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Doubling the Addiction Recovery Rates of EAP Clients

(Note: I did something incorrectly with the software and this article was not sent.)

Do you remember when there was enormous competition in the 70s and 80s among 28-day addiction treatment programs fighting to fill their beds?

One of the most frequently asked questions by a referring EAP was, “What is your success rate?” Few programs had a good definition; some lied, some fudged their answers, and I remember one that tried to convince everyone that it didn’t matter. Some programs had great a following. Others were almost cult-like.

The “blank check” mentality killed the 28-day programs, of course; but, unfortunately, along with the bad went a lot of good. I worked for one of the good programs for 11 years, and luckily it is still around. Gone is its 28-day treatment model, but one thing it did right was to follow up on patients.

Besides preventing relapse, this treatment program’s motivation for following up on patients was twofold: 1) to keep recovering volunteer patients busy by having them phone recent “graduates” to track their recovery programs and 2) to document the long-term difference in results between those patients who completed 12 weeks of aftercare and those who refused it.

One of the program’s underlying goals was to “sell” patients on the benefits of aftercare while they were still motivated inpatients. It worked. Higher success rates for patients and a favorable reputation developed. The treatment program claimed it was their strict chronic disease model that did the trick, but in retrospect, I think combining that with heavy-duty patient follow-up—done easily—was what brought success.

I took the process this treatment program used and created a simple form for EAPs. I have posted it as a PDF LINK here and also on this page in the upper left.

Success was much higher if patients went completed aftercare. The definition of success was one year of complete abstinence. The success rate was 85 percent with 12 weeks of aftercare. Each month, the patient was interviewed. Any “diminishment” of recovery, especially the number of AA meetings attended, prompted immediate coaching or counseling to rekindle the recovery program. If aftercare was rejected, a success rate of about 60 percent could be expected, so follow up even helped these folks.

A master’s thesis written by the program’s head nurse used research regarding the follow-up program and a two-year verification. It got the same results. Percentages dropped only a small amount in the second year.

Here’s the punch line: the process allowed early recognition of patients’ diminishing involvement in AA, and once spotted, the patient would still be motivated to listen to reason. The likelihood of convincing the patient to reestablish his or her recovery program was very high. If a reduction in AA meetings to three per week occurred, an “alarm sounded”. (In most cases, patients weren’t drinking—they were simply skipping AA in favor of something else they wanted to do at 8 p.m.—like watching TV!) The right kind of follow up contributed to better success. It’s all common sense, really.

You will find other factors tracked on the follow-up tool. I eventually adapted this tool for my use in the EAP for DOT and recovering employees. I also taught my EA colleagues to use it.

Was this treatment program a better treatment model? Or was it the follow-up that made the difference? You should consider using this tool in your EAP or behavioral health program. Meet with EAP clients in recovery at least monthly for a year. Watch the opportunity to save a life pop up in front of your eyes. Consider teaching local treatment programs to use this follow-up tool (without getting too pushy.) The opportunity to thwart relapse and double the success rate is high. If you get really excited, do research, claim the high ground, and present at a conference. Your success could help you keep an EAP or counseling program in place.

Dedicated to Helping Your Company,

Dan Feerst, LISW-CP, CEAP

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