Skip to main content

Improve the environment of care, in ways big and small

February 09, 2016

Building or updating an addiction recovery treatment center that feels safe, nurturing, healing and beautiful—no matter the budget—does not need to be difficult or costly. It takes vision, heart and faith, and begins with a total quality management philosophy, a philosophy that focuses on moments of truth. These moments start the minute you speak to a potential patient, family member, or therapist, the moment someone first walks through your doors. An environment of care that allows all who enter to feel cared about and important is felt in the way people speak to each other, and in the sensory elements that they perceive around them.

After all, what do most patients in addiction recovery really want and need? They want peace, simplicity, and a sense of well-being; they want a place where they feel cared for and important. They want to feel safe, valuable, beautiful, empowered and worthy of investment. They need to see the higher vision of themselves reflected in their surroundings and in systems and objects that are working, clean, maintained, beautiful and simple. Creating subliminal messages that whisper, “I’m cared about. This place is being cared for. This is how we’re going to take care of you, or your loved one,” accomplish that.

It can be a pot of pansies, or large beautiful shrubbery. It can be simple, or it can be extravagant, but it has to say that there’s life here and there’s hope here. Small but noticeable touches, such as cutting the lawn, filling dried-up ponds and planters, and replacing light bulbs, say, “Someone is tending to this place.” Tossing worn or stained pillows, bedding, rugs, or tablecloths sends the message, “I’m worth more.” Replacing fake plants and flowers with real flower beds and plants that are simple to maintain brings vitality, oxygen, and an energy of growth and renewal. Refinishing an old piece of furniture, pulling out stored items for repair, polishing dedication plaques and signs, or cleaning water stains uplift and beautify, and symbolize the core beauty in everyone.

One of the mantras we focus on is “making sure your outsides and your insides match.” When patients are surrounded by beauty, it makes them feel they’re worthy of beauty, and they then can start to see themselves as beautiful. When they believe that they’re beautiful, they know that they’re worth the investment of the time and energy that it’s going to take to heal and truly get well.

Subtle nuances, such as scents filtering through the environment, have impact. “Studies have shown that essential oils have an effect on brainwaves and can also alter behavior. Used professionally and safely, aromatherapy can be of great benefit as an adjunct to conventional medicine, or used simply as an alternative.” Igniting the senses is a powerful tool that triggers the subconscious. Whether listening to the tranquil sound of a waterfall because your space has a waterfall, or because that’s the CD that plays as somebody enters your property, walking to the sound of water becomes a healing force.

Even your wall displays and the paint that you put on the wall are felt. You can get artwork that’s expensive, or you can get prints of originals that are just as beautiful and set just as much of a tone. What patients hear throughout the day, what they smell, what they see, and what they feel really matter. It’s about enabling them to feel that someone is caring for them, that they are inside a cocoon where people are loving them, nurturing them, nourishing them, sharing with them, and creating the space for allowing all who enter to simply breathe, relax and settle down, so that anxiety, stress and fears can melt away.

Some tasks can be really simple but make a huge difference, such as removing unused or non-working vehicles, repairing others, and regular cleaning and maintenance of minor dents and scratches. Making small and gradual upgrades to furnishings and sitting areas that allow patients to be eye-to-eye with the people standing beside them lends self-respect. Adding battery-operated candles, bed sheets that match, personal desk space, nightstands, and headboards and footboards in each room are sometimes only perceptible to the subconscious, but are significantly important.

Creating seamless systems can be the thread that weaves the inner workings and a strong foundation together. Systems that allow the funnel and the flow to happen help provide a feeling of security and safety. These can be expensive, such as high-cost electronic medical records (EMRs), or more simple versions, such as turning in non-working or problematic computers for updated models, and having a support team member who’s knowledgeable in computer repair connect them to one another and the network. The same can be done for phone systems, key systems, and water systems. There are always solutions that can work for your organization, within the price range you need, to begin the process of creating systems that build on top of one another, until you grow your organization to a place where greater investments are needed.

Vital to the growth of your center are financial, material and energetic support resources and team collaboration. Individuals, groups and organizations—known and unknown to you—are ready and wanting to answer the call and to step up in support of your vision. Volunteers, board members, care partners, alumni, families of alumni, local hotels, restaurants, neighborhood retail stores, corporate sponsors, organizations, and public and anonymous donors and investors can bless you in extraordinary and unexpected ways. Announcing your open house, media announcement/press release, or donor/investor event to promote your needs and goals to the community incentivizes donations and publicity. Individuals, hotels, restaurants, or art studios upgrading their furnishings or artwork, changing a living room in their home, or switching out a bedroom set can be rich sources of donations of time, talent and treasure.

Donations that can’t be used can be sold as a fundraiser. Creating a second-hand store or boutique can provide not only an opportunity for resources to come to your center, but also an opportunity for the patients to volunteer their time, develop working skills, re-enter the community and be talking to people in the community outside their cocoon, in a safe, caring and wonderful way. The community can get to know your center and your patients in ways they might not otherwise have done, by contributing to your nonprofit cause, shopping at your gently used store, or volunteering their time. These kinds of actions help to build relationships between you and the community, to bridge the gap, and gradually to reduce the stigma of the disease in the community.

For funding larger, extended, or more costly building ventures, Crowdfunding can be a successful method, “raising monetary contributions from a large number of people… performed via internet-mediated registries… also executed through mail-order subscriptions, benefit events, and other methods…” 2015 reports expect global Crowdfunding totals to reach $34.4 billion. As there are more than 1,000 sites and several models to choose from, it is extremely valuable to select a model that is both systematic and that builds sustainable, lifelong relationships. Very helpful in this decision-making process is finding and utilizing the support, guidance and mentorship from knowledgeable individuals in your community. Building donor and investor relationships provides an abundance of donations in time, talent and treasure from a multitude of sources.

In growing a safe, beautiful, nurturing treatment center environment, bigger isn’t always better, and more expensive isn’t always more efficient, or more effective. Being respectful and being kind doesn’t take a lot of money. It’s a philosophy of doing things in an organized way, with the right intent in your heart, and a desired outcome that improves the quality of care you’re giving to those in need. What we really want are patients who get well with dignity, grace and respect, in a cocoon-like environment where they can heal. Water, nature, light, cleanliness, and things that work create the space for them to feel, “I am worthy. I am special. I am whole and complete.” It’s the dedication to creating moments of truth, focusing on your vision, and emphasizing the heart that turn faith into accomplishment.

Back to Top