An Interview with Patricia Meyers: Clinical Director of Admissions at Promises

Posted on September 29th, 2009

By Meghan O’Dell

Thirteen years ago, Patricia Meyers’ father put his foot down. “We’re done with you,” he said. “You might as well be dead because we don’t even know who you are anymore, and you’re not welcome at our house.” Knowing that he meant it this time, Patricia decided to get clean. After going through 90-day treatment and living in a sober house, she started working for Promises as a driver. Now she’s the Clinical Director of Admissions, and Promises is her life’s work—the thing she was meant to do.

“I was one of those knuckleheads who had a really hard time,” Patricia said. “I’m a product of an intervention myself, but after getting clean I was having a difficult time understanding what my next step was going to be.”

The woman who opened the sober living house where Patricia was staying was her mentor and an alumna of Promises. She told Patricia, “I know you don’t know this, but you have a very special gift. People are very drawn to you.”

“I didn’t believe her because it’s hard to see things like that in ourselves, but she asked me to come with her to Promises and I did,” Patricia said.

Patricia started as a driver at Promises, and then became a tech (meaning she was part of a team of people that interact with clients at Promises throughout the day); she was soon promoted to lead tech. A short time later she was being groomed for a position in the admissions department.

In 2001, Patricia decided she wanted to work as an interventionist and a recovery coach. She worked on a psychiatric ward for about a year, and then started her own business as a recovery coach, where she would move in with patients for 30 to 45 days to help them readjust to being on their own after treatment.

“I was chatting with a licensed therapist about relapse and the ‘spin cycle’ of people going in and coming out of rehab, and we started looking at some clients we had mutually worked with and identifying their patterns of relapse,” Patricia explained.

“She shared an experience with me where she had traveled with a patient who was having a hard time out of rehab. She also told me about a mutual client who had gone through multiple treatments but would relapse every time she came home. This led to the idea of recovery coaching, where I would go live with a client for a period of time, helping them get through the little things that can be so overwhelming.”

As a recovery coach, Patricia created a program where she helped clients identify their daily stressors and learn how to deal with them in real-life situations For example, one client was a very successful businesswoman but couldn’t open her mail because it was so overwhelming for her, so Patricia walked her through it until she could do it on her own. Patricia would also work on helping clients make their homes more conducive to recovery.

“These clients had been through multiple treatments, but the problem arose when they got home and couldn’t deal with their day-to-day stressors and things that we tend to make so much bigger in our minds,” Patricia said. “The default is to go drink or self-medicate because these things are too overwhelming. So having someone there who can help you and walk you through it helps you create a new skill set. It was an extraordinary experience, and I had a tremendous amount of success with these clients.”

Patricia also did a lot of interventions during her time as a recovery coach. “When clients were in complete and utter relapse and the families were in crisis, I would step in as an interventionist, creating a treatment plan not just for the client but for every family member as well,” Patricia said. “I made it mandatory for the family members to get involved so that they could be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.”

As a recovery coach Patricia traveled a lot, and when she became engaged in 2006 she and her fiancé wanted to have more time together. Coincidentally, she got a call from Richard Rogg, the founder of Promises, asking if she would like to come back to Promises to be the Director of Admissions. Patricia accepted. As the department matured, Patricia became the Clinical Director of Admissions and Hadas Zies became the Administrative Director of Admissions.

“I really didn’t know that this was ultimately going to be my calling and my passion,” Patricia said of working at Promises. “I woke up one day and realized that I really wanted to be at Promises; that I was always thinking about the clients and how I could make a difference. I had an epiphany where I realized my gratitude for my life, for being in recovery, and for being graced with this gift of being able to help people. It then became crystal clear to me that this was what I was supposed to be doing.”

Patricia’s training as an interventionist has proven invaluable in her admissions work at Promises. “If someone calls and asks me to do an intervention, I’ll do crisis intervention over the phone or I’ll bring in an interventionist and I’ll go second chair.” She explained that she and the interventionist will meet with the family and talk about how they will break down the resistance from the client and the family.

“For example, if a wife says, ‘There’s no way my husband’s going to do this because he runs a business and he needs to have his cell phone and be in contact with his employees,’ I’ll find a solution,” Patricia explained.

“I don’t see obstacles, I only see solutions. My role is to meet with the family and give them a solution for every challenge, so that when all the resistance comes up with the client during the intervention, I’ll let them know how we’re going to problem-solve the issues. This creates an incredible alignment in terms of the interventionist and myself as the Clinical Director of Admissions,” Patricia said.

In her role at Promises, Patricia does everything from working with her team on complex cases and outlining individual treatment plans to creating entire teams around each client and tapping into the best resources in the country. “Every day I’m talking to everyone on the team about the case they’re working on, extracting as much information on the client and the family as possible and creating the treatment plan,” Patricia said.

“We see all these complex cases with co-occurring disorders, so we need to make sure that Promises is the right place for each client,” she said. “We treat chemical dependency and co-occurring disorders very well, but if substance abuse isn’t a client’s primary problem, we may not be the right place for them. One of the things I really love about Promises is that we won’t fill beds just to fill beds. We’ll only take a client if we feel good about it and it’s the right place for them. If it’s not the right place, we need to get them the help they need somewhere else.”

Patricia said her vision when she started working in admissions at Promises was to take the department and make it more like a concierge service, where the staff is doing much more than just answering the phone and filling beds. “We’re the first point of contact, and it is an immediate crisis intervention,” she said. “You’re dealing with people in perpetual crisis—family members and clients who are in life-or-death situations—so there’s many things that go into helping them.”

Patricia guides the treatment plan to ensure a new client will have the right specialists on board when they arrive for treatment. “If a client has a primary alcohol issue and a hoarding disorder, for example, I tap into all the best resources in the area, such as the best OCD therapists at UCLA. It’s been amazing since Dr. David Sack has been on board, because he’s so brilliant. I’ll walk through a lot of these cases with him and we work together to match clients up with professionals,” she said.

When asked what Promises has that other treatment centers don’t, Patricia said, “We have a great deal of integrity here, and that’s why I’ve been with Promises for so long. Promises will never compromise its integrity. We have a great opportunity to help so many people and really do what we say, which is very important to me. I won’t say anything without being able to completely back it up.”

“Clients have to see staff that are truly walking the walk and talking the talk—that they’re not just here for a paycheck. The staff here are amazing examples of the process of recovery, which is very beneficial to the clients. They see our staff taking celebrating anniversaries in 12-step meetings. Everyone is involved and visible—there’s no separation between clients and staff,” she said, adding that another important factor is that the staff-to-client ratio is very high.

“I went to a large treatment center, and I know what it’s like to fade into the background. You can be overlooked unless you’re proactive and aggressive about wanting to get well, which isn’t usually the case. But the staff at Promises just wraps their arms around the clients—they feel loved, nurtured, and cared for. We’re very concerned about our clients and want them to be successful.”

Patricia also said that the family treatment that Promises offers is extremely important in successful, long-term recovery. “A lot of people ask me what happened for me, what shifted and made me want to get clean. The most important thing was my family members finally setting a strong mandate and digging their heels in,” she said.

“For me it was that moment when my father said, ‘No, we’re all done.’ I knew he meant it that time and it created a lot of fear, and it was the fear that motivated me. So I think it’s extremely important to identify the family members and other people who will create boundaries with their loved one so that they don’t contribute to the client’s continued self-destructive behavior,” Patricia said.

“Every day I’m so excited to come to work because I’m being graced with one more opportunity to help a suffering addict or a family. It’s heart-wrenching to be on the other side of it,” she added, explaining that she understands from personal experience that addiction is a family disease. “I lost my mother to alcoholism when she was 52 and I saw what my addiction did to my family, how it tore my family apart,” she said.

“I used to dream about having a relationship with my dad that was based in trust and mutual respect, and I would fantasize that maybe one day he would call me and ask for my advice on something, because I was always the identified patient in the family,” she said. “And I got to have that. It didn’t happen by accident; it happened as a direct result of being clean, working the program, making amends, and doing the things I was told to do. I didn’t even want to do it and I did it. I was able to show up and be the very best person I could be, and I actually love that person today.”

As a result of her efforts, Patricia’s hope came true: She got to have an incredible relationship with her dad for 10 years. “He did call me and ask for my advice. He came to me and gave me cakes and celebrated with me. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about,” she said.

Patricia approaches every client full of optimism and hope. “I don’t give up on anybody,” she said. “Unless they’re in the grave, there’s hope for them. There’s hope for anybody who’s still living and breathing and has just a tiny desire to get well. As sick as someone is, there’s always a piece of them that doesn’t want to die, because if they did, they’d already be dead,” she explained.

“But once you plant the seed for someone, it’s never the same,” she added. “Ultimately, there will be a shift where they want to get better. At Promises, we create an opportunity that separates them from their past and puts them in an environment where they can be loved and nurtured.”

“Unfortunately, there’s a high percentage of people that don’t make it, and it’s very sad,” she said. “Our hope is that we can change those outcomes, and I believe that we can. It just takes a continuum of dedicated people to fight this insidious disease. It takes an army, and we’re creating an army here.”

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