Professionals

Employment Laws in Work ProgramsPremium Content

I am often asked about what needs to be done in order to comply with state and federal laws when recovery programs clients do actual work in the facility. In all cases, I suggest that an employment attorney or tax professional familiar with the laws in your state be consulted in these matters. However, here are a few suggestions that can be taken to help you comply with laws regarding the payment of the minimum wage for recovery program participants.

A. The work must be therapeutic – Too often, the lines have been blurred between mission employees and clients (beneficiaries). The most effective means of clarifying these lines is having a well-documented recovery program in place that uses a written recovery plan that lists the work performed by the client as being rehabilitative in nature. There is no problem in giving some stipend to program participants who perform work as part of their recovery program. If this is done, it is important to avoid the use of the terms "staff" and "wages" or any other terminology that could imply an employee/employer relationship. Instead, call this stipend a "sustenance allowance" or "gift." In the initial intake session, clients should sign an agreement indicating that they understand that some hours of work will be a part of their recovery program, but that this is a part of their rehabilitation and not establishing an employee/employer relationship for which they will receive wages.

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Professional Distance in Addiction CounselingPremium Content

Sooner or later, every counselor will face the fact that he or she is not able to help everyone who becomes involved with their program. Recovery programs can have a very high turnover rate among their residents. Among rescue mission workers, some have reacted to this situation by becoming discouraged, "burned out," or even skeptical about the chances of any homeless addict "making it."

Why Professional Distance is Needed
Often, when people first hear the term "professional distance", they think it means are to be cold, unloving and uninvolved with those we counsel. Actually, it is just the opposite! Over involvement on an emotional level causes counselors to lose their objectivity. They cannot exercise proper judgment in their dealings with those with whom they are seeking to help. Instead, counselors can practice favoritism toward some residents and even end up feeling rejected by them when they don't respond favorably to their attempts to help them.Mostly, a lack of professional distance is manifested when workers have an improper sense of responsibility for the actions and decisions of their clients. And, it is important to remember that, since so many of those we work with at rescue missions have a background of addiction and codependency, they know how to make others feel guilty about not "taking care of them."Mission workers must be committed to being part of the solution and not a part of the problem. Their own unresolved issues will inevitably hinder their ability to minister effectively to others.

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Free Addiction Treatment is Available

Many people do not know what options are available to them when seeking addiction recovery treatment free of cost.

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Organizing the Addiction Counseling Process - Part 5Premium Content

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

In our last installment in this series we discussed, briefly, the importance of meeting the needs of each individual in the recovery program. To do this most effectively, a process of documentation is essential, using paper forms or computer-based data collection. In residential recovery programs for the homeless, it is also important to adopt a team approach to working with our clients.


    A. Developing a system of documentation.
    The essential elements include:
      Regularly updated recovery plans/contracts
      Daily progress notes
      Summaries of one-on-one counseling sessions

    When all of these elements are in place, supervisors can get a good picture of what each counselor or chaplain is doing with each of the individuals with whom he or she is assigned work. Besides serving as a measure of job performance, proper documentation makes it easier for another counselor to step in and keep working with the client if that is necessary. Good documentation provides a permanent record that can be accessed if the individual leaves the program and returns at a later date. And, it provides valuable information that may be used by other ministries or agencies that work with the client in the future.

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Organizing the Addiction Counseling Process - Part 4Premium Content

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 5

Most rescue recovery programs for homeless addicts have no trouble filling up their beds. Yet, it is better to have a smaller program with committed participants than to have a large one filled with people who are not serious about changing their lives. A well-organized long-term recovery program is -- "A planned, organized, and systematic delivery of services -- using both internal and external resources– with the goal of meeting the unique needs of each individual."

A 30-day "pre-program" can be instituted to serve as a trail period where prospective program members can demonstrate their commitment to recovery. Inevitably, this approach will promote stability in the long-term program by avoiding the turmoil that occurs when men and women come and stay for just a few days or weeks. A more consistent, serious group of people who can support one another on the road to recovery will surely develop.

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Organizing the Addiction Counseling Process - Part 3Premium Content

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 4 | Part 5

Because they do not receive government and insurance monies, rescue missions that serve the homeless are not bound to strict time limits on the days of service they can render. There is no magic to 30-day, 90-day 120-day programs. These have always been set by the people who provided the dollars.

That’s why I recommend a program for homeless addicts that is based totally on accomplishing a set of treatment goals -- instead of one based on the calendar. Still, there are some special considerations for the first 30 days of sobriety to which we need to pay special attention. If we make a special effort to help a newly recovering people through them, more of them will stay around longer and go forward in recovery. A "pre-program" program has definite advantages.

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Organizing the Addiction Counseling Process - Part 2Premium Content

Part 1 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

In this installment, I would explore a very basic question; "Just what can we expect to accomplish in the life of a homeless addict during their stay at a rescue mission program?" The answer comes from recognizing some basic needs that need to be addressed so those we work can develop productive, satisfying sober lives.

The answer comes from recognizing some basic needs that need to be addressed so those we work can develop productive, satisfying sober lives. The goal of a written recovery plan is to set down these goals, in order of priority, and then develop a strategy for working through them while in the program. This plan, then, becomes the basic road map for the counseling process with the individual. Weekly one-on-one sessions should always begin with revisiting the written plan and discovering what progress has been made toward accomplishing its jointly agreed upon goals

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Organizing the Addiction Counseling Process - Part 1Premium Content

Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

In the past thirty years of my work, I have had the opportunity to visit many facilities that help the homeless. When I see a man in a recovery program I like to ask, "How is he doing?" I usually just get a pat answer like, "Well, he’s been with us for six months." The problem with this answer, of course is that a sober, healthy lifestyle is not automatically picked up just by hanging around the mission for a certain length of time.

The only way to really know is by keeping accurate written records that show how we are meeting the individual needs of the people in our programs. A formal needs assessment process is needed. The information that is gathered provides the foundation for a written recovery plan (or discipleship plan). The purpose of such a plan is to help program people think through their options, to identify their own needs, and to determine which specific actions they must take to get their needs met. To ensure maximum "buy in," the plan should be developed with lots of input from counselees themselves.

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Work Therapy in Recovery ProgramsPremium Content

Rescue missions, Salvation Army centers and other types of recovery programs depend on labor provided by people in their facilities to do a variety of tasks that are essential to their operations. Men and women in recovery programs can be found in kitchens, performing housekeeping and maintenance tasks, providing office support, and driving trucks to pick up donations. Certainly, we value the services they provide. Equally important, though, is the need to give additional meaning to their efforts by creatively using their work assignments to invest in their lives. What follows is a list of some ways this can be accomplished:

A. Develop a purpose statement for work projects -- We need to have a definite philosophical basis for every activity in which we involve program participants that is both spiritually sound and "therapeutic." In other words, we need an official statement that establishes the fact that we are not just looking for free labor, but rather that the work they do really is intended to help them. If people in our programs feel used, they are certain to shut themselves down to the recovery process. The mission is there for the clients, they are not there for the mission!

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Aftercare for Recovery ProgramsPremium Content

For Christian programs that work to help addicts, the primary goal is to help them to become integrated into two vital communities -- the Church and the recovery community. If our goal is truly to work ourselves out of a job, then we must make sure we are spending enough time and energy preparing our clients for life after our programs. If we don’t, we have done them a great disservice. No matter how success we are with newly sober clients, they will still leave or programs as struggling baby Christians. We must be sure that these new believers knows where to find help when they experiences struggles, even 2, 5, 10 years and more in the future, no matter where they live.

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