Using recurring themes to treat unique patients

The patients we work with in Camden come from all walks of life and all backgrounds. Each patient story is unique, but we have found that several themes appear over and over in our work.

Theme one is trauma-informed care.A framework for care that realizes the prevalence of trauma in a population, recognizes the presence of trauma symptoms in an individual, acknowledges the role that trauma has played in a patient’s life, and seeks to avoid re-traumatization. Trauma, especially early childhood trauma, can affect health and drive puzzling and off-putting behavior from patients. Understanding trauma-informed care is essential for working with this population.

Theme two is the need for a harm reductionA set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences of various human behaviors, legal and illegal, especially those associated with drug use. mindset. Often patient’s lifestyle choices challenge our personal morality or seem simply self-destructive. We approach our patients with the mindset that change is difficult and the most important short-term goal is to reduce the negative impact of certain behaviors on health, not to attempt to force complete behavior change.

Theme three is the value of motivational interviewing.A conversational technique that engages a patient’s motivation to change based on his or her own needs and wants rather than a provider’s goals. A mantra in our work is we don’t know what we don’t know. Approaching patients with open-ended questions can elicit revealing information and build trust and understanding. Active listening, goal-setting and accountability are the foundations of supporting behavior change.

Theme four is the importance of setting boundaries.Setting boundaries refers to creating appropriate expectations around how work is shared in the patient/provider relationship. To do everything for a patient can be disempowering: our goals are to help patients be aware of everything they are capable of doing for themselves. Maintenance of one’s own emotional boundaries can also help protect providers’ own personal emotional states as they work in highly stressful, intimate conditions with patients. Health care providers are usually deeply caring people, and working with individuals in pain and in need of help is emotionally and intellectually taxing. Setting and maintaining appropriate emotional boundaries between you and the patient is important both for the patient’s self-empowerment and for the self-care of the provider.