The Importance of Evaluation in Treatment Planning and Placement- Louise A Stanger Ed.d, LCSW, CDWF, CIP with help from James Flowers PHD, LD-C

A Closer Look At “World Class Evaluations”

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Cute portrayal of a range of different emotions
Cute portrayal of a range of different emotions
The Road To Recovery Awaits

Over the past month, I have had the good fortune of travelling to an excellent behavioral health conference in Florida, Moments of Change, and visiting Lifeskills, a mental health/substance abuse facility, as well as traveling to Houston to collaborate with JFlowers Health Institute and Houston Methodist Behavioral Health Institute, as well as learning about treatment in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. In doing so, I was reminded of the importance of a robust assessment prior to recommending a specific treatment plan and center.

When I work with families, I pride myself on doing an intensive bio-psycho-social assessment of the Identified love one (or IP) that is referred to me. I use a proven Harvard supported research methodology called Portraiture, which allows me to do qualitative interviews with a variety of people that yields a vivid portrait of the person through triangulation of data.

All of my work begins with Family Mapping, a process I have developed, which allows me to paint a portrait not only of the IP but also the whole family, its history of mental health, and trauma (both Subjective and objective). A family map is created to visually show us the family’s relational attachments, culture, age, substance misuse, smoking or vaping (addiction), loves, losses, pregnancies, miscarriages, physical health, marriages, divorces, deaths, religion, legal and school issues, moves, accidents, issues with money or gaming, gambling, sex, eating, digital addiction, and chronic pain, as well as the family’s resilency, community, supports successes. In doing so, a family map can tell the clinician what issues to tackle first, and aid in treatment planning and placement — as well as providing a road map for how to work with each family member and engage them in their own treatment.

I have found, as have others, this comprehensive bio-psycho-social assessment to be most helpful when it comes to working with family systems for treatment planning, and placement and long-term strategies.

Recently, I have had a slew of clients whose issues traversed a trajectory of issues, from mental health, trauma, and substance misuse to physical maladies, chronic pain, TTBI, combat fatique and more. These families had tried numerous different treatments and centers. They had done everything from going down the Amazon to standing on their heads to being invited to leave treatment centers, to relapsing numerous times. They had been aroundand, frankly, while I trust my expertise and had ideas about how to help guide them; I was hesitant to do another placement.

These clients demanded a “world class assessment” by doctors handpicked for their specialties with a collborative approach to problem solving…which is why I had the opportunity to experience JFlowers Health Institute. These assessments went beyond what one considers a “typical” psychological evaluation (which includes a physical exam that can detect physical illnesses). These laboratory tests included blood work and brain scans, mental health history, mental status exams and personal history to help determine largest stressors in one’s life. They included cognitive evaluations with seniors to rule out (or in) early onset dementia and Alzheimers, and to determine clarity of thinking, recall, identify any processing disorders and more.

An evaluation that is this extensive takes 5-10 days. It utilizes physical, psychological, psychiatric and neuropsychological evaluations, personality and neurocognitive testing, drug use and abuse, dependence screening, toxicology testing, special assessments for process addictions, fitness and nutritional assessments and recommendations to provide a clear path for treatment. In addition, the comprehensive written report allows time for reflection and wise decision making. The case consultation which brings the client, their family and lead providers together, provides for a dialogue that allows all to reflect on their loved one and provide a roadmap for healing.

The findings were startling, and the work that I did with families and their loved ones enabled them to significantly improve. Collaborating with the highly skilled team at JFlowers Health Institute led me to experience new reparative treatment options that I had heretofore not imagined.

In thinking about some of the more complex cases I receive — the lawyers, physicians, politicians, celebrities and other high-profile persons who seek my counsel and have limited time available – going forward, I am going to vigorously consider asking these clients to undertake a robust evaluation before committing to in patient or outpatient treatment. Why? Because I want to make sure my clients have had the opportunity to be evaluated by a team of experts (like JFlowers Health Institute, Linder Center of HopeMenninger’s, Houston Methodist to name a few) who are collaborative and open to working hand in hand with the referring clinician. Teams where their only interest is putting together an excellent plan with treatment providers back home or across the country who are best suited to handle the issues at hand.

Our clients deserve the best care. You deserve the best treatment options available, and so do your loved ones.

Louise Stanger is a speaker, educator, licensed clinician, social worker, certified daring way facilitator and interventionist who uses an invitational intervention approach to work with complicated mental health, substance abuse, chronic pain and process addiction clients.

To learn more about Louise Stanger and her interventions and other resources, visit her website,

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