Teaching Accountability in a Clinical Environment


Clinical-medical-setting-teaching-accountability-clinical-environmentWithin the mental health field, accountability can make or break success. Everyone from a clinical director to therapists, counselors, case managers, and even those who provide services such as janitorial or other essential services can work together to create an environment of accountability. This environment teaches clients by example the value of taking responsibility for their actions, which can help considerably in the healing and recovery process.

Why Accountability Is So Important in Leadership

As a leader, you not only set the tone for the entire organization, but everyone watches you for an example of how to behave. Accountability is a principle of leadership that has been successful for centuries in many leadership capacities. However, you do not need to be a CEO or a director to provide leadership.

Anyone in an organization can offer leadership to those around them, and that leadership begins by being responsible for what you say and do. Accountability is a quality that does not go unnoticed and is particularly important when working with adolescents.

Being Intentional

One of the first steps in accountability is to be intentional. Don’t wait until something good happens, and try to take credit for it. Set out clear expectations for everyone, including yourself. Also, be clear about consequences, making sure that they are consequences that you are willing to enforce unilaterally. This also means being willing to accept the same consequences yourself if necessary.

Being intentional creates no misunderstandings amongst anyone in your office or organization and can also empower your clients to meet expectations that are clearly communicated. Developing a habit of clear communication is another leadership quality that anyone in an organization can take ownership of.

Providing Structure

Creating an environment that is structured creates the opportunity for everyone to be accountable for their words and actions. Making and keeping schedules and providing the opportunities for everyone to participate in these schedules with accountability allows them to be responsible for their own choices. Whether it is a client, their family, or a co-worker, providing structure is an extension of being intentional.

Obviously, some flexibility is needed, particularly when working in the mental health field. For example, if you expect your clients to be punctual to their appointments, and they generally are, offering flexibility when truly unforeseen circumstances arise is fair. As a professional, you may need that flexibility returned should you have an emergency or if your meetings with other clients or hospital rounds run long, for example. Structure is important to accountability, while some flexibility is important to being human.

Allowing Feedback to Maintain Accountability

Leadership and dictatorship are not the same. Setting out expectations and asking for accountability without allowing feedback is more dictatorial, whereas providing open lines of communication for peers, staff, clients, and their families creates an environment of leadership.

Offering and accepting feedback at all levels within the mental health environment allows for transparency and personal accountability for all parties involved.

Taking Ownership of Your Actions

Being accountable for your words and actions can be very powerful, but you can take it a step further and take ownership of your actions. The added concept of taking ownership involves not only doing what you said you would do and being willing to accept all consequences of your actions but also taking ownership of your work.

Taking ownership means taking pride in your job and being fully committed to your work. People, particularly adolescents, can tell when you are not giving 100%. Someone who is giving all that they have is not only a leader but also someone who is infectious to be around. Taking ownership of your words and actions helps to inspire healing and progress.

Acknowledging Accountability in Others

Another facet of leadership that is always appreciated is when you acknowledge accountability in others. Adolescents, in particular, appreciate being acknowledged, but staff and co-workers do, too. Again, you do not have to be in a leadership role to be a leader, and noticing when people do good things is always appreciated.

Another benefit of pointing out accountability is that it increases their awareness of their actions, allows them to know that they are being noticed for the positive behaviors, and increases the likelihood of them doing it again. This can help to create a habit of accountability in others, which can, in turn, increase the morale of an office, facility, or even the rapport between professionals and their clients or families. Teaching accountability in a clinical setting happens when you demonstrate accountability by example and create an overall environment of accountability.

The main keys to teaching accountability in a clinical environment include leadership, providing clear intentions and structure, and demonstrating by example. When you create a culture of transparency and accountability and truly demonstrate your commitment to your profession, others will notice and learn from you. Located in Irvine, California, Sustain Recovery is an adolescent extended care facility that teaches accountability through example and creating clear expectations from our clients. We work with families to help them create similar accountability in the home to allow adolescents to transition back into their communities successfully. Because our program is unique by going beyond the typical treatment length, we can offer consistency and build connections to create a lasting recovery for our clients. Our goal is to bridge the gap between treatment and aftercare. Call us at (949) 407-9052 to learn more about our program or to find out if our program is right for your client or your child.