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Substance use training unites staff to improve care for clients and patients

BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services partnered with the Matrix Institute on Addictions to deliver a specialized training workshop of the Matrix Model, an evidence-based intensive substance use treatment program.
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From February 19-23, 2018, staff from the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital, Burnaby Centre for Mental Health and Addiction, Heartwood Centre for Women, Correctional Health Services as well as BC Corrections took part in the week-long training, which included more than 50 counsellors, social workers, physicians, nurses, program coordinators, mental health coordinators, and mental health liaison officers – to name a few!

What is the Matrix Model?

The Matrix Model is an all-inclusive, multi-formatted treatment program that focuses on cognitive-behavioural individual and group therapy, relapse prevention, family education, social support, and urine testing over the course of a 16-week period. Though initially designed for outpatient treatment centres, the program can be applied to inpatient or correctional settings, or any other setting where patients or clients are receiving treatment for a substance use disorder.

With this mind, three separate sessions were offered to maximize implementation of the model across the agency. The week began with a 2-day basic core Matrix Model training, followed by a 2-day Matrix Model for Criminal Justice Settings, and a 1-day Key Supervisor session for the key "change agents" assigned to assure fidelity to the model.

Through personal story-telling, deep reflection and talking circle exercises, the training helped participants develop the recovery-oriented knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to support clients with substance use. In addition, the diversity in roles and skills helped to foster a rich learning environment, one that invited unique perspectives and allowed participants to connect learning experiences and strategies across various care settings.

Breaking the Silence of Addiction

Whether we work with clients directly or indirectly, we all play an important role in establishing safer spaces, safer services, and safer communities for those with substance use challenges to open about these deeply stigmatized behaviours. It begins with us.

However, it's not just the content of what is said or what is done that is of interest, but the way we say it and how we do it. As one participant said, "Changing language to create better rapport with clients" is the goal.

Substance use truly knows no boundaries – it can plague the lives of just about anyone, regardless of where they live, where they grew up, or their race, gender, age, sex, financial status, and so on. By the same token, the trauma, depression, pain and hopelessness in which it surrounds itself impacts both those who are struggling from the clutches of substance use and their families seeking relief from it.

While the training provided the opportunity for staff to acquire useful information, the talking circles, sharing of personal stories, and reflections also had unintended benefits of giving people a visceral understanding of the nature of addiction. As one participant aptly put it, "Never be ashamed of a scar. It simply means you are stronger than whatever tried to hurt you." These moments provide insight that go beyond traditional training and are as valuable to participants as the information and skills offered.

Here are some examples of what other participants had to say about the training:

"The training encouraged me to reflect on my own practice… to research some areas that were mentioned in this course"
"The training led to a better understanding of concerns and the additional tools available to assist in reaching goals"
"The instructors' own experience was important to understand our work environment"
"I found the discussion with other centres and their challenges to be most important"

BC Mental Health & Substance Use Services
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