My Take On Celebrity Rehabs for Addiction Treatment – Part 2

Remember all the brouhaha about Charlie Sheen and his drug troubles a while back? Who can forget?! After trying numerous times to deal with his drug troubles the rehab way, Sheen was unfairly criticized for his decision to have “in-home” rehab. This attack was illustrative of the narrow thinking in celebrity rehab and in the addiction treatment industry alike about what treatment should look like and what it takes to “get recovery” and stay recovered. Following are examples of this thinking.

Exhibit A. When it was announced that Sheen would not be getting help in a group setting, Drew Pinsky of “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew” fame (and now a regular on several other shows), was quoted as saying, “Treatment of addiction is a group process when done properly—not an individual thing at all.” As I’ve suggested previously in this column, although group therapy has been and remains the primary mode of counseling in rehab, not only is there no evidence that group treatment is the best way to treat addiction in general, I found that it wasn’t helpful for many individuals I interviewed for Inside Rehab. Dr. Thomas McLellan, CEO and co-founder of the Treatment Research Institute in Philadelphia is well known for saying this about group treatment: “If you go to just about any addiction program in this country, the major treatment activity is ‘group.’ If that doesn’t work, then they’ll try…‘group.’ And when all else fails they’ll suggest . . . ‘group!’” He has long argued that scientific studies support the value of having more individual counseling than is customary in addiction treatment programs. At the low end for group time at 12-step residential programs I visited, staff at an exclusive celebrity rehab said that their residential program still consisted of about 60 percent group and 40 percent individual counseling. I was told that clients in primary care (the first stage of treatment) attended 21 groups per week. Although less than at many programs, I’d still say that’s a lot of “group”.

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