The Life Recovery Program: Web-based treatment and support for addiction and mental health issues

In brief

Research is increasingly backing the use of online programs to provide treatment for mental health and addiction issues. Such programs are easy to access, avoid the stigma associated with in-person treatment, and let the individual make progress at their own pace.

The Life Recovery Program is an internationally-awarded, online, video-based program that provides trauma-informed psycho-education and support to people with addiction and mental health issues, as well as to their friends and family. The program is aimed at persons with issues such as substance use, behavioural or process addictions, self-cutting, disordered eating, gambling, toxic relationships, anger, managing chronic stress, trauma, and impulse control issues.

This edition of Promising Practices looks at the Life Recovery Program and speaks with its founder Paul Radkowski. Promising Practices profiles innovative practices and initiatives from around Ontario. Read the full story below or download the PDF.

Promising Practices profiles innovative practices and initiatives from around Ontario.

About the program

Today, there is increased awareness about addiction and mental health issues – people are starting to be more open about their experiences with depression and anxiety.

But there still is much stigma attached to these and other mental health diagnoses, and many don’t seek treatment for mental health issues, either for financial or access reasons, or because they’re afraid of the stigma associated with treatment.

One U.S. study found that the delay between the first onset of symptoms of a mental health issue and when people seek and receive treatment can be as long as decades.1 The study found that because 75 percent of lifelong mental illnesses start before age 24, many people adopt unhealthy coping strategies, including using substances.  This means that addiction issues are high among this population group.  This can lead to other problems, such as loss of a job and home, destroyed relationships, and even death.

Research is increasingly backing the use of online programs to provide treatment for mental health and addiction issues. Such programs are easy to access, avoid the stigma associated with in-person treatment, and let the individual make progress at their own pace.

Cunningham and colleagues (2010)2 affirm that trials of computer-based interventions for different health behaviours and interventions provide “significant evidence for their efficacy” (p. 1). A meta-analysis also suggests that minimal contact computer-delivered treatments that can be accessed via the Internet may represent a cost-effective means of treating uncomplicated substance use problems and related issues (Rooke et al., 2010).3

Web-based Treatment and Support

The Life Recovery Program (LRP) www.liferecoveryprogram.com is an internationally-awarded, online, video-based program that provides trauma-informed psycho-education and support to people with addiction and mental health issues, as well as to their friends and family.

The program is aimed at persons with such issues as substance use, behavioural or process addictions, self-cutting, disordered eating, gambling, toxic relationships, anger, managing chronic stress, trauma, and impulse control issues.

It’s informed by the latest research and integrates materials and resources used by many inpatient addiction treatment centres. It also takes a holistic approach to the individual’s needs and looks at the biological, spiritual, and psychosocial influences of addiction.

Paul Radkowski, CEO/Clinical Director of the LRP, came up with the concept of an online recovery program while working as a psychotherapist in the Northwest Territories, where traditional support for mental health and addiction issues was very difficult to access.

How the Program Works

The Life Recovery Program defines addiction as any behaviour a person can’t stop, resulting in destructive consequences. This can mean substances as well as behaviours or processes, such as self-cutting, disordered eating, gambling, toxic relationships, even anger.

The program is based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) approaches and other evidence-informed modalities that have been proven to reduce symptom severity. This includes the use of various self-regulation skills training resources, all of which are foundational for recovery.

The web-based format allows people to access the program anytime, when they need it, wherever they are.

Throughout the program, clients download homework that allows them to practice and review new coping strategies for their mental health and addiction issues. They also receive weekly e-mails that encourage actions such as finding an accountability partner (e.g., AA, a friend, counsellor, pastor), summaries and reminders of key messages from the latest lesson, and videos.

They can also join an interactive peer-support forum that allows participants to interact anonymously with others in the program. This clinician-moderated forum is a way for people to find support and resources for the mental health and addiction issues they’re facing.

The program uses the most recent research findings in the field of neuroscience and neurobiology to help explain to clients the effect that addictions, stress, and impulse/control issues have on thoughts, feelings, and behaviour.

Challenges: Misconceptions about the program

There’s a misconception that LRP is providing e-counselling and live video exchange with a counsellor. But this online program doesn’t aim to replace traditional treatment options. It’s designed to fill current service gaps—not to replace existing treatment approaches.

The Life Recovery Program can be used by a variety of people for many different purposes, such as support for someone waiting for treatment, those who want anonymity, or who are unable or not ready to have face-to-face treatment. It can be used to prevent relapse or as support for someone coming out of treatment.

The outcomes

A content analysis of the LRP peer support forum revealed that more than 80 percent of participants were able to view their lives differently, regulate their moods, and developed new ways of coping to stop or decrease their addictive behaviours.

Among active members, 27 percent chose to sign up and pay to go through the entire six-month program (which remains available for one year) for a second time, decreasing their likelihood of relapse.

Participants also noted that they increased their use of alternative resources, such as support groups and therapists.

The Life Recovery Program has been peer reviewed and recognized in 2008 for its comprehensiveness and innovation by the International Association of Addictions and Offender Counselors’ with the Outstanding Addictions Professional Award. The program also received the first Outstanding Mental Health Award from the Ontario Association of Counsellors, Consultants, Psychometrists and Psychologists, in 2011.

It will also be featured in the upcoming textbook by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Fundamentals of Addiction, in a chapter called “Digital Future”.

For more information about the Life Recovery Program contact Paul Radkowski at https://www.liferecoveryprogram.com/ or info [at] liferecoveryprogram [dot] com.

References

  1. Wang, PS, et al. Failure and Delay in Initial Treatment Contact After First Onset of Mental Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2005;62(6):603-613. Available at: http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=208684
  2. Cunningham JA, Wild TC, Cordingley J, et al. Twelve-month follow-up results from a randomized controlled trial of a brief personalized feedback intervention for problem drinkers. Alcohol Alcohol. 2010 May-Jun; 45(3):258-62. doi: 10.1093/alcalc/agq009. Epub 2010 Feb 10.
  3. Rooke S, Thorsteinsson E, Karpin A, Copeland J, Allsop D. Computer-delivered interventions for alcohol and tobacco use: a meta-analysis. Addiction. 2010 August; 105(8):1381–90. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2010.02975.x

Author: Rossana Coriandoli