Assessment and Orientation
Those initial steps into the substance abuse treatment process can be frightening ones, but the men and women of Cornerstone of Recovery’s Assessment and Orientation Department are experienced shepherds.
When patients arrive at our facility, their treatment journey begins with A&O. Technically, our A&O Department includes the Medical Detox process, and because those who come to us are often emotionally fragile and physically sick, the department’s staff members make their intake as fast and efficient as possible.
“To work in A&O, you have to have compassion for the person, who’s still in active addiction,” says Susan Orr, director of A&O. “Just someone has walked in our front door and said they want to make a change
The A&O intake process begins with having patients sign a series of consent forms that give us permission to treat the patient, all of them similar to those filled out during a hospital intake: emergency contact information, a list of patient-approved visitors, and basic information on their substance use, including how much, how often and how long. This is followed by a series of questionnaires and tests designed to map out each patient’s treatment journey; it’s known as the Bio-Psycho-Social-Spiritual approach to therapy, and it allows us to create an individualized path of care for each patient. Each patient’s Care Plan is designed to provide the best possible treatment outcome: long-term recovery from active addiction.
“We ask questions about every area of the patient’s life, leaving no stone unturned, because it helps guide the treatment plan,” Orr says. “From the questionnaires and assessments we ask them to complete, we’re getting closer to helping them find themselves and their strengths.”
Examining a past that includes emotional baggage, spiritual pain and sometimes physical abuse isn’t easy, but it’s necessary. Similar to the expression of poison from a physical wound, these assessments allow our clinical staff members insight into the emotional wounds of those who come to us for treatment, because our experience has taught us that the drugs and alcohol are just symptoms of much deeper issues that need to be addressed if our patients are to receive the sole purpose of our mission: delivering to them fulfilling and joyous lives free from addictive bondage, but also free from the pain of their pasts.
“There are times when we stop what we’re doing, if the patient is talking about something that’s difficult, and sometimes we’ll hug them or pat their hands or look at them and say, ‘We have some amazing therapists, and they’re going to walk you through all of what you’re feeling right now,’” Orr says.
For this reason, the men and women of our A&O Department are true heroes: They take on that pain and offer comfort, relying on one another and the therapeutic atmosphere of Cornerstone itself to process what’s often an incredibly difficult emotional ordeal for patients and staff members alike.
“We tell (our staff members) they’re not responsible for what happened to the patients in the past, or what they’re going to do in the future – only in what we can give them in the moment,” Orr says. “We’re trusting that God has them on a journey, and we just get to be a small part of it.”
In that way, the therapeutic process has already started for those patients; our A&O staff members are trained in certain techniques – motivational interviewing and what’s known as “rolling with the resistance” – to
acknowledge and validate the feelings of those patients during the questionnaire process, and delivering them to the hands of the nursing staff to begin the Medical Detox process as quickly as possible.
After an initial 20-minute screening with nursing and the initial doses of detox medications, if necessary, patients are assigned a room and escorted to the patient lounge, where they’re met by volunteers, staff members and their community peers. They’re encouraged to attend five to six groups a day during their detox and assessment process, primarily to give them something to occupy their minds while their bodies begin to heal: psycho-education, orientation, an introduction to the 12 Steps, activity therapy, Acudetox and a meditation group. These groups aren’t mandatory because some patients just need to rest, but again, our experience has demonstrated that patients who attend these groups often transition to the next level of care with a broader understanding of what awaits them, and they’re able to better withstand the mild discomfort of the detox process if they’re able to focus on something beyond it.
Throughout the process, the A&O counselors go to great lengths to meet the needs of every patient, so they can start their treatment journey on the right foot. We recognize that it can be a frightening time, full of uncertainty, but the beauty of Cornerstone’s clinical staff composition is that roughly 90 percent of our counselors and therapists are in recovery from addiction themselves. We know the fear and apprehension our patients feel, because we’ve experienced it firsthand, and our ability to impart strength and hope is evident in the numbers – less than 4 percent of A&O patients leave Against Medical Advice every quarter, meaning that 96 percent of those who start the journey come through to the other side, ready to move on to one of our four primary treatment programs.
“The A&O process comes to an end when we hand them off to the counselors in the program they will transition to for their next level of care,” Orr says. “We pass them off to some very capable, trustworthy hands, and it’s awesome. It’s like watching your kid grow up and graduate in five days, and that feels really good.”
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