Dr. Barnes and Dr. Wilson personally answer the phones from 8:00AM until 5:00PM (PST) everyday.
In U.S. & Canada: 888-541-6350
In Southern California, Nationally, or Internationally, call:

Ten Things I Wished I’d Known Before I Sent My Brother Off To Rehab

  1. Interventionists measure their success rate by the number of people they get to go into treatment. But that doesn’t mean that your family member (or you) stays in treatment. Even if they leave the day after they arrived, the interventionist counts it as a success.
  2. Most interventionists have financial relationships with a few favored treatment programs. Those are the ones they will try to funnel your family member into regardless of whether it is the best match or not. Based on the latest U.S./NESAC research, 98% of the residential and outpatient programs in the U.S. are inappropriate for 85% of the clients they admit.

  3. When you call to speak with somebody at a treatment center, you nearly always are talking with the marketing department. They are selling their program and they lie – about everything, except the price.
  4. Admission criteria? How much money can you be conned or bullied into spending?
  5. The program you pick will have a Program Director and/or Clinical Director with impressive credentials, but they are not the people who will be delivering the treatment or therapy. Treatment is generally delivered by poorly trained Chemical Dependency Counselors with only high school educations, who are nearly always former clients trying to stay sober by working in a treatment facility – or who are simply afraid to leave.
  6. 30 days away is nice but it doesn’t “fix” anybody. – With rare exceptions the 30, 60 or 90 days away is just a break. It can put a floor in, if you are spiraling down ever further, but mostly it is just a strange vacation or a luxurious jail, depending on your point of view. The problems leading to substance abuse generally lie in your everyday life and if those are not fixed, nothing else much matters.
  7. Most of what clients do while in residence at a rehab center has little to do with rehab and a lot to do with filling time. Let’s face it – people are there 24 hours a day, and there is only so much time anybody can spend eating, sleeping and “in group”. Consequently, rehab facilities have come up with all sorts of creatively labeled time-fillers like equine therapy (playing with horses), canine therapy (playing with dogs), ropes courses (playing with ropes), hikes, massages, and “step-work”, since they are all (98%) 12-step programs.
  8. Treatment is mostly delivered in a group setting – not because it works (mostly it doesn’t), but because it’s cheap and doesn’t require expensive staff with real skills.
  9. Spouses will be excluded from participation. As the most important person in the substance abusers day-to-day life, how do you think that’s going to work out when they go back home? Don’t be fooled into thinking the optional 2- 3 day “family program” will be something where you are working together. It isn’t. It is all about indoctrinating the family into the 12-step philosophy. And they charge extra for it, too!
  10. The hard work really begins when you or your family member goes home from rehab and there is little or no ongoing support – just “don’t drink, go to AA”. Nobody really wants to acknowledge this. Rehab center staffs want you to believe that they can magically cure you while you are staying with them because it helps justify the tens of thousands of dollars they charge and close the sale and because they rarely offer any meaningful follow-up. But the truth of it is that the hard work is just beginning when somebody goes home. Substance abuse problems arose and exist within the context of everyday life and that is where people need good ongoing support. Thirty days (or 60 or 90) away is just a beginning, not the end of treatment.

So, if you’re looking for something better, something that’s individual, private, cost effective, and actually has a good chance of helping, give us a call. We’ll talk to you ourselves and, if we’re not the right program for you, we’ll suggest one of the few places that may be.

By |2016-11-14T06:14:14+00:00May 12th, 2010|For Families|5 Comments


  1. Ed June 28, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    It’s all true – “interventionists” are an even shadier bunch the the programs they front for. Actual ionterventions leading to a successful conclusion to alcohol problems must be less than 1%, if that.

  2. About Rehabs May 17, 2013 at 11:41 am

    Love this post. Too often people don’t really understand what they need to do before doing something… until after they go through the process of doing it. The best advice is to research the types of things you need to understand before picking a rehab and then calling the facilities you are considering. The key is to not accept the “canned” responses that sound like they came straight from the brochures. Really listen to the responses to make sure the answers are believable.

  3. Patricia February 26, 2014 at 6:15 am

    I just got back from 2 weeks at a rehab center in Delray. Really a big mistake for the type of person I am. It is so true – I’d be happy to share my stories with anyone interested (can you see my email).
    I’m a grown adult (almost 50) that was thrown into a mess of Animal House (the boys) and Mean Girls (the tv show, the girls) and went to lots of meetings to listen to amazing sad stories about the drug use, etc that I didn’t even know existed. Sure, we all have our addiction in common but I never shot anybody, never went to jail, never got a DUI, just looking for some help! It was not a positive experience, I left 2 weeks early and am still searching for my ‘help’. I know it is up to me, but I don’t relate to the AA concept (I am powerless) which is where they bussed us off to every day.

    What a scam. Thinking about opening up my own rehab here in Orlando and running it properly!
    yes, it may be useful for some – so good for them! But if you are thinking about going, really do your research about what you are getting into. Total marketing scam!! Individualized program ?? HA HA

  4. Dr. Mary Ellen Barnes & Dr. Ed Wilson February 26, 2014 at 8:42 am

    Yes, most residential programs are a scam. It is really sad to say that but it is true. Patricia, your experience mirrors my own. I am so sorry it happened to you.

  5. Patricia February 26, 2014 at 11:19 am

    Hi, I spoke with your business partner (Ed Wilson) maybe your real life partner?) yesterday.
    I would love to have you guys open a rehab center or a phone consulting business here on the East Coast. I would do all your marketing for free!!! We are so lacking in options! Unbelievable! Some of the people at the rehab I was at had been there 11 times!! AT what point do you say “maybe this isn’t working for me!!”

    I will recover, I know I will. I’ve been a ‘social drinker’ my whole life and now as my kids are leaving for college/driving and I have a great education and great jobs that I gave up for them, I just became a bit bored and lost. But the whole experience has so opened my eyes to the scams of this industry. These are peoples lives – and this is the best we can offer? So sad…I swear that over 50% of the pp I was with in rehab will be dead in the next 3 years, and probably 80% of the people in detox within a year!! What is up with this ?? I love the idea of your program, but I heard you don’t have any spots til May. I hope I will be way on my “my way” to recovery by then…but it is a 24 hour a day thing – so we’ll see!

    Thanks for your response! I agree!!

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