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Understand How Your Journey Begins 
February 27th, 2017

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.