In behavioral health and human services, recovery never ends and growth is ongoing. An alumni program supports individuals who have completed treatment or services with the organization and provides ongoing support through in-person and virtual activities.
While alumni program components vary depending on the organization and its goals, the overall goal is to provide ongoing support and resources to help patients maintain their progress in recovery or other areas of personal growth. Learn some evidence-based benefits of an alumni program and how your organization can use health technology to reap these advantages.
What Are the Benefits of a Behavioral Health and Human Services Alumni Program?
Alumni programs, sometimes called alumni associations or alumnae associations, are valuable resources for organizations and their former patients, supporting long-term recovery and the organization's overall mission. The success of a behavioral health agency's treatment programs can be measured in part by the long-term outcomes of its clients. By supporting alumni, your organization can help ensure that former patients maintain their progress in recovery and avoid relapse.
An active and successful alumni program can enhance the reputation of the organization, attracting new clients and donors. There are other evidence-based reasons for behavioral health and human services providers to invest in an alumni program, including:
- Fostering a sense of community: An alumni community can be vital for those who may have felt isolated during their in-person treatment or if isolation triggers relapse. Fellow alumni can foster community by sharing experiences, values, and responsibility. People who feel isolated or disconnected can benefit from a sense of community because it provides a sense of belonging and support. Research shows that being part of a community can promote social cohesion and a sense of shared purpose.
- Providing ongoing support: Alumni programs can deliver ongoing educational support to those who have completed treatment, which in turn helps to prevent relapse and promotes long-term recovery.
- Receiving referrals: Engaged and satisfied patients (and alumni) are more likely to recommend their healthcare providers to others. This act can be significant for healthcare providers who rely on referrals from satisfied patients as a source of new business. By focusing on patient engagement and working to build strong relationships with their patients, alums, and family or caregivers, behavioral healthcare providers can improve the chances that they’ll receive referrals from satisfied and engaged patients.
- Collecting feedback: Through alumni programs, patients can provide valuable input about the effectiveness of a company’s services and identify areas for improvement. In addition to assessing actual client change, feedback can enhance therapeutic alliances, generate more accurate case conceptualizations, and foster a more positive experience overall for patients and alumni.
- Engaging former clients in philanthropic efforts: Alumni programs can also engage former clients in charitable endeavors, such as fundraising and volunteering. Outside of behavioral health and human services, research shows that alumni engagement programs impact willingness to donate to their alma mater, perceptions of the needs of an organization, the economic environment, and charitable preference.
Alumni Programs and Behavioral Health Technology
Patient and alumni engagement technology can support and engage patients in their behavioral health care. It can take many forms, such as mobile apps, websites, or interactive chats. It typically provides information, education, and resources to patients and alumni that help with care management or improve communication.
For alumni, patients, and providers, patient engagement technology like the CaredFor app can be extremely valuable. In addition to engaging and supporting individuals who have completed treatments or services through CaredFor, it’s possible to create a program with the following features.
Peer Support Groups and Alumni Mentor Opportunities
The CaredFor app makes it easy to facilitate support groups even when participating remotely. You can create peer support groups and other opportunities for individuals to connect with others who have shared similar experiences. Peer support is a key element of continued recovery, and it’s particularly beneficial for those who may feel isolated or have struggled to find support from family or friends.
There are several specific ways to use peer support in recovery, including:
- Emotional support to help alumni feel less alone and more connected to others.
- Practical support, such as help with finding housing or employment, which is essential for maintaining recovery.
- Role modeling and mentorship, which allows alums to see others who successfully navigate the recovery process and receive guidance and support.
- Encouragement and motivation to help individuals stay on track with their recovery goals.
- Personalized support, which is vital for alumni engagement. Using the CaredFor app, behavioral health professionals can create Care Journeys, a digital roadmap or care plan for continued recovery.
Ongoing Educational Resources
The CaredFor app provides access to educational materials, workshops, or other resources to help individuals learn and grow after completing treatment or services. Alums can access these resources through the app and links to external resources.
Patient education is essential for behavioral health and recovery because it helps individuals understand their condition and treatment options and often leads to better outcomes. Understanding their condition and treatment makes patients and alums more likely to participate in their care, leading to better compliance.
It’s well established that patient education helps to reduce stigma and misunderstanding around behavioral health conditions, which is a barrier to seeking treatment and impacts a person's willingness to follow treatment recommendations.
Just like colleges offer new grads alumni programs and initiatives geared toward professional development to stay on top of their game, you can offer your alums opportunities for lifelong learning to help them develop the skills and knowledge they need to manage their condition effectively and prevent relapse. This aspect is significant for those recovering from substance use disorder or other behavioral health conditions as relapse prevention is essential to long-term recovery.
Organize Social Alumni Events
Social events in the context of a behavioral health management program are activities that promote socialization and connection among patients and alumni. The CaredFor app lets you organize and promote upcoming events directly from the platform.
Participants in behavioral health management programs benefit from in-person and virtual events in several ways, including:
- Building relationships: Social events provide opportunities for participants to feel seen and heard, which is particularly important for those who may feel isolated or disconnected.
- Promoting self-esteem: Social events promote self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment by allowing individuals to participate in activities and make new connections.
- Encouraging socialization: Social events help participants develop social skills, which are essential to recovery from certain behavioral health conditions. Young alumni may prefer a social media-like environment so it’s helpful to have the technology to support a safe moderated platform.
- Creating an alumni network: Social events like reunions foster a continued sense of belonging among program participants. Networking opportunities give alumni the chance to exchange contact information and even share job opportunities.
The CaredFor app supports contingency management (CM), a treatment approach helpful in reinforcing positive behaviors and encouraging the development of new skills. CM is based on operant conditioning, which states that reinforcing behaviors increases their likelihood of being repeated in the future.
Contingency management uses rewards or consequences to shape behavior. Prizes, or positive reinforcement, promote desired behaviors while consequences, or negative reinforcement, discourages unwanted behaviors.
You can use contingency management in various settings for behavioral health and human services issues, such as substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment, and social skills training. It can be particularly effective for those who have difficulty maintaining motivation or have a history of not responding well to other types of treatment.
Create an Alumni Program for Greater Success
While the components of your alumni program may vary based on the needs and goals of your organization and former clients, the overall goal for behavioral health providers remains the same: to create an alumni center that extends the continuum of care so participants can maintain their recovery and personal development long after they’ve completed a treatment program.
The functionality of the CaredFor app provides a win-win situation for providers and patients alike. Alums can access online resources such as educational materials or webinars to help them actively participate in their recovery and improve outcomes. Practitioners can use the app to facilitate peer support groups and offer virtual support resources, allowing alumni to connect and share their experiences through the app. Administrators can organize and promote social events, educational webinars, and virtual contingency management activities for patients and alumni to access through the app.
To learn more about using ContinuumCloud technology to support your alumni, connect with us today.