Understanding What Your Loved One Experienced in Treatment

Answers to questions you may have about treatment

Now that your loved one is home from treatment, you may wonder what the treatment experience is like and how it helps transform a chemically dependent person's life.

Often when addicted people enter treatment, they don't really know what to expect. Once a person is in treatment, whether outpatient or inpatient, the staff and setting there must instill a sense of hope. Hope is foundational to recovery.

Incoming patients must be stabilized medically and emotionally. Some will go through a physical withdrawal. A mental withdrawal is also needed. At Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation these initial withdrawal stages are closely monitored by a medical team of physicians and nurses for at least twenty-four hours.

Once patients reach a calm state in which they can think clearly, without feelings of anger and fear, they are given the space and time to look critically at their lives. They are also given a respectful, supportive environment in which they can make life changes.

What is Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation's Minnesota Model of treatment?

Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation uses the Minnesota Model of treatment, which promotes creating a humane, therapeutic community for alcoholics and addicts, one where they can retain their dignity. We merge the talents of people in many disciplines, including addiction counselors, physicians, psychologists, social workers, clergy members, and other therapists. This multidisciplinary approach treats the whole person—body, mind, and spirit.

Each patient receives a thorough assessment in the first few days of treatment, including a medical visit with a physician, psychological testing with a mental health professional, and a chemical dependency assessment by a licensed alcohol and drug counselor. This information, including chemical use history, is pooled to form a patient profile and an individualized recovery plan.

Key issues such as low self-esteem, anxiety, and grief are addressed. Some patients may have co-existing problems, such as clinical depression or a history of sexual abuse that need to be addressed as well.

Treatment itself takes various forms. One form is working with a group of peers. At a Hazelden residential unit, for instance, the new patient joins about twenty other patients. It is usually a diverse group, including some who are well along in their treatment, some just starting to make progress, and new patients—often skeptical ones. In this setting the peer group becomes a critical therapeutic element.

One human being sharing and becoming vulnerable with others and then having them share back—that's a big reason treatment works. In this process people find hope; they're not alone. They're not different and terrible; rather, they're experiencing the consequences of an illness. They find they can talk about their hopes and dreams and share their pain and struggles.

Education about the disease of chemical dependency, through lectures and reading is also key. As with any chronic illness, patients need to understand the implications of their disease and how to manage it. They need to be educated about what has happened and what can happen if they continue to drink or use drugs. They learn that when they drink or use drugs, they can't build trusting relationships. They realize they have to become honest and move from the self-centeredness of being an active alcoholic or addict to being one who cares for others.

In essence, treatment represents a time for healing that sets the stage for recovery and self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). It offers an opportunity for patients to connect with self, others, and a Higher Power.

Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation's foundational principles acknowledge that:

Addiction is primary. Addiction is not merely a symptom of some other underlying disorder. It deserves to be treated as a primary condition.

Addiction is a disease. Attempts to chide, shame, or scold an alcoholic or addict into abstinence are essentially useless. Instead, we should view addiction as an involuntary disability—a disease—and treat it as such.

Addiction is a multiphasic illness. This statement echoes an idea from AA—that alcoholics and addicts suffer from a disease that affects them physically, mentally, and spiritually. Therefore, treatment for alcoholism or other drug addiction will be more effective when it takes all three aspects into account.

Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation believes in:
  • Treating the whole person, as well as the illness
  • Treating every person with dignity and respect
  • Making a commitment to the Twelve Step fellowship
  • Remaining open to innovation


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