Can Addiction Rehabilitation Be Holistic, Comprehensive and Practical?


Hopefully your rehabilitation program is operating within a framework that is:

1. Helping your patients identify the areas where they need to direct effort in order to achieve life balance.

2. Providing your therapist an effective construct for coaching your patients to create value in.

3. Guiding your rehab curriculum to foster an experience that helps patients create value and align practitioner philosophy and efforts.

4. Giving you a straightforward clinical approach that can be easily taught to trainees that allows them to yield results as they work with clients.

5. Helping you and program practitioners monitor the value they are creating and keeping in balance in their own personal lives.

As an Addictionologist, I noticed that the core issues that my patients were struggling with were

occurring in these 7 vital areas. Once I graduated from Loma Linda and subsequently UCLA’s Addiction Psychiatry Fellowship and started leading a Medical Team of Addiction Medicine Fellows, Psychiatry Residents, Medical Students and Physician Assistant Students, I found it pivotal to consistently challenge the trainees to pay attention to these 7 Vital Areas that I am

going to share with you now. The one that’s the most controversial I will explain in greater

detail. Lastly, I will leave you with a tool that will help you manage what I call the 7 Vital Areas

of Wholeness. I like to consider it, “The Rut Buster”. *Vital Connection (VC) will here on be

abbreviated VC.

1. VC of Spirituality:

a. How often do we hear patients say, “I’m spiritual but not religious” or “I don’t like organized religion”? I often have to hold back the cheeky response, “I gather disorganized religion has greater appeal to you?” I get it. Organization often provides a platform for those addicted to power to show their ugly selves how to acquire it and block others from obtaining it. That whole process is awful for all involved. However, Dr. Harold Koenig identified studies that legitimately documented that religious practices (such as attending weekly religious services) were connected to up to 37% increased life longevity. Dr. Koenig and his colleagues even followed 444 hospitalized patients and were able to very meticulously document that patients who felt God had abandoned them or questioned God’s love for them had a 28% and 22% increased mortality respectively. I know you might be concerned about confounding factors that may bias the findings.

That said, Dr. Koenig’s fame is the rigor and acumen that he applies to controlling for factors that might be confounders in order to make sure that findings are genuine. The bottom line is he has uncovered very powerful data that supports the reality that we, as care providers, need to be positioning ourselves to support our patients with tools that respect and at the same time

helps them in their experience of spirituality.

2. VC of Relationships:

a. Romantic Relationships – The individuals in this category of our social life have the potential to influence our patients and us the most profoundly. It is of paramount importance that patients receive training that helps them understand:

i. Why their picker might be broken

ii. How they can fix their picker

iii. Develop tools that can help them repair the relationships they are currently in

iv. Set the boundaries that will help clarify what their relationship will look like going forward.

b. Non-Romantic Relationship:

i. Empower our patients with the skills to evaluate the quality of existing relationships and establish the boundaries that align new and existing relationships with recovery goals.

3. VC of Resources:

a. Good rehab will connect patients with tools or referrals that help support patients in the arena of obtaining education, or skills that enhance marketability, finance management, and life organization.

i. Patients in recovery often struggle with having to deal with a life that is in financial disarray, and literal space related disarray. We all know that stress is a pretty potent trigger, and when our patients are left to confront these issues without support, relapse is too often inevitable.

1. Safe resources that can help our patients obtain some basic skills with managing finances (for example, Dave Ramsey and his Financial Peace University) should be considered for appropriateness.

2. Imagine referring patients to practitioners that specialize in helping patients organize their space

4. VC of Time Management:

a. Most programs recognize the importance of helping our patients manage their time. Imagine if we guarded our time as diligently as we guarded our finances and taught our patients to do the same.

5. VC of Health:

a. Physical Health – It is pivotal to know which physicians are safe to refer our patients to and which physicians are unsafe.

b. Mental Health – The above is especially true for mental health Practitioners. Too often we encounter practitioners who are either undertrained to deal with addictions or we find practitioners unknowingly prescribing agents that the Addiction Medicine Community recognizes as addictive.

6. VC of Purpose:

a. Friedrich Nietzche is quoted as saying “A man who has a Why can get through any How.” Translated: If you are clear on your reason, you can survive any season!

b. Most of us also are very familiar with the fact that when a patient has lost hope (sense of purpose) and reaches a place of feeling desperate, the patient is imminently at risk for self-harm.

c. I have a free course (3 Dimensions of Purpose) coming soon that will provide a helpful discourse on the issue of “Purpose” for you and your patients (

7. VC of Rest/Recreation:

a. Most programs recognize the importance of introducing our patients to good, clean, sober fun. But we need be clear to emphasize that systematic, consistent and periodic engagement in activities from which we emerge rejuvenated and truly re-created is a crucial life discipline.

Next it is critical to understand that the above must be kept in balance. It is easy to think of people who are over-extended in at least one or more of the categories listed above. The goal is to try to achieve meaningful balance. Lastly, the above is not just for our patients. We must seek balance in these areas for ourselves.

You can obtain my free tool that lists and stimulates personal reflection on these 7 Vital Areas of Wholeness at Also, by downloading the grid I will be able to notify you when my free course “The 3 Dimensions of Purpose: Purpose in 3D” will be ready. As we support the recovery of others, it can be so easy to forget to support our own recovery or pursuit of wholeness.

My hope is that this tool will help you to create value for yourself as well as your patients and treatment program in general. You can substantiate the utility of something by reflecting on how much you use it. I have organized my life and filing system around the concept of the 7 Vital Connections and it ensures greater attentiveness to when I am losing balance in my life. As I have organized my life in this way, it has truly magnified the point that time truly is my most valuable commodity. It has further clarified to me why I should not work for money, but my money should work for me. Lastly, reflective journaling about these 7 areas very quickly helps me to identify my need to redistribute resources to re-establish balance of the areas. My hope and prayer is that as you access these tools they would create value for you and those that you share them.


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