Experience Patterns

What are Experience Patterns?

Experience Patters provide guidance and advice about how to build and deliver a dignified experience of addictions and mental health service. They are based on people’s needs.

These patterns incorporate the learnings from various inputs (i.e. Concurrent Disorders Project, Designing Better project, literature reviews, policy documents, etc.) with a particular focus on the past and current experiences of people using services.

Experience Patterns - Version 1.1 (Mar 6, 2016)

1. Identify the root problem (a diagnosis, trauma, etc.) and help me deal with it.

Why is it important?

  • Because that’s the only way to prevent people from suffering and dying. 
  • Because not addressing the root problem might actually be re-traumatizing me.
  • Because I can’t be successful and heal without it.
  • Because otherwise I don’t have hope.

What it might look like?

  • Don’t wait for people to have stable lives before tackling trauma. The unmanaged trauma is what is
    keeping people unstable.
  • Pay attention to early childhood and past experiences and how they might be impacting people currently.
  • Provide the intensity of service and skills that people actually need (not just what is readily available).

2. Take a proportionate and respectful approach to risk and safety.

Why is it important?

  • Because recovery requires a careful level of risk-taking.

What it might look like?

  • Provide different options for safety instead of the same thing for everyone.
  • Plan services to give people at any level of risk a way to access some type of supports.
  • Manage real risk, not perceived risk.
  • Have reasonable and appropriate levels of consequences when people cross a boundary and communicate that to them in advance.

3. Give me the best experience, as if I was your customer.

Why is it important?

  • So I’ll feel good about coming back when I need to.
  • Because getting help should feel good.
  • Because this experience might determine whether I ever ask for help again.

What it might look like?

  • Give people as much choice and control as possible.
  • Pretend that services are trying to win people’s business.
  • Set the expectation that everyone is part of creating good experiences.

4. Act as one service.

Why is it important?

  • Because I have multiple needs, but you are confusing me with multiple programs.
  • Because it doesn’t make sense to me that I have to go to all these places for help with my life—it’s all connected to me.
  • I need to work on all of my issues at the same time. I don’t have a pause button for things.
  • Because all of the different rules actually make it hard for me to know what to do.

What it might look like?

  • Create a cohesive team of supporters so people have more than one person to rely on.
  • Get rid of eligibility criteria. It might be helpful to services, but it actually tells people they aren’t sick enough, they don’t matter enough or they don’t fit in.
  • Get rid of programs. Offer a single service that flexes based on what people actually need. Build teams of expertise that can meet a variety of needs.

5. Keep the door open for life.

Why is it important?

  • Because remission doesn’t mean never again.
  • Because life happens.
  • Because my needs change.

What it might look like?

  • Accept that “for life” is an okay time to serve people, while still working on skills for independence.
  • Design services to serve a person for life—design for what happens when a person relapses, or feels themselves slipping.
  • Think in terms of designing for relationships and experiences that evolve and change over time, rather than just in terms of short moments of consumption or usage.

6. Treat me like a person.

Why is it important?

  • Because I am a person.
  • Because I have worth, even when I make mistakes.
  • Because I need to know I’m worth it.

What it might look like?

  • Take the time to really understand people’s story and context.
  • Have empathy when people make mistakes. They are still deserving of help and support.
  • Build documentation that represent a whole person, not just what’s ‘wrong’ with them.
  • Don’t add to people’s embarrassment. Understand that there’s a reason and that people have a story.

7. Offer hope and meaning.

Why is it important?

  • Because hope is a self-fulfilling prophecy, to some extent.
  • Because hope can help me get through my lows.
  • Because hope saves lives.
  • Because I want to know I’m not alone.

What it might look like?

  • Be a service that loves people and celebrates their diverse experiences.
  • Show people they matter.
  • Leverage and celebrate staff experiences in ways that promote hope.

8. Provide practical supports without judgment.

Why is it important?

  • Because unmet needs distract me from everything else.
  • Because little practical solutions are crucial to recovery.
  • Because little $ = Big Impact for me.
  • Because I deserve dignity.

What it might look like?

  • Have easy ways to access practical support, where people can ask for things without being judged.
  • Have practical supports that are not tied to people being in crisis. Supports can sometimes prevent a crisis.
  • Provide things that people need as a part of service delivery (i.e. a phone, a book, music, a plunger).

9. Acknowledge my courage.

Why is it important?

  • Because I have made a good decision by reaching out for help.
  • Because I am courageous in so many ways.
  • Because when you see my courage, I start to see it too.

What it might look like?

  • Acknowledge and applaud the courage it took for people to get this far.
  • Don’t ask people if they’re sure they need help. Acknowledge the courage it takes to ask.
  • Don’t tell people to get over it. Celebrate people’s courage in dealing with it every day.

10. Be kind.

Why is it important?

  • Because it makes me feel like I matter.
  • Because it makes me feel good.
  • Because it could be the difference between a great and a terrible experience.
  • Because I need to know someone cares.

What it might look like?

  • Listen to people really well and have empathy for how hard people’s lives are.
  • Reduce the divide between people and providers. Human connection matters to people.
  • Offer things that might comfort people when they’re overwhelmed (i.e. a coffee, a blanket, a space to be).

11. Value connections.

Why is it important?

  • Because friendship matters.
  • Because I might not have anyone.

What it might look like?

  • Provide intentional friendships.
  • Help people find friends and peers.
  • Understand that pets matter a lot to people. They aren’t just ‘pets’, they are friends too.

12. Explain what’s going on (before, during, after) without me having to ask, in a way that I can understand.

Why is it important?

  • Because I have no idea what’s happening and I’m scared.
  • Because I need to know what to expect.
  • Because I don’t always remember what happened last time.
  • Because this is new to me.

What it might look like?

  • Ask people (because they won’t always speak up).
  • Give adequate information in a way that people can understand.
  • Tell people before doing something, especially when it is invasive or potentially triggering.

13. Help me feel safe. Assume I have trauma.

Why is it important?

  • Because I can’t start to recover if I don’t feel safe.
  • Because I can’t focus on anything else when I’m scared.
  • Because sometimes how you do something actually re-traumatizes me.

What it might look like?

  • When caring for people, tell them why something is necessary and what to expect.
  • Notice when people might be scared and act accordingly.
  • Remember that what is part of the day-to-day for some people could be strange and scary for others.

14. Strive for environments that are nice to be in.

Why is it important?

  • Because a house is not always a home.
  • Because I deserve to have nice places to be even if I’m poor.

What it might look like?

  • Keep working on a person’s housing until it is a place anyone would want to live.
  • Create places and spaces people will actually want to spend time in.
  • Find creative ways to make spaces nice to be in, even if it is a small part of a larger space.

15. Give me purpose.

Why is it important?

  • Because purpose saves people.
  • Because I need something to do with my time that matters to me.
  • Because I have a lot to offer, even if you can’t see it right away.

What it might look like?

  • Create opportunities for people to give back in meaningful ways.
  • Find ways to meaningfully engage people about how services are working and can be improved. They have a lot to offer and it also gives them purpose.
  • Be creative and flexible when helping people find purpose. What might seem small or not worth it can actually be incredibly meaningful to someone.

16. Teach me skills and how to actually apply them.

Why is it important?

  • Because no one ever taught them to me.
  • Because I don’t know how.
  • Because just telling me or giving me something to read doesn’t work.

What it might look like?

  • Teach skills to regulate emotions and coach people to apply them.
  • Build capacity in staff to teach and coach skill-based learning.
  • Give practical, realistic advice and support (ex. how to eat healthy in poverty). Don’t expect people know or remember how to do things.

17. Bring back fun.

Why is it important?

  • Because it feels good.
  • Because recreation and fun matter.
  • Because I don’t often get a lot of opportunity for fun.
  • Because I can’t always afford fun.

What it might look like?

  • Give people something to do, especially when they are waiting and scared/bored.
  • Give people something to do even when you’re trying to keep them safe.
  • Help people find things they can do with people they care about.
  • Help people do things they enjoy by providing resources and tools if necessary (e.g. paints, funds for salsa lessons).

18. Truly customize my care.

Why is it important?

  • Because I want/need different things from other people.
  • Because I learn and grow in ways that work for me.
  • Because what works for you might not work for me.
  • Because I don’t always want to talk face-to-face.

What it might look like?

  • Offer flexible methods (e.g. face-to-face, phone, texting, in-home) by default, even when it is hard.
  • Try serving fewer people at the intensity and frequency they actually need so they can move on with their lives faster.
  • Go deep and address the root cause, even if it takes more resources up-front.

19. Support my supporters.

Why is it important?

  • Because this work is hard.
  • Because I can’t do more with less.
  • Because as a loved one I’m not trained to do this.
  • Because I am trying to save my loved one’s life.

What it might look like?

  • Offer supports for supporters (i.e. family, loved ones) by default.
  • Teach supporters the skills they need to be supportive and helpful.
  • Engage with staff regularly to understand what they need to feel supported, and provide it.