And When You Called…

Good morning. This is Dr. Wilson, how may I help you today?” I said. Then there’s usually a long pause, and sometimes the line goes dead as someone hangs up.

Or, “Oh, you’re a real person. I was expecting a machine,” a woman says.

“Yes,” I say, “many people expect that but as we say on the website, we think it’s important that one of us answer the phone personally and that you have an opportunity to speak directly with who you might decide to work with.”

“Yes, that’s true, I just never expected, well, no one else I’ve called does that.”

“I know,” I say, “but then no one else does what we do so we think it’s a good way to start. So, to begin again, how may I help you?”

“It’s the drinking.”

“Of course,” I say, “Yours or someone else’s?”


“Okay. Do you mind if I ask a few questions first? Just to get started?”


“Where are you calling from?”


“And what do you do professionally?”

“I’m a physician.”

“And how old are you?”

” 52.”

“Good,” I say, “as we generally work with people who are between 40 and 70, and over half of our clients are women. And now that I’ve asked my questions, what would you like to know?”

“Just what do you do?”

“Shall I give you the ‘nickel’ tour?”

“Yes, please.”

“Alright, first, we’re research based, not cult based. That means that the misuse of alcohol is a symptom, not a disease. There is no research that supports AA’s disease model of alcohol abuse.”


“Since it’s a symptom, if you want the abuse to stop you need to address whatever conditions you are currently medicating. Fix or cope rather than medicate and the over drinking will go away.”

“And the underlying conditions?” you ask.

“Typically, loneliness, depression, boredom, anxiety, unbalanced relationships, person tragedies, grief, physical pain, hormonal shifts, role losses, and any number of other things.”

“How about all of the above?” you say. Though I can hear just a hint of a smile, too.

“That’s pretty common,” I say.

“So what do you do about these problems?”

“We help you to learn to cope and address rather than medicate. For example, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – CBT – works well for anxiety and depression. Assertiveness Training for unbalanced relationships. Motivational Enhancement for maintaining progress. And we look at dietary factors, habit formation, exercise, meditations, and whatever else applies to your specific situation.”

“My situation?”

“Yes, we only work with individuals and couples, we do no group work, you never see another client, and we only take one new client per week.”

“So everything is focused on my particular needs?”


“And how long have you and your wife been doing this?”

“Dr. Barnes and I aren’t married – not to each other at least. She’s is married, I’m not, though it would be fair, after 12 years, to call us each other’s “office spouse”, I think.

“And how did you two get into this profession?”

“I had an alcohol problem after some personal tragedies in my late 30s and discovered there was no appropriate help available. Dr. Barnes had a brother with addiction problems, the family delegated her to find help and, like me, she found there was no help to be had. It took me several years to dig myself out of my vodka problem, and too much time for her and me to extract her brother from his.”


Works for less than 5% of the people who try it. Neither he nor I fit the profile of the people for whom it ‘works’.”

“And me?”

“You don’t fit the profile either.”

“How do you know?”

“Our website and newsletter appeal to people who have matured beyond the 12 Step mentality. You know, for example, that you aren’t powerless, that you probably aren’t alcohol dependent, and that sitting in meetings for the rest of your life isn’t going to improve your life. Quite the contrary.”

“And the cost?”

“For the 5 day intensive at our offices here south of L.A., the 12 or more weeks of regularly scheduled follow-up sessions by phone or Skype, and an evaluation by our consulting physician, Dr. Tim Norcross, for using the benign anti-craving med Naltrexone, $12,500. In addition, because we are an intensive out-patient program, and you aren’t local, you’ll have airfare, hotel, and usually a rental car.”

“And you clients’ success rate?”

“Over 70% are doing fine 1, 2, 3 or more years after completing their work with us.”

“The others?”

“Half are merely going through the motions to placate someone else. A spouse, judge, employer. That never works. The others never manage to actually do anything different or even make an effort. They want magic and we don’t have any.”

“How soon do you have an opening?”

“Generally, we can take you in 3 or 4 weeks. Right now, the next available week is March 27 and then all of April is open.”

“Thank you. I’ll read some more on you website, discuss this with me husband, and get back to you soon.”

“Thank you. We look forward to working with you.”

And so ends a typical phone conversation. Nothing to be anxious about. No pressure. Just information.

Yes, there are variations and other questions: “Do we take insurance?” No. “Are we confidential?” Yes, we’re the only confidential program in the U.S. or Canada. “Are spouses involved?” Yes, to whatever degree you, the client, wants. And so on…..

So, now that you know what happens when you call, why not find out how what we do, and what you want and need, apply?

And, yes, one of us does answer the phone personally, between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time, every day of the year unless we are with clients or otherwise engaged. If you get our recording, just leave a call back number and one of us will return your call, usually within a couple of hours.