When parents choose a residential program for their child, they want to know it will provide the best possible care. That includes keeping their son or daughter physically and emotionally safe during treatment. Parents are finding just that environment at Embark Behavioral Health.
“First and foremost is that we want to ensure that our clients are not a danger to themselves or others,” said Brian Rogers, director of quality at Embark, a leading network of mental health treatment programs for young people and their families. “Next, we want to create an environment that provides the opportunity for our clients and families to be emotionally safe to express their feelings and exhibit vulnerability within relationship. Many of the problems that our clients present with are issues that have been created because of breaks in relationship. We believe that damage that occurs as a result of relationship can only be healed through relationship.”
Embark’s High Standards of Treatment
One of Embark’s key differentiators is it offers the highest levels of quality care and safety standards. As part of its standards of treatment, Embark uses the least restrictive practices possible to ensure clients don’t harm themselves or others. This approach is especially important at its residential programs, where adolescents, teens, and young adults tackling serious mental health challenges receive empathetic, family-centered care while living at a facility, typically for 90 days.
According to its safety standards, Embark staff members do not use:
- Mechanical restraints, which are devices that restrict movement, such as straps that confine someone’s arms to a bed.
- Chemical restraints, which are medications that sedate someone or limit their movement.
- Seclusion or solitary confinement.
The standards also prohibit staff from using:
- A client’s access to food, shelter, hygiene, bedding, or exercise to influence a client’s behavior.
- Any consequence or practice designed to frighten or humiliate.
- Any practice designed to cause physical discomfort or pain as a form of managing behavior.
“Our clients’ and families’ rights are of utmost importance during treatment,” Rogers said, adding that Embark’s safety standards allow young people to express their emotions in a safe manner so they can work through the problems that brought them to treatment. “Providing a safe and secure environment allows for vulnerability, empathy, and acceptance to be exhibited. If we were to use seclusion, confinement, or restriction of rights, this would create a break in the therapeutic relationship and slow down or stop the ability to heal.”
How Embark Keeps Clients From Harming Themselves or Others
If restraints are needed because an adolescent client is trying to hurt themself or others, Embark staff members are trained in human-to-human methods that temporarily restrict movement, such as holding someone’s biceps to control how they use their arms. The adolescent is typically restrained while standing or kneeling. If they’re on the ground, they lie face up, not face down.
These human-to-human restraint methods are approved by local licensing offices, such as state offices that license behavioral health facilities, and The Joint Commission, which has provided accreditation for behavioral health programs for their high standards of care. All Embark programs have Joint Commission accreditation.
As soon as human-to-human restraint begins, Rogers said, the client is told what they need to do to be released. In addition, a fully trained staff member who’s not involved in restraining the adolescent is present to ensure the client’s physical and emotional well-being. Parents are notified about any restraints used on their children.
How Embark Trains Its Staff To Keep Clients Safe
To ensure Embark’s residential staff can best keep clients safe, Rogers said all direct-care or frontline employees — those responsible for caring for clients — are required to go through a comprehensive orientation. During this more than 40 hours of training, they learn about:
- The Embark treatment approach.
- Crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques.
- The rights of the individuals Embark serves.
- Emergency response plans.
- How to screen for risk of suicide.
- How to report safety risks to the appropriate individuals.
- Restraint positions.
Rogers noted that staff members are not allowed to restrain clients until they’ve proven their competency in writing and by demonstrating proper technique to a trainer.
Direct-care and frontline employees continue to receive training throughout the year and annually on all emergency response and safety plans.
The CASA Approach to Treatment
When it comes to keeping residential clients physically and emotionally safe, Rogers said the CASA Developmental Framework sets Embark apart. Created by Embark Chief Clinical Officer Rob Gent, CASA is a way of establishing a therapeutic relationship through commitment, acceptance, security, and attunement (also known as empathy in action).
“We’re not doing steps to get through a program,” Rogers said. “We’re treating families and teaching parents and kids alike how to interact with each other in a way that builds on the reliability and predictability of the parents’ boundaries and limits so parents can accurately express empathy and authentically hear and accept their adolescent. Our goal is for the family to be healed, for the family to be able to experience joy together, not for us to graduate kids.”
Taye’s Story: One Parent’s Appreciation for Embark’s High Safety Standards
Embark’s practice of using the least restrictive practices possible to ensure client safety was important for Taye. His older son, a teenager, received treatment for depression, anxiety, an eating disorder, and unhealthy social media habits at Embark Behavioral Health in Benton, Tennessee, a residential treatment program. Taye said his son would have never responded to overly restrictive practices. In fact, he said, the teen had previously been at a program where staff members threatened to take away kids’ rights.
Taye appreciated that Embark’s staff provided a physically and emotionally safe environment — one where the youths at the facility could communicate with each other and solve problems together.
“That could never have happened without the trust that the staff built with the boys, speaking very plainly but respectfully to them and just treating them in a mature way and talking to them in a mature way about their situation without the threat of legal consequences or public shaming or humiliation,” Taye said. “That’s powerful.”
Taye said Embark Behavioral Health staff members properly addressed any safety issues that popped up.
“They were able to provide an environment where if the boys did start to get excited or feel hostile, it was diffused very quickly by the staff — and it was also talked about by the kids in group therapy,” he said. “It was understood that it was not OK. We felt very confident in having our son there.”
As a result of the care his son received at Embark, which included receiving an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis that Taye’s wife, Dana, had long suspected but past providers had not identified, Taye’s son significantly improved. The teen no longer binge eats, has a job, and has close relationships with others that he didn’t before — he now has a girlfriend.
“It wasn’t all the diagnosis and the medication,” Taye said. “A lot of it was the group therapy and the individual therapy that he had there. The therapists worked really hard on developing really close one-on-one relationships with the boys and made him feel super comfortable and safe, like he could really be himself and talk about what was going on. He was able to find his voice there.”
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