It takes a village … 5 benefits of team communication about the treatment of complex young people

  • Tuesday, June 7, 2016
  • Shona Innes Psychology

Too often, treatment of complex young people (especially if it is contracted out) becomes isolated from the day-to-day management and ‘real life’ of the client. When treatment drifts away from its target and becomes fragmented across the agencies and individuals involved, client outcomes are affected, case managers lose touch and stakeholders may even do things for the client that are at odds with the treatment plan.

I send my ‘Dear Team Client’ emails to:

  • the client’s teacher or chosen welfare person at school;
  • Mum and Dad (if they are involved – together or separately);
  • carers or respite workers;
  • workers in statutory roles (Child Safety, Youth Justice, Corrections); and
  • any other professionals involved (the GP, the drug and alcohol worker, the speech therapist).
Importantly, the email goes to the client too.
Communicating to the client and their team in this way has at least 5 big benefits.
  1. It promotes generalisation by taking what happens in a session beyond the treatment room to where the client actually lives and to where changes can be noticed by the people they see in their day-to-day life.
  2. It promotes feedback and updates from others in Team Client – often when I flick a quick email summary, someone else in the team is prompted to share information. ‘Did he tell you that…?’ ‘These tips are perfect for the …. [event] she has coming up.’
  3. It promotes transparency about ongoing risk and about important aspects of care while respecting that the client needs to know how to manage the limits of their confidentiality.
  4. It helps the client have a say in what is going on. It’s important that we end each treatment session with a discussion around ‘This is what I’d like to share with your team this week’.
  5. It stops treatment from drifting from its intended target by remembering all of the stakeholders – so that all village members can be consistent in their support of the complex young person.

Be sure that when you seek treatment for your complex young client, you demand whole team communication.

Shona offers workshops for support staff on how to develop effective relationships with complex young people. To find out more, call Shona Innes Psychology on 0400 150 106 or email