By Dr. Moe Gelbert, PhD; Executive Director, Thelma McMillen Center
The decision to seek assistance for a drug or alcohol problem is a courageous
choice, but often accompanied by great fear, anxiety, and concern for
the unknown. Although help is desired, a persons going through the problem
for the first time has no idea what awaits them, and often fill that void
of information with images of what they will be facing. At
Thelma McMillen, we are aware of what someone may be feeling, and we are keenly aware
of the trust either they themselves, or their family members, place in
us. It is quite often the most important decision of their lives, and
we take that responsibility very seriously. As a result, we do everything
we can to make a person feel safe and secure, and that they are in competent
hands from the moment they make the first call to our center.
The first contact is almost always a phone call and an inquiry. At Thelma
McMillen, our Intake Specialist, Terese Lang personally handles initial
calls. As a trained and credentialed professional, she understands what
one is feeling and experiencing, and answers all questions and concerns
with empathy, compassion, and knowledge. For adults, an initial consultation
is scheduled, at no charge, with one of our credentialed counselors. Every
one of the counselors at Thelma McMillen has extensive experience in working
with alcohol and substance abuse, and all have long term personal sobriety
and are working strong programs of recovery. The initial consultation
is approximately 90 minutes long, and may, with the client's permission,
involve a family member.
From the moment the initial call is made, all contact with anyone at Thelma
is kept strictly confidential, and only the client can determine who can
be contacted. In the intake interview, questions are asked and issues
are discussed to determine the extent of the alcohol or drug problem,
and whether any other significant emotional issues are present. The goal
is to determine what the best, most appropriate course of action and assistance
might be. The general medical condition needs to be assessed, as some
alcohol and drug use may require assistance with detoxification. If there
is concern for withdrawal, recommendations for detox will be offered,
either on an outpatient basis with a physician specializing in those matters,
or in severe cases, assistance with getting help within a hospital or
facility. A comprehensive drug and alcohol use history is reviewed, and
the extent of use and prior attempts to stop are examined. A key piece
of information is to find out why the person chose this particular time
to get help; "Why now?" A history is taken, and any family history
of substance abuse or dependence is noted as is any history of emotional
difficulties or trauma. A person's safety, both physically and mentally,
is of utmost importance to us, and any concerns or history of harm to
self or others is evaluated. As with prior treatment for substance use,
any prior mental health treatment is reviewed, including any medications
that are being prescribed, and who the treating psychiatrist or other
mental health professional may be. We then look at a person's social
environment, and screen for family relationships, social supports, work
environment, and any legal issues that may be occurring.
Throughout the interview, we are careful to be supportive, empathetic,
and non-judgmental. Our experience regarding the nature of drug and alcohol
problems allows us to perceive the difficulties as an issue of difficulties
in getting well, rather than having moral judgments on behavior. Even
more important, everyone conducting the interview has been in the other
seat in the past, and knows acutely what the person is feeling. Our main
goals are to have a comprehensive understanding of the nature of the problems,
to examine what a person's strengths and weaknesses are, and, most
importantly to respectfully offer recommendations for the most appropriate care
Our mission at Thelma McMillen is clear – to provide the most appropriate
and best care, for the problems which are presented. Quite often, our
recommendations do not include the Thelma McMillen Center. Sometimes,
a person is unable to stop using even for a few hours, and may need some
time of stabilization in a residential program. Sometimes a person may
need to try AA meetings first. What we have prided ourselves in for more
than twenty years is always making our best treatment plan with the client's
well being the only goal. The decision to seek help is, as I stated, courageous.
We call the decision to accept the help that is recommended "the
First Step in the Right Direction".
Know that when you decide to enroll in Thelma McMillen, your journey is
only beginning, and we will be there with you every step of the way. Our
Intake Specialist will ensure that you are guided through all the processes
for the first two weeks, and you will be assigned to a primary counselor
and gender group who will be your tie to the program for the entire nine months.
While the client is being evaluated, our business office reviews insurance
benefits, and these are communicated in real time during the consultation.
This helps us make recommendations which are realistic and affordable.
The Thelma McMillen program is covered by almost all insurances.
For teen patients, parents are interviewed prior to their child coming
in for a consultation. The interview is with either the Program Director,
Dr. Donnie Watson, or the Executive Director, Dr. Moe Gelbart. Issues
are assessed, and the program is explained to the parents, and the teen
is then seen by a counselor for an intake assessment.