AMA /APA Techniques in Addiction Treatment

\"\"AMA or APA training and techniques help lead to success in the battle against addiction. AMA stands for against medical advice. APA stands for against professional advice. The training and techniques aid addiction recovery professionals and family members of substance abusers. All addiction recovery professionals should have this type of training and know these techniques in order to help ensure that those who need to complete a particular level of treatment are successful.

These techniques begin with the first phone call for help from a family or substance abuser in need of care. If the addiction recovery professional is not trained properly, costly mistakes could end up with the substance abuser not getting the proper level of care, not getting treatment at all, or even worse.  Some would think that AMA and APA techniques are about the bottom line of companies; however, the truth is that these techniques are really about saving lives.

When a parent finds out that their son or daughter has been using opioids for the last few month or a year, they immediately panic.  The child that they love and have been raising for fifteen to twenty years is using heroin! They don’t know what to do, who to turn to, where to go, or who to trust. They need answers. The parents are scared to death. They are angry. They are hurt. They are ashamed. They need a professional to guide them through the process and help them to give their child the best chance at sobriety and life.

Imagine the comfort and confidence the parents will feel when they deal with professionals that know exactly what to do and say under any circumstance that arises. The professional will be able to tell the family members exactly what to expect, what not to do, and what to do during the treatment process. The fewer mistakes that everyone makes, the greater the chance for overall success for the substance abuser or person suffering from a behavioral addiction.

Imagine how disheartening it would be to have a family bring their loved one to a facility for treatment, just to have their son or daughter leave within hours or days. These excellent techniques can help minimize individuals from leaving treatment before their program is finished. When a person wants to leave a facility AMA, it cheats all the other clients out of the proper attention and care that they should get, because usually, the entire staff is focusing on the AMA client. When the staff is trained in proper techniques for AMA and APA, it will only take one person to turn the situation around.

I watched AMA techniques in action one afternoon very recently.  It was incredible to witness a situation that could have ended in disaster end up as a success. The substance abuser’s parent was able to drive home in serenity and confidence instead of a continuing the nightmare he was living. One of the keys is communication - everyone being on the same page. Another key factor is educating the family on what to do, what to expect, and what not to do.  Any form of enabling has to stop immediately, and recovery must be supported. The professionals should identify the key players within the family unit: who are the enablers? The substance abusers? Who is the firm person in the household? Etc. There is a great deal to this training and there are many techniques that professionals must master from the first phone call through disengagement.  

Examples of some mistakes would be the following:

-           letting the substance abuser drive themselves to treatment

-           unlimited visitation in early treatment

-          not searching the person’s suitcase for contraband

-          parents bargaining or making deals with their substance abuser

Another example is when the substance abuser says to the parents that the clinician stated that they do not need residential treatment, or they only need two weeks of residential treatment.  The parents should not just believe that those are the facts unless they hear the clinician say those words.  Nothing can be assumed in early recovery.

Remember that the whole idea of this process is to help save lives. To stand in the gap for those who are not able to think clearly until they are able to fight for themselves. AMA and APA techniques and proper training save lives! I cannot begin to tell you how many people have stayed in treatment when the mental obsession of the disease of addiction has called their names and encouraged them to leave.  This is because they were able to fight off the lie of dependency due to a professional who had AMA and APA skills and tools. It’s important to note that there are a certain percentage of individuals that will not stay in treatment no matter what anyone says or does; there is nothing to be done here.

Regardless, this type of training should be a requirement for those who work in the addiction treatment industry today, at least the ones who are in the trenches. Our nation is in the middle of a drug epidemic that is taking the lives of our youth at a rapid rate every few minutes.  Now with analog drugs like W-18, Fentanyl, and others mixed with heroin, the overdose rate is climbing. We need all the tools that we have that are effective against the disease. AMA and APA techniques work!

There are professional schools that train addiction recovery professionals in these skills. There are also professionals who travel the country and speak on this subject amongst others. I have seen firsthand how sound these training and principles are - they are amazing! Remember that addiction is the rapacious creditor, the great liar, and nothing exposes the disorder like working together! When families come together, they have success especially with a well trained professional guiding them.

About Rev. Kevin T. Coughlin Ph.D., DCC, DDVA, DLC, DD, NCIP, NCAMP, IMAC

Rev. Kevin T. Coughlin, Ph.D is a #1 Best-Selling Author & Award-Winning Poet, CIP Interventionist, International Master Addictions Coach, Pastoral Counselor and Christian Therapist, and Domestic Violence Christian Advocate. He has written and published over thirty books and thousands of articles. Rev. Dr. Coughlin created a curriculum for AMA/APA training after twenty years as the Director of a residential recovery facility and then trained numerous professionals on AMA/APA techniques. He just released three new paperbacks and a series of journals, Addictions: What All Parents Need to Know to Survive the Drug Epidemic, If You Want What We Have; A Journey Through the Twelve Steps of Recovery, and In the Sunlight of the Spirit; A Guide to Spirituality on  These Best-Selling Books and journals are available on  His website is

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