Testifying In Court – Why We (Almost) Never Do It
Recently I broke a cardinal rule and agreed to testify on behalf of a client. It was a mistake.
The problems begin with society’s ingrained belief that “AA works – and it’s the only thing that does.” That of course, leads into the cherished myths that “abstinence is the only acceptable or attainable outcome” and that one must have “sponsors” and be “in recovery forever.”
Add in 5 incompetent attorneys (count ‘em folks, 5!) and you can guess where things are headed.
Not that it had to be a disaster. It could have been productive and even educational.
Much of what usually transpires in hearings is a defense of the AA based rehab industry and all of the mythology that supports and justifies it – none of it more damaging to people with alcohol problems than the so-called “disease model.”
This is where the irony comes in. Suppose it were an actual disease. Then you, the patient, would have actual choices. Treatment? Yes or no? What type of treatment? By whom? Where?
You’d usually be encouraged to do whatever research you cared to, seek second or third opinions, and review outcomes based on actual data.
That done, you could make an informed decision and determine what you thought best suited you – and that decision would, usually, be respected.
But with the “disease” of “alcoholism”?
Forget all that.
You will be told that the only acceptable “treatment” is one based on AA and the 12 Steps – a model that hasn’t been up-dated since 1935. An approach with a track record of under 5% “success.”
A model that hasn’t had it effectiveness independently verified ever!
All fueling a rehab industry that is completely unregulated.
The attorneys at this hearing were appalled to hear that we offered research-based treatment based on DSM-5 diagnosis, addressed by an individualized plan that is a mosaic of what the past 35 years of research demonstrate actually works.
To them, we had to do AA, groups, sponsors, punishment, humiliation, and degradation. Because that’s what “everyone knows is the only way”!
Four of the attorneys were women ranging in age from 30-50. I wanted to ask, “Suppose you were diagnosed with breast cancer and told that only the treatments available in 1935 would be permitted in your case?”
Of course, I’d have been ruled out of order and silenced – which is pretty much what happened.
But you can still make a different choice – a 21st Century one that continues to evolve, improve, adapt and adopt. Or you can try 19th-century blood-letting, too. What century do you want to stake your future in?