing care program report doing better. Residents who complete treatment at Sierra Tucson receive access to our proprietary continuing care platform and a lifetime of alumni services designed to sustain individuals with resources, tools, and support that they can access for the rest of their lives. This is where change continues.

Connect365: Personal Recovery Coaching and Mobile App

After leaving Sierra Tucson, our continuing care platform, Connect365™, is available for alumni for one full year at no additional cost. Designed to bridge the gap between residential treatment and the real world, Connect365 promotes accountability and the importance of following a continuing care plan. It is not a replacement for counseling, nor is it an emergency crisis hotline. It was created with the idea of providing support, resources, and encouragement through personal outreach and interactive technology that help residents transition from treatment to the outside world. As part of the Connect365 service, every resident is provided with a personal recovery coach and an interactive recovery management system that can be accessed via any mobile device. 

While the service is available for residents as soon as they leave Sierra Tucson, they begin learning about Connect365 at the beginning of treatment. The transition to becoming an active participant using Connect365 starts during the first week of their stay at Sierra Tucson. At that time, residents are scheduled for future Connect365 workshops, as well as one-on-one individual coaching sessions. This immediate immersion helps them build a rapport with their recovery coach. 

Upon leaving Sierra Tucson, participants receive a phone call from their recovery coach within 24 hours and commit to calling their recovery coach each week to check in, stating their feelings/mood and reporting how they are doing with their continuing care plan. Coaches kindly offer support and remind them to keep moving forward by applying the skills they learned at Sierra Tucson to their daily life. 

The Connect365 App Enhances Connection and Accountability 

The Connect365 mobile app was designed to continue recovery by supporting individuals with healthy choices in a holistic manner. It helps former residents, now alumni, stay accountable to themselves and their recovery coach. 

The app also provides resources for:
  • 12-Step meetings
  • Sleep
  • Nutrition
  • Exercise

The cognitive restructuring that began at Sierra Tucson continues as important changes like creating daily intentions and expressing gratitude in the evening are reinforced. The app provides a recovery diary that allows participants to track goals (i.e., meeting attendance, recovery-related activities and accomplishments, etc.) and keep appointments. It also asks if the participant is medication-compliant and sober for the day.

Coaches will assign tasks to each participant that coincides with his or her continuing care plan. Each time a task is completed, the participant logs into the system from a mobile device and records it, which then syncs with the recovery coach’s desktop. The task bars change from red to green once a participant has completed an assignment or attends an appointment/meeting on his or her itinerary, allowing the recovery coach to check on compliance.
Sierra Tucson strongly encourages residents to build a healthy support network immediately upon their return home; consequently, Connect365 was created to accommodate the participant’s support team, too. The Connect365 mobile app has secure messaging capabilities and allows members of the participant’s support team to communicate with him or her, as well as the assigned recovery coach. 

Participants are encouraged to add as many people as they wish to their support team, including family members, friends, sponsors, mental health professionals, attorneys, health care providers, and any other stakeholder in the person’s recovery. Support members can also access sleep, exercise, and nutritional information from the app just like participants. At their fingertips are links to additional resources for mood disorders, eating disorders, chronic pain, trauma, and addictions. Plus, information about Sierra Tucson Alumni Relations is available as an added bonus. 

By offering an app that is easily accessible, Sierra Tucson support is seamlessly integrated with one’s everyday life without any out-of-the-ordinary effort required. Without a doubt, Sierra Tucson’s Connect365 has helped change many lives since its inception in November 2015. In fact, nearly 90 percent of residents are participating in the service. 

Sierra Tucson encourages regular connection with other alumni. Alumni events provide a safe place where individuals can reconnect, while also promoting healthy boundaries and necessary structure. A large part of this success can be credited to the alliances and networking amongst residents who stay connected and attend alumni groups and events. They witness firsthand the support that Connect365 provides their peers, often providing the impetus and encouragement for them to turn to Connect365 for support.

The Role of the Recovery Coach

Sierra Tucson believes the first year of recovery sets the stage for long-term success. In addition to monitoring activity on the Connect365 portal, the recovery coach communicates with the individual on a weekly basis via phone and/or secure web chat. Detailed information, such as online posts and other confidential information as indicated by the participant, is shared only with the recovery coach. For 365 days post treatment, the recovery coach delivers individualized support and relapse prevention assistance.

A recovery coach may be called on to help with discharge planning if a previously created continuing care plan requires adjustment. To that end, the recovery coach can provide the participant with the name and contact information of the Acadia Healthcare Treatment Placement Specialist (TPS) in his or her local community, in order to gather additional resources and compose an updated plan. This carefully designed safety net between recovery coach, TPS, and participant can prevent unnecessary panic or isolation that often leads to relapse. The participant finds security in knowing that he or she can always turn to the recovery coach in times of distress.

Recovery coaches are able to monitor and report whether or not the participant is following his or her continuing care plan. If non-compliance is identified, the recovery coach can explore the reasons why and provide alternatives when necessary. Currently, Connect365 is tracking if the participant is experiencing an improved quality of life since leaving Sierra Tucson and if he or she is following one or more items from the personalized continuing care plan. The Connect365 team will also be measuring: sobriety, medication compliance and coping skills.

Secure messaging plays a key role in the relationship between participant and recovery coach. If a recovery coach receives a message that reads, “I’m not doing well. Can we talk?” or an SOS such as, “I quit my IOP today,” it is often a red flag that an immediate phone call from the recovery coach is in order. If participants are unable to call, they can check in with their recovery coach by sending a secure message uniquely built into the mobile app. Recovery coaches have the ability to message them back immediately for reassurance. This provides an additional and effective means of communication.

There’s no doubt that residents benefit by staying connected through Connect365. Yet, the benefits abound for all in the person’s recovery circle. Referents benefit by knowing that Sierra Tucson is in constant contact with their clients after discharge and can alert them to any potential difficulties or challenges. Family members also benefit by not having to supervise or monitor their loved one; they can remain focused on their own recovery. Additionally, the Connect365 app helps participants locate alumni resources and events in their area.

Improvements and Advancements

Inherent to all technological innovations, advancements to Connect365 are on the horizon. Gamification and incentive components of the app will be enhanced with the goal of encouraging participation and reinforcing positive and healthy choices. Connect365 outcome data will also be expanded; monthly coping strategy updates for participants will be added; and a comprehensive psychological profile at six months after Connect365 has ended will be implemented. These outcomes will be important in building solid relationships with participants’ health insurance providers, allowing Sierra Tucson to effectively help those in need of hope and healing.

Participating in Connect365 is an empowering decision. In fact, it is the first decision that a person makes outside of residential treatment that supports a new, healthy life. It is affirming to know that Connect365 is moving people in the right direction every day on their recovery journey. The personal stories that recovery coaches continually hear further affirm the success of the service. Many recovery coaches have received calls in which participants find themselves in paralyzing situations that might otherwise lead to relapse. Whatever the triggers are that trouble someone in recovery, the participant is only a phone call away from his or her recovery coach. 

On a more positive note, messages like “Thank you for everything, you help me a lot” or “I want to thank you for all your support; it makes me feel like someone cares” are also received by recovery coaches, further reiterating the significance of this service. One client said, “I feel safer just hearing your voice, and now I know I can get through this because you are with me.” Whether they call once a day or several times in a 24-hour period, the support is unwavering.

While the participant’s support team usually includes his or her therapist and family and friends, Sierra Tucson also encourages residents to get involved in groups where they live, including 12-Step meetings, continuing care groups and alumni support groups. Often, staff members recommend additional therapy at an intensive outpatient program (IOP). All of these activities are crucial and, when combined with the Connect365 service, participants can stay connected as soon as they leave treatment. 

Once a participant completes a year in Connect365, the recovery coach gently transitions the client to the Sierra Tucson Alumni Relations team, and the individual is received with open arms and a welcoming phone call of acknowledgement. He or she can rest assured knowing that a lifetime of alumni services awaits.


Alumni Support for Life

Alumni. The word holds special meaning at Sierra Tucson. Well-earned for the work they have done in treatment, residents of Sierra Tucson receive this esteemed title upon completion. But most important, they enjoy the benefits that accompany the title. After they leave, many residents – now alumni – refer to Sierra Tucson as a safe place without judgment, where they are free to explore all aspects of who they are as they continue on the path of recovery. 

Being an involved alumnus means knowing one has a lifetime connection to his or her safe place, an important component in knowing that he or she is never alone in recovery. The most enduring and solid connection to a person’s experience at Sierra Tucson is the variety of alumni services facilitated by the dedicated Alumni Relations team. 

With a passion for recovery, the Alumni Relations team traverses the country to host workshops and retreats, organize support groups, and provide an opportunity for alumni to connect. Similar to the Connect365 recovery coaches, they hear powerful stories about the impact that Alumni Relations has had on their recovery. Perhaps it is the call they made to an individual that was exactly what the person needed that day, or maybe it was the simple appearance of the alumni e-newsletter, “Beyond the Miracle,” that showed up in their inbox with the right encouragement at just the right moment. 

The value of alumni outreach builds relationships based on trust, which is crucial for creating and maintaining a loving and supportive alumni community. 

The Alumni Relations team recognizes that connection and outreach are vital pieces to the recovery puzzle. In fact, two years ago, an Alumni Advisory Council was created with the goal of innovating even more ways to connect with alumni who are active participants, as well as those who have not been active in the past. Alumni Relations’ tagline, “Connecting a World of Miracles®,” serves as the foundation upon which the community was built.

Alumni often share words of thanks, poems, artwork, and letters detailing their gratitude for the care they received at Sierra Tucson and afterward, through Connect365 and Alumni Relations. During the holiday season last year, one participant wrote, “Thank you for everything. The gift I got from Sierra Tucson is something that will always be cherished. Sobriety is priceless. Recovery and moving from an unmanageable life to leading a meaningful life is something for which I will always be grateful.”

 For more information about Sierra Tucson’s comprehensive residential treatment, please call (844) 209-3372 or visit SierraTucson.com.