What types of treatment do you find suspect?
Delivering treatment services is difficult. There are gaps in theory and much conjecture about what will help. Things that help one person may not help another, but treatments should be vetted, researched, and substantiated by peer-reviewed scholarly articles to be called treatment. The rest of it is fine if it does no harm but should be clearly stated as “activity” or “metaphor.” There’s a program in Orange County that lets patients pet wolves as part of their recovery treatment. Petting wolves is fine, but it’s the presentation or implication that petting wolves will be beneficial to your sobriety that’s a problem. It will make for an interesting afternoon and maybe provide some metaphors about which to think, but it’s not treatment and presenting it as such is where things go south.
What about “whatever it takes”and the idea that there’s “no wrong way to get sober?”
Those are great mantras! It’s very difficult to prejudge what a person will respond to. If wolves help, they help. There isn’t really “right” or “wrong” with an individual experience like recovery. There is right and wrong in terms of how it’s presented to people who are seeking help. The wolves would be fine if consumers are being told “Here’s the information on Vivitrol, here’s the information on AA, here’s the information on AA combined with Vivitrol, and here’s the information on petting wolves.”
Since most forms of treatment are still showing very low success rates, what’s wrong with experimental treatments?
Experimental treatments are great. It’s just about disclosure. There isn’t any other area of health care that has the latitude to not disclose the “experimental” nature of any form of treatment. Cancer patients are often given the option to try things that don’t have hard data about outcomes, but they know it’s experimental.
Are you a charlatan? If not, who is the type of person that you consider one.
I wouldn’t say I am a charlatan, though some would disagree. Mostly because I don’t take cannabis off the table for people in recovery and some of my colleagues in the recovery community think it’s gimmicky and insane to let addicts smoke weed. But there is science behind it, so it’s not just my opinion. The Journal of Addiction Medicine said that there are 25% fewer overdoses in states with medical cannabis, versus states that don’t have medical cannabis. Another study in JAM found “great reduction or elimination of alcohol in medical cannabis card holders.” I’m a clinical social work education with training and experience. It might include disclosure of my personal experience, but that’s a very thin slice of the pie. I never think you have to wear a bra to sell one; I don’t use cannabis and I’m not saying “this was my solution, it should be yours too”. My message is, let’s look at options, include the doctor, and you make your best choice best with accurate information. I think there are so many people out there monetizing their experience and calling it treatment – that’s a charlatan in my estimation. When I come across people in the recovery space selling their wares I always ask about their experience.
But Hip Sobriety just wants to help. What’s the problem with people wanting to help?
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to help. Helping is, in fact, a great way for people to stay connected to their own recovery. The issue is their role and purpose. There is a difference between organic, mutual peer aid helping and professional helping. Professional helping has standards, a code of ethics, oversight and regulation. Organic helping is help because someone says it is. That may be fine if there is clarity about what it is and what it isn’t. Sites like Hip Sobriety are effectively lifestyle brands, not dissimilar to yoga, golf, or surfing. That’s great but it’s not mental health treatment. It gets stickier when the implication is that it is a replacement for researched treatment. Hip Sobriety is the world according to the founder who shares her journey and canonizes herself as a guru of recovery. Tommy Rosen’s yoga practice should be sold as a yoga practice not a cure for addiction. Is it wrong? Not really, it’s just not right either.
So you just hate yoga, huh.
No. I think yoga can be a great part of someone rebuilding their life in recovery. That’s not what Hip Sobriety is selling. They are selling “the solution” not part of a solution. If it’s a disease it needs to be treated as such. There’s no Hip Diabetes website. I do hate yoga, but so what? I hate most things, that’s a shitty standard.
(Ed. Note: Here’s the big bold Disclaimer on The Tempest, which is the company formed off the success of Hip Sobriety.)
Is it an ego issue?
Partially it is an ego issue which is a massive problem in the recovery sphere in general. When I get calls everyone I hear from is suddenly an insurance expert, a psychopharmacologist, a consumer advocate. I hear “my sponsor says…” and then a follow up statement the sponsor has no business upon which to comment, usually about medication. It’s also an issue of being a shell game; many people in the recovery space are former drug dealers, transferring those skills to rehab business.
I think there are so many people out there monetizing their experience and calling it treatment – that’s a charlatan in my estimation. When I come across people in the recovery space selling their wares I always ask about their experience. You should, too, and then proceed with caution.
Joe Schrank is Executive Editor of The Small Bow. If you’ve got a suggestion for “I’ll Ask Joe” please email us here.