Get Real Recovery Gets Personal

There is a term, “treatment-savvy”. It refers to the experience gained by people who have been through multiple treatment programs and, therefore, know the answers to all the questions, are familiar with every treatment technique, and can sail through any protocol you throw their way – in short, they ace treatment. Interestingly, they also seem to keep coming back to treatment. Why is this?

More often than not, it is due to the perfect storm of high client-to-therapist ratios, corporate mandates for high census numbers, poor funding for in-depth treatment approaches ... you get the picture. In these all-too-common settings, the treatment savvy cruise through yet another 30- or 60-day stint without experiencing any real change. They slipped through the cracks.

Get Real Recovery is the antithesis of this type of treatment program. It is intentionally small, limiting group size to a maximum of six people. It employs extremely well-trained and experienced clinicians, and answers to its founders (who also happen to run the program). Clients end up becoming “weller than well”, which is to say, not surviving in a white-knuckled-type of sobriety, but really thriving in the freedom of true recovery.

Prior to starting Get Real Recovery, Lori Cattern-Smith, CATC II and Larry Smith, CAS III, had collectively worked in mental health for decades, focusing mainly on substance abuse counseling. They became curious about their clients’ experience and started interviewing them upon their completion of treatment from the various programs.

“We heard the same thing over and over again,” Larry recalls. “Clients would tell us, ‘I don’t get enough individual attention,’ and family members would regularly complain ‘No one calls me back,’ or ‘I have to call four or five times before someone contacts me’. We found that the really good counselors couldn’t do their jobs well, simply because of such large caseloads.”

So the challenge for Lori and Larry became, “How can we run a facility where we can make a real difference with the people we have?” And still keep the cost down for people without insurance or who have limited coverage. They set about designing an intensely personal and effective program that was significantly less expensive than the average alcohol and drug treatment program – no small task. They do this partly by spending little on marketing since most of Get Real Recovery’s clients come from referrals.

Get Real Recovery is located in San Juan Capistrano, California, and is built on the foundation of “personal growth through education, small group and individual counseling”. Groups are very focused in nature. In creating the program, Lori and Larry researched everything that should be covered in treatment and came up with a rotating schedule that included 32 different topics.

“We wanted to cover imprtant topics that other facilties didn’t cover,” Larry states. To that end, here is a glimpse of what the program encompasses:

  • What the entire recovery process really looks like
  • Post-acute withdrawal denial education
  • Flare-ups
  • How to cope with feelings and sabotaging and compulsive behaviors
  • Equipping clients with effective coping skills (including anger and stress management)
  • Problem-solving
  • Reclaiming the hijacked brain: education about what happens in the brain during addiction (something Larry has dubbed a “self-induced neurological disease”)
  • Learning to live in the present
  • Spirituality in recovery (including the differences between religion and spirituality)
  • Creating personal boundaries
  • Establishing value systems
  • How to socialize while sober
  • Self-assessment goal-setting
  • Journaling and goal-setting using Larry’s book, The Daily Life Plan Journal
  • Resentment and forgiveness
  • Overcoming fear
  • Developing inner strength
  • Communication skills and listening
  • How to manage personal finances in recovery (Larry was a licensed financial planner)

This level of thoughtfulness in addressing every facet of life in recovery resonates with Get Real Recovery clients, who respond overwhelmingly positively: “We have never experienced discipline problems,” Larry shares. They’ve also never received a complaint about the program or a request for a refund.

“Because we get to know our clients very well, we can design a program based on what the person can do,” Larry states. “We have built in a high level of flexibility into the program.” Program options include general outpatient, Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), individual sessions, and aftercare groups.

Get Real Recovery’s full-time recovery coach and mentor, Richard Gibbs, works with one person at a time, providing intensive and personal care. A counselor is also available for individual sessions before and after every group. Other supplemental services include yoga, Reiki, and equine therapy.

Unique to Get Real Recovery is its provision for long-term aftercare and pilot monitoring, approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). A commercial airline pilot for the past 36 years, Larry’s personal experience of nearly losing his license to his addiction has given him motivation to guide other pilots in the same position.

“There is an awesome responsibility there to protect the traveling public,” Larry emphasizes. “We require full partiction of the pilots we monitor. It is our responsibility to evaluate if a pilot is staying clean and sober and is stable and mentally healthy enough to fly. This also sets us apart from other treatment facilities,” he states. “Some pilots come to us looking for a certification to fly in spite of addiction because they’re clean; others need help maintaining that sobriety.” Get Real Recovery also gives referrals for sober living and detox facilities, including in-home detox.

In addition to Larry and Lori, Get Real Recovery staff includes psychiatrist, Dr. Edward Kaufman; IOP, aftercare, and individual therapist, Jack Platt, LCSW; staff counselor, John Tobias, CADAC-II; and aftercare program coordinator, John Patty, CAS-II.

Get Real Recovery, Inc. is a California ADP-Licensed program and takes most insurance plans. For more information, visit:

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