Change can hurt. If the local Community Mental Health Clinic is changing the Electronic Health Record (EHR), policies or personnel roles, anybody can be affected.

Clients can feel business changes when they come in for appointments. Things may seem less organized, or staff may not be quite as cheerful as they normally are. Perhaps mistakes are made that wouldn't normally show up, so appointments can be delayed.

Professionals feel business changes, too. Change can increase stress in the workplace. People get set in their routines pretty quickly, and some have a tough time modifying the flow of their day. Sometimes the plan for the change is faulty and needs to be tuned up.

Executives feel business changes. If change is poorly executed, a frustrated client may walk out the door without being helped. That not only affects the bottom line, it's bad marketing and somebody who needs help isn't getting it. Issues of complying with rules and regulations and increasing financial difficulties appear to be at record highs right now.

In order to pull out of a financial tailspin, many agencies are changing, or will soon. They're implementing policy changes, modifying computer systems and managing workflows. They're doing all these things to increase efficiency, reduce risk, improve treatment outcomes and other key business reasons. Changes meant to improve the entire treatment experience, can be felt in the waiting room. Somebody might end up distraught, usually staff, if change is not implemented well. That can cascade into an unpleasant moment for somebody who is there to get some help.

Change needs to be managed like therapy. Providers need to consider involving a treatment team of executives, staff and clients, with a policy of transparency. Let the right hand know what the left hand is doing. To be effective in this, a qualified person needs to be responsible for the change and be granted the power to make certain decisions about how change is brought about…this could involve things as simple as posting signs in the waiting room.

Use rapid change methods…Git 'er done! If mistakes are made, big deal, everybody makes mistakes. Rapid cycle change methods have been in play for other industries for many years…so why not for mental health and addictions treatment? There are a lot of resources available, like NIATx, with dandy plans for implementing business changes that minimize the negative effects of change. Most consultants like me spend their working hours embroiled in ways to help agencies change and deliver the least disruption to executives, staff, and clients.

The important consideration is the outcome of change, determined by the process used to make that change. For clients, change should mean improved treatment. For professionals, perhaps work becomes a more inviting place to be. Everybody appreciates it when change is smooth and the CEO gets a decent night's sleep.

So, the pain of change is temporary. In changing, we strive for an admirable goal: an effective, rewarding and continuously improving treatment experience for everybody.