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Changing the Face of Addiction Treatment

Moving a Broken System into Integrative Care

As the current wave of ethics and operating violations continues to breeze through the media, within the overtly fraudulent community of addiction treatment, brighter horizons of care are on the move.

Typically what we see in treatment centers (at least here in Southern California) is a saturation of pop-up facilities inhabiting the coastline. In my experience, many of these “treatment options” are owned and operated by someone with recent sobriety, a smoke-screen bio and absolutely no training or credentials in treatment who believe “they too can own a treatment center.” The result, as discussed in my previous articles, is a slew of insurance fraud, body brokering, people overdosing in unmanned facilities and a staff of unlicensed or uncredentialed professionals, assuming titles for which they are not trained.

However, with every downfall there is hope and opportunity for positive change. By using an integrative approach to care along with a fully licensed, certified and trained staff, ethical treatment can change the face and direction of addiction treatment in the future.

Amongst these diverse integrative care professionals are recreational therapists. Last week, I walked by recreational therapist, Ray Alameddine who was completing a psychiatric patient assessment. I frankly could not imagine what he was doing as the most adept “art therapist” I had ever been exposed to working in treatment centers was the owners relative who had mastered yoga and was assigned the task to “teach recreation and art.”

I asked newly credentialed Alameddine what he was doing. He responded “I have to understand the patient’s diagnosis so I can best design a program to help them and suit their needs.” This brought to my awareness another shortcut treatment owners are taking to save money, by hiring non credentialed staff and giving them a title. Using professionals like Alameddine, with a passion for what they are doing, raises standards of care. In best treatment practices, credentials equal credibility.

The reality is a majority of the people in treatment never learned to relax, play or have fun without their drug of choice. Plus, 70% have an underlying psychiatric diagnosis, and most used or drank to self-medicate, leaving them void of safe and healthy play habits. In ethical treatment all classes of care should be credentialed. The American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRC) defines a recreation therapy as a process that utilizes recreation and activity-based interventions to address the needs of individuals as a means to psychological and physical health, recovery and well-being.

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” Plato

According to Sarah Magana, RTC CTRS, Director of Activity Therapy & Program at College Hospital, recreational therapy is so important Plato said “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. ” A good recreational therapist is trained to see this and knows how to use their skills to move the person into better ways of functioning. Magana and her team spend hours designing ways folks struggling with a mental illness diagnosis and addiction can learn to integrate safe play into their lives.

Integrating recreational therapy is only one of the facets included in an team approach. Professionals on staff should include but are not limited to: addiction counselors & therapists, recreational & activity therapists, nutritionists, dieticians, medical doctors (including a psychiatrist), and certified case managers.

Therefore, as always, if you are seeking treatment for yourself or a loved one be sure to look for the following things:

  • A licensed and accredited facility in your state or region
  • A comprehensive staff who are fully licensed or certified by government agenciesin the state where the facility exists. (In reputable facilities staff credentials are listed next to the person’s name and not hidden by smoke screen bios.)
  • Ask friends and colleagues for reputable referrals where known success exists. (**Remember reputable treatment centers DO NOT PAY clients or patients to get treatment. RUN FAST if you encounter this type of facility.**)
  • Look for treatment centers that offer an integrative care approach with a multi-disciplinary system by a credentialed staff,

Be sure to do your research before choosing a facility. Check SAMHSA.gov for a list of licensed providers in your area.

If you are a professional interested in raising the standards of care, take the time to talk with your peers and inquire as to their scope of practice, specialites and credentials. With the rising awareness of the opioid epidemic and quality providers speaking out against the old way of doing things, room for advanced comprehensive care is underway. Working together as a qualified treatment team increases everyone’s chance of success.

Knowledge and power speak volumes when consumers utilize proper vetting skills to ensure quality care. Together we can change the face of addiction treatment.

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