WHO is Your Addiction Treatment Experience?

experience people in treatment

In the past two weeks I have spent more time than I would like in a hospital. In fact, any time spent in a hospital is too much for me. But I have an ailing mother and there is something so sad about a hospital inhabitant without a plethora of primrose toting visitors. So I have been dutiful about dropping by. And because I hate hospitals, I spend a lot of time pacing hallways and feigning having to go to the bathroom. Walking the halls, I’ve noticed that all the computers have screen savers that say in bold print: I AM THE PATIENT EXPERIENCE. 


Marketing vs Implementing an Experience

I have to smile to myself. Some marketing genius came up with this slogan to remind the staff that one person can make or break a hospital stay for a patient. The challenge is in the implementation day to day. I’m not sure the passive moody troupe of nurses, orderlies and attendants my mother has experienced have actually read their screen saver recently. Or thought about what it means as much as I have.


But this concept is so important I can’t stop thinking about it. And when someone is vulnerable, a humane person-to-person connection can be the difference between hope and despair.


Who Is Your Addiction Treatment Experience?

Of course this got me thinking about addiction treatment. And how important staff members (on all levels) are to the client experience. My office looks out at the parking lot of Sanford House at Cherry Street for Women. And I have seen the newly arriving clients getting out of the car with first-day-in-a-new-school faces. Scared, hopeful, determined, apprehensive …


We have a big responsibility.


And so does the client and their families – to advocate for themselves. Addiction treatment is different than a hospital ICU, because for the most part you have choices where you go. (Not like my mother who was whisked to her patient experience unconscious in an ambulance.) And you should be able to get a good idea about the personality of a treatment center and the kind of people who work there before you arrive. Think of the first call/contact as an interview.


What to look for in the team who will form your client experience …

(This assumes the treatment center is accredited, evidence-based and passes muster in all the important basics)


Meet Our Team

Most reputable treatment centers will have a website section that lists staff members and their credentials . Meet Our Team is one of the most viewed sections on the Sanford website. Spend some time asking about the staff and peruse the marketing materials for the overall “tone” or “personality” of the treatment center.


Client to Therapist Ratio and Other Staff

One of the problems with my recent hospital experience is finding staff members when needed. In the evenings it’s kind of spooky – empty nurses station, dark hallways… Ask about the client to therapist ratio. At Sanford we have a client to therapist ratio of 1 to 4.1. Ask about “other” staff and what happens after hours. Is there a chef? Where do you eat? Are there specific people to provide wellness activities like yoga or outside excursions? What is the depth of the medical staff and when are they on duty?


The Initial Phone Contact

The Admissions Staff will always foreshadow the treatment center you are interviewing. They should demystify the process, make clear what you should and should not bring to rehab and be willing to answer all your questions. This is a big decision for any client and their families.


Family Contact and Family Programs

Do you have children? Parents out of town who would like to visit? Make sure the treatment center prioritizes family involvement and educates loved ones on the disease of addiction. When the family knows what to expect, they can become allies in the recovery process


Continuum of Care

Addiction treatment is most successful when folks connect with recovery resources long-term. After a stay in residential treatment, our clients might step-down to outpatient services where they can begin to resume “real life” activities. The option to receive evidence-based treatment part-time, while still living at home provides a segue way to implementing a life-long sober lifestyle.


Some clients begin their treatment experience in the Sanford Outpatient Center. From Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) to relapse prevention classes and more, outpatient care provides community, referrals to adjunct services and a myriad of options.



Service should drive the experience….

Perhaps I’ve been a little hard on the hospital my mother experienced. But spending time in what is the ultimate service business put things in the proper perspective for me. In other words, the marketing slogans should match the end product. And the service should drive the message.




after marilyn head shot bio

Marilyn Spiller is a viral writer, recovery coach, and recovery advocate. She is the Marketing Director at Sanford, responsible for written and creative content, website design, new media, promotions, subscriber outreach, and SEO. Excursions Magazine is a particular source of pride; it serves a wide range of readers, and “excursion” has become part of the company vernacular, describing Sanford’s signature experiential outings for those in treatment. She also developed and hosts the podcast Anatomy of Addiction and is Vice President of the Board of JACK Mental Health Advocacy.