The Life Adjustment Team was founded in 1977 as a discharge support team specifically designed to help a young woman who had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in her early twenties. This patient would sincerely commit to outpatient treatment at the time of discharge, but repeatedly relapsed shortly after returning home. To discharge her back to the same set of circumstances was bound to fail, as it had so many times before.
In a discharge meeting with her psychiatrist, Dr. Paul Ackerman, it was evident that what was lacking was a support system to help maintain stability when she was released from the hospital. The concept of a home visit support team was conceived, which Dr. Ackerman agreed to supervise.
The family had tried many treatment attempts in the past with little success. With Dr. Ackerman's endorsement, the proposal was accepted and we began the process of pioneering outreach approaches to psychosocial rehabilitation, which was also being researched at UCLA and several other universities around the world at that time.
The original treatment plan focused on three rehabilitation priorities that needed to be implemented for her to remain stable and out of the hospital:
1. One-to-one support, which added structure to her day and ensured that she was consistent in following discharge instructions.
2. Outreach services to monitor her when she missed therapy appointments or was in crisis.
3. Education and Training in medication and symptom management for her and her family.
We soon discovered there were several more areas that needed attention in order to achieve successful rehabilitation. Our visits were also focused on teaching her social and interpersonal skills in order to increase her confidence when interacting with people. We engaged her in recreational activities on a consistent basis, taught her to care for her home, and worked daily on social problem solving skills in order to increase her level of independence.
It took time to build trusting relationships between this patient and the staff, and many strategies and approaches were tried before she began participating in treatment team meetings and thus developing her rehabilitation program.
Over time, she began to feel safe, empowered and respected by her doctor and the Treatment Team. This allowed her to participate more fully in our skills training programs. She started to experience the benefits of independent living, including the mental stability that came from adhering to her medication regimen. She began working in therapy with her doctor, regained the privilege of driving, lived in her own apartment, and eventually landed a part-time job through a friend.
The programs and services currently offered by the Life Adjustment Team are a combination of what we have learned from the experience of working with patients and their families on a daily basis for over three decades, the tremendous growth in the field of psychosocial rehabilitation, and the opportunity to work with the doctors at the UCLA Research Center for Schizophrenia and Psychiatric Rehabilitation back in the early 1980's. This combination of knowledge and experience led to the development of the protocols for In Vivo Skills Training and Assertive Community Treatment models, which is still in use by the Team today.
We have experienced many successful outcomes over the last 33 years, and while no two people are alike, there is one common aspect that seems to be essential for sustained recovery: each client in treatment needs to feel safe, empowered and respected before any rehabilitation plan can succeed.
Our focus remains on community-based outpatient rehabilitation. Special emphasis is placed on teaching the necessary skills to recognize and manage or alleviate symptoms commonly associated with many types of brain disorders. It has been our experience that with consistent, persistent effort we can teach each client who is willing to participate in rehabilitation to "Learn to Live Well."