Families First

RC: How did you develop the philosophy behind the Blanchard Institute?

WB: The Blanchard Institute was developed because I believe that 30 days is just a detox. That Sandra Bullock movie [28 Days] is a falsehood. I like building long-term relationships with clients and families, and I think that’s done in long-term aftercare. We’ve developed a short-term detox that’s three to seven days, where a patient can get stabilized. Then I’ll send them to the residential centers throughout the country that do a good job for residential treatment. Then they send them back to me for an intense outpatient and day treatment program. We offer 12 to 15 weeks of outpatient treatment, but I guarantee a year.

If a patient comes here and follows the after-care recommendations, if they relapse, we will take them back in for free for a relapse autopsy to figure out where they need support. It’s draconian to view relapse as a failure. You can’t call it a disease and then when a symptom raises its head, call it a failure. I hate saying relapse is a part of recovery because it’s not; however, it can be a part of the change process. In the spirit of helping to communicate the comprehensive nature of how long it truly takes to treat this effectively, we are right there supporting you for a year.

RC: How does the Blanchard Institute support the entire family unit on the recovery journey?

WB: You must treat the family. It’s not a new concept; I just don’t think professionals do it. Comprehensive clinical support includes not only holistic support and treatment for the patient but also equal holistic support for every member of the family. That’s more than, “Come to a family program.” It’s integrating them into the entire treatment process and educating them, directing them, providing empathy but also being the authority.

Happy and healthy comes down to two things: how much of the family can I get on board and educated and how much professional advice, despite not understanding and agreeing with it, are they going to follow in the first two years?

If you look at physician health and professional diversion programs, because of their extensive aftercare programs, 80 percent are still sober after seven years, and out of the 20 percent who do relapse once, more than 90 percent are sober seven years after their first relapse. That is far higher than the general population, which is somewhere in the 7 to 15 percent area. Well, I can create the same aftercare plan for a surgeon as I can create for Tommy, the 22-year-old janitor. But for Tommy, it requires a family to implement my aftercare recommendations and hold him accountable. A licensing board holds the surgeon patient accountable.

Ward and Cristina Blanchard

It all comes down to educating families. It’s easy to stay sober in treatment. What the heck do they do on the first day after treatment, and how does the family help them reintegrate into life? We also provide family members and loved ones with the skills and tools necessary to begin their own healing process and develop their own resiliency.

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