Strengthening Engagement Skills

Strengthening practitioner engagement skills with clients increases trust, goal striving and improves outcomes.

The Challenge

A large county mental health agency was seeking to better align practices with their recovery-oriented mission. In particular, the agency’s staff was struggling with developing and maintaining good working relationships with their clients. Clients were not showing up for appointments, were frequently late or dropping out prematurely. Clients also appeared disengaged from their practitioners and uninspired by the goals on their treatment plans. Similarly, agency staff was feeling discouraged and frustrated.

The Process

The agency director contacted us with concerns about staff and client engagement. “Our clinicians are feeling discouraged about their work and complain that most clients seem uninterested in working to improve their situation.” After several conversations to learn more about the agency’s challenges and goals, we suggested an agency-wide training on recovery-oriented engagement strategies. First, however, we wanted to get a clear picture of the agencies strengths and where they were struggling. We took time to engage with the staff and learn about them. We held focus groups with individuals from all areas of the agency: front desk, crisis care, administrators, clinical directors, outreach workers, medical staff and practitioners. We also had the entire agency and their clients respond to a survey asking about their experience with the agency’s person-centered, recovery-oriented practices. From the focus groups and survey, we learned that the staff care deeply about their clients and are invested in helping them reach their goals. However, many of the staff struggled with understanding and accepting their client’s current level motivation and ability. They didn’t know how to assist clients in defining their own recovery goals. This resulted in the client’s disinterest and lack of motivation in pursuing a goal they weren’t invested in.

The Solution

We developed a multicomponent engagement training plan that was tailored to enhance the agency’s strengths as well as address their needs and gaps.

The Result

We are currently involved in a multiphase, five-year endeavor that includes an agency wide assessment, tailored engagement training, consultation, assessment of practitioner skills and competencies, client feedback, and a sustainability plan that ensures future success.