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Defining Patient Success in Behavioral Health

three people talk about defining patient success in behavioral health

As the brave new world of results measurements comes to substance abuse treatment, one of the most important things your organization can and should do is have a simple, easy-to-understand definition of addiction treatment outcomes success. Defining patient success in behavioral health allows your treatment facility to measure and improve its effectiveness while being understandable by patients and their families. Contact Sunwave Health online or by calling us at 561.576.6037 to learn how the behavioral health patient engagement tools built into our software can integrate everything from detox to insurance payments to help you define patient success in behavioral health.

Defining Patient Success in Behavioral Health

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration advocates for patients in recovery and helps professionals to understand mental health and addiction recovery. The guidelines they created help in defining patient success in addiction treatment, with four major dimensions that support successful addiction recovery.


A patient must maintain proper health to defeat addiction and its symptoms. By making healthy choices, a patient will improve both their mental and physical health.


Having and maintaining a safe and stable home environment is critical in defining patient success in addiction treatment.


Engaging in meaningful activities is part of defining patient success in behavioral health. Some of the activities that give patients purpose include:

  • Volunteerism
  • School
  • Creative passions
  • Work

Achieving and maintaining the income, independence, and resources to participate in society is also a part of finding purpose during treatment and recovery.


Finding and maintaining supportive social networks of peers and interpersonal relationships that provide love, friendship, support, and hope is a must when defining patient success in mental health treatment.

These four different dimensions of success in recovery do not necessarily progress at the same rate or even in the same direction. Mental health, for example, may decline early in a patient’s journey toward recovery as they struggle with withdrawal and learn to cope with triggers and stress without turning to substances for temporary relief. Changes in the brain brought on by substance abuse can also create mental health problems. Additionally, patients may need time to find purpose as they figure out what they want to do with their lives and start taking on more responsibilities and gaining more independence.

Patient Success Is a Moving Target

When defining patient success in behavioral health, what matters most is that the patient is continually working towards overall life improvement. Using the resources available to resolve problems and heal wounds, they can connect with other people and take action to manage the unique triggers and stressors that contributed to the behavior. Improvement in all areas may not be equal, and a patient may take a step backward in one area while leaping forward in another. Defining patient success in addiction treatment means that as long as patients can look back after six months, a year, or more and know that they are in a better place than they were, they are achieving success.

The lack of specifics is the point because defining patient success in behavioral health must leave room for variables. This is because there are many different ways to achieve a successful recovery from mental health or substance use disorders. Some patients may thrive while following a 12-step process, while others may not respond well. Some people want to be high-achieving and make a significant mark on their community, while others are happier living quietly, enjoying healthy new hobbies, and quality time with family and friends. Success is defined on a case-by-case basis but will center around building a good life, although what that means is entirely up to each individual person.

Learn More at Sunwave Health

Defining patient success in behavioral health may be more nuanced than you previously thought, but having the right software to best care for your patients and your organization is more clear-cut. Contact Sunwave Health today by calling us 561.576.6037 or reaching out online to learn how our infrastructure and behavioral health patient engagement tools set us apart to drive healthy results for healthcare providers and patients.