The Sanctuary Byron Bay
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Karen Stuart - Client Services Manager

Karen Stuart Client Services Manager

One of our key aims at the Sanctuary Byron Bay is to have each client in residence enjoy a responsive and nurturing experience. From the point of view of each client, the efforts of many practitioners seemingly coalesce in a seamless, integrated service. But behind the scenes, a lot more discreet work is carried out than is easily evident. In this newsletter, the Sanctuary Byron Bay offers a glimpse into the less public world of our Client Services case managers, who work tirelessly in the background to ensure all programmes run smoothly and effectively.

We are pleased to introduce Karen Stuart, one of our Client Services case managers, who offers some insight into her role:

I work under the direction of the Clinical Director, the Administration & Client Services Director and the general Clinical team to devise and coordinate a client’s programme before they arrive. Even before a client arrives, a lot of liaison is necessary between the Client Services case managers, the Clinical Director and all practitioners to make sure everyone has the same information and that all the preparatory work in setting up the programme is completed satisfactorily. Once a client is in residence, I am responsible as the primary liaison for the client on a day-to-day basis, ensuring any requests are reviewed by the relevant practitioners and generally ensuring all clinical information is disseminated between practitioners accordingly.

I really consider one of the most important aspects of my role as developing a close rapport with each client: checking in with them by fax and daily phone calls, responding to their requests, and making sure I can create an atmosphere of mutual trust so each client feels they have an open forum and environment to express their authentic needs.

It’s important also that I support the personal care staff and practitioners working with the clients. Often they need regular updates and clarification of any aspect of the client’s day so that everyone is ‘on the same page’ and can respond consistently. It’s amazing just how much coordination is required to ensure at the experiential end of the program, that everything flows seamlessly and seemingly without effort. There are a lot of complex tiny steps that need to happen behind the scenes for an integrated program to work.

Sometimes I describe the work of Client Services as resembling a duck gliding smoothly through the water. We try to keep everything on the surface looking tranquil, smooth and effortless, but underneath the water, out of sight, there’s a lot of frantic paddling going on! We really try to take the stress out of a client’s stay by attending to all the little things like family visits, extra administration work, requested outings, departure arrangements – even dealing with pets. Our aim is to remain practical while maintaining a sense of nurturing responsiveness, for which the Sanctuary is now well known.

In a sense, Client Services case managers have to walk a fine line being responsive to a client’s requests and helping the clients maintain the restraint required to fulfil their overall therapeutic goals. For example, it is not necessarily in a client’s best interest to see a movie with explicit scenes showing drug taking and drinking if they are in the early stages of addressing substance abuse. Likewise, a client’s request for particular types of food may be contraindicated by the recommendations of the Sanctuary naturopath. Every request needs to be reviewed by the treatment team and this constant liaison between practitioners, the client and their case managers is what makes our program unique and absolutely responsive to a client’s therapeutic needs.

My own personal background is in social welfare and education, so as you can imagine, it was a challenge for me to commence work in a private health care organisation where the programmes seemed so expensive and elitist. But since working here, I’ve been amazed at how the one-on-one focus with a dedicated team of highly skilled practitioners can work wonders in such a short time. I’ve seen the most complex and intractable cases respond to our team effort, resulting in impressive growth and recovery. I’m pleased to be part of this effort.

I also appreciate the steps we take here at the Sanctuary to treat every enquiry with compassion and dignity, even if the enquirer is not able to afford our services. We always make sure we explore all referral options for each enquiry and in fact, one of the projects I’m involved in now is the development of an online treatment directory for Australian enquirers.

I have my own personal history as a substance user and while I was always able to function well despite my addictions, I did eventually seek successful treatment at a rehab and I’m now consequently deeply empathic to those facing a similar journey. I understand how cranky and miserable one can be while in the middle of a detox, and I think my own personal perspective helps me deal with clients in a way that reminds them they aren’t alone.

When I see people suffering in the early stages of recovery, I’m reminded of how self-destructive addictive behaviours can be. To be free of addictions requires work, but work that is so well worth doing. For the short term pain, a whole lifetime of gain can unfold – I’m glad to be able to be part of a client’s transition from self-harm to self-care.