This month, we spoke with Matthew Lapane, a Recovery Support Specialist and Manager at Hartford Healthcare. Matthew shares his perspective on “Best Practices” for engaging clients on TetherAll.
By: Michelle Voegtle, M.Ed., LPC, and Director of Clinical Programs at TryCycle
You’ve been using TetherAll since the beginning. What has it been like to see the evolution of the program?
When we first started, it was before Covid, and Recovery Support Specialists were out in the community more. TetherAll was important in getting to know clients quicker. It helped break the ice so when meeting in person, clients were more open. It allowed flexibility- it’s not easy for clients to think of everything they want to say when face to face. I encouraged clients to use both the inventory and the journaling components of TetherAll. Inventories are important in recovery, especially early recovery. Sometimes clients don’t know they’re relapsing, and the tool helps us identify risk. In the journal, clients share their thoughts as they occur which gives us a clearer picture of the client; we know them so much better.
What I hear you also saying is that the tool is versatile. Can you tell me more about how you used TetherAll during Covid- what changed?
Everything changed in a blink of an eye! We talk about the opposite of addiction is connection. With addiction, we tend to isolate ourselves. Before Covid, Recovery Support Specialists were helping prevent isolation by meeting with people face to face. And then suddenly we couldn’t meet people. We increased our outreach to clients through TetherAll. It’s stressful when you don’t see clients and you don’t know how they’re doing. It brought some peace of mind being “tethered” to our clients. We didn’t have any overdose deaths for our clients on TetherAll during Covid.
Can you share your perspective on recovery? As someone in recovery, as well as someone who works with people in early recovery.
I’m just one person working to stay healthy. But the way I see it is whatever you do to stay drunk and high is harder than recovery. In active addiction, we fight getting sober and look for the easier and softer way. Recovery is the easier and softer way.
That’s interesting, how does TetherAll make it the easier, softer way?
As a client, I will journal knowing it will be seen by my health team. TetherAll gives clients a chance to get their thoughts together or to build a little space between sharing and receiving feedback. As an RSS, I will bring up what is journaled in a way that is softer, and more approachable. It’s a bridge to their clinical work.
Is that avoidance or enabling?
Absolutely not. I think it’s safety! If you have ever spent one minute living in addiction, you know the trap and how hard it is to get started in recovery. It’s scary to let the substance go. For so long, it was the only friend, the only tool that worked. Offering an alternative positive recovery tool is an easier, softer way- and TetherAll is working for people. We need to get more people on TetherAll, there are so many more people we can help.
I hear you; it sounds like TetherAll offers an option to engage clients from a truly compassionate place.
Yes. As a client, you are starting a private conversation when you’re ready to. There’s no timeframe or specific order. For example, today I’ll talk about when I was 10, and tomorrow I’ll talk about today. It doesn’t have to be in any order or even make sense.
When you say it doesn’t have to be in any order or make sense, can you talk more about that?
In recovery, who knows what will pop up and what will trigger something? TetherAll gives autonomy, in a safe way. Clients can use TetherAll anywhere when thoughts pop up because it’s on their phone. It’s more in the moment, which makes it more real. When you get down to real thoughts and feelings, we can make some headway with clients.
What’s your recommendation for how and when clients use TetherAll?
Here’s how I see it. You have to maintain your recovery on a daily basis. It’s like your car- you have to care for it daily or it will break down. Why wouldn’t you do this with your recovery? It’s a priority and needs to be cared for daily. I encourage clients to check in daily at least with the inventory. No one is going to give you 30 seconds to check in with yourself like TetherAll. Clients begin to see where they are in their recovery at a particular moment. You take a thirty-second break to check in and you SEE it. And when you SEE it, you might do something about it.
What changes have you made in your work since working with TetherAll?
I’m more realistic, more humanistic. It’s more real-life, more real-time. Before I was constantly looking for topics to talk about with clients. Now I know! I can see what they’re thinking about, it’s more personal. I don’t feel like I’m just shuffling people in and out of groups.
What do you want clinicians to know or hear about your experience with TetherAll?
How simple it is to change someone’s day. Letting people know they’re heard when they’re in these situations of addiction makes such a big difference. Even if clients reach out and we (clinicians and RSS) can’t respond at this moment, clients still know they will be heard. Our clients are often at the tipping point. Staying connected can make all the difference. We deal with some very fragile people- this is such a different line of work than most people have. It’s not a job, it’s so much more than that. TetherAll helps me help clients in a way that I couldn’t before- it’s made it so much easier to get insight. TetherAll benefits everyone- the client and clinician.
Any final thoughts, what do you want people to know about?
How simple it is to change someone’s day. Letting people know they’re heard when they’re in these situations of addiction makes such a big difference. Our clients are often at the tipping point. Staying connected can make all the difference. TetherAll helps me help clients in a way that I couldn’t before- it’s made it so much easier to get insight. TetherAll benefits everyone- the client and clinician.