Team Terrific: a supervisor’s perspective on recruitment, humility, collaboration

—by Matthew K. Weiland and Paul M. Kubek

Mentor, OH—The career of Deana Leber-George has been an odyssey of reinvention. When she took her first job as a mental-health case manager 12 years ago, she knew that she did not want to work with people grappling with substance use and addiction. As often happens, though, a need arose: her agency, NEIGHBORING, was searching for more clinicians with assessment and counseling skills to work with the dual-disorder population, so she agreed to step in.

"When I started here, I came from all the standard training and background that everybody else had—a lot of confrontational techniques," she says, adding that she noticed early on that these traditional methods often stunted recovery. "We were all caught in that spiral of the same clients coming back again and again."

Slowly, NEIGHBORING began to implement components of IDDT, and as she became more familiar with the model, she also began to learn more about herself.

"I just really grew a heart for it," she says. "As I started to have more experience and training and understanding of what the IDDT model was about—such as the stage-wise approach and time-unlimited services—it just felt right. I learned that if you use these things to stick with consumers through the hard times, they'll trust you. And they'll work harder."

What I Would Have Done Differently

Deana Leber-George, MEd, PCC-S, is the Dual Diagnosis Program Supervisor at NEIGHBORING. She helped usher in the agency's IDDT implementation, which began in 2002, and has been a guiding member of the service team ever since. She has learned a few lessons along the way, one of which centers on staff recruitment and team building.
In the beginning, she explains, NEIGHBORING's IDDT implementation team sought any staff member who expressed an interest in learning more about IDDT or who simply had some time in his or her schedule or a caseload of consumers who were eligible for the service.

"Some people worked out and some didn't," Leber-George says. "But I think, looking back, I would have been very specific and intentional about who I put on the team. If you don't have a heart for these consumers and this work, it won't fit with you, and there is not going to be a successful implementation of the program."

Humility And The Capacity For Hope

Leber-George does not believe there is a prototype for the perfect IDDT clinician, yet she does see some common traits among team members who have been most successful. It's an observation she would like to share with other IDDT programs.

First, team leaders should look for people who have a genuine desire to help people who have co-occurring severe mental and substance use disorders. Secondly, team members should have a certain sense of humility—a willingness to confer with colleagues about the best possible solutions and to defer, from time to time, to the advice of others. It's the heart of collaboration.

"I also think that there needs to be a sense of hope," she adds. "Once one person loses hope for a consumer, it becomes harder for the team as a group to maintain hope and provide effective services. So, there needs to be a willingness to hang onto hope a little bit longer than usual."

That, she explains, is the foundation of the long-term perspective of recovery. 

Matthew K. Weiland, MA, is senior writer, producer, and new-media specialist and Paul M. Kubek, MA, is director of communications at the Center for Evidence-Based Practices at Case Western Reserve University.