“Compassion is a verb.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh
There has been a lot of talk lately about person-centered care, the therapeutic alliance, and strength-based treatment. But why is this important? And what do these things mean? Experts are increasingly positive about holistic treatment that considers the many aspects of an individual rather than concentration on diagnosis or deficits. An idea that connects all of these concepts is compassionate care, an aspect of treatment at Rose Hill Center that is key to our positive outcomes.
In fact there is much evidence that points to a connection between the therapeutic alliance and better treatment outcomes and medication adherence (1,3). Likewise, research has shown a strong connection between the perception of compassionate characteristics of the therapist with the therapeutic alliance (3). Specifically, empathy, caring, respect, and the recognition of the uniqueness of the client were used to describe compassion in action. A definition of compassion includes an awareness of suffering and a wish to relieve it (2), but may be described as ‘being with’ an individual in distress.
So, if compassion contributes to a stronger therapeutic alliance, and the therapeutic alliance improves outcomes, why then is compassion not front and center in mental health treatment? A healing social environment that puts the client at the center of the plan, and includes safety, support, and empathy is not typical in the context of mental health services. A culture that allows for clinicians to practice self-compassion, and model pro-social behaviors like unconditional positive regard, genuine affection, and radical acceptance is starkly contrasted by the standard emphasis on control and client management.
Organizational resources and practical constraints, political, economic, and institutional, all play a part in creating an environment and culture that may not be supportive of compassion. The environment must be designed to allow for compassionate care. Investment in infrastructure, staff, training, and a commitment to the ideals of compassion are necessary to create an environment that values social healing. Programming that helps individuals develop a sense of purpose, meaning, and hope is vital. Hope is seen by many to be the key to recovery (4).
Rose Hill Center is committed to compassionate, person-center care, and has designed an environment in which hope can flourish. All staff receive on-going training in person-centered planning, and treat residents and co-workers alike with kindness and compassion, in a manner that is helpful, appropriate and practical. The evidence is convincing and credible that the context, relationships, and values demonstrated during treatment make a powerful difference in outcomes.