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Can we do better?

Stacey M. Baker, Psy.D., LMHC

By choice I work with a challenging population. I found my calling in working with individuals with substance use disorders and/or those involved with the legal system. Maybe it is due to all of the Matlock and Perry Mason that I watched as a child. Who knows.

These are my people. I feel passionately about helping them, wanting to give them a chance to succeed and thrive. However, the longer that I work in this field, the more I ask myself, “What does that even mean?”.

In working with people who are court involved and/or working with the Department of Children and Families (child protective services in Massachusetts), the more I have to wonder, “How many are we helping, versus how many are we setting up to fail?”.

I want to be clear that many people are able to meet the expectations of the state departments, and many people benefit from the services that are available. In Massachusetts we are very fortunate in that our state agencies are full of compassionate and caring professionals, who I believe largely have only the best intentions. We have an abundance of resources and programs, and in many ways, are a leader in the field.

At the same time, that is exactly why I am concerned. I can’t help but notice that there are so many clients who do not succeed. Clients who can not meet the expectations mandated by the state. Clients who continue to struggle. I have to ask myself, “Can we do better?”

Having worked in this field for over 15 years now, I have noticed only minor changes in systems and programming. Again, I want to be clear. Many of our systems and programming work wonderfully. But, can we do better?

How can we come together as a field, as a community, to determine how to reach those individuals who seem unreachable? Instead of knowing that there is a success and a failure rate and accepting these as inevitable. Can we

do better?

Instead of acknowledging that we have a number of successful and helpful programs and being proud of our graduation rates. Instead of knowing that our evidenced based practices are statistically effective. Can we do better?

I worry that on some level, we have accepted these definitions of success as good enough. I worry that we have accepted that there will be failure and losses. I worry that we have forgotten that those failures and losses represent real people. As someone said to me after I recently lost a client to addiction, “It’s to be expected”. If that’s true, are we really okay with that?

Can we find more energy, time, and money? Can we think outside of the box to develop programs and resources that help those people? Can we do better?

Dr. Baker is the owner of a group private practice in Massachusetts. She is also the administrator of a supportive online community through Areas For Growth which offers online courses and resources.

Areas For Growth also includes step-by-step support and guidance in how to develop your own private practice. Develop Your OWN Successful Private Practice

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