Marvin Kimble: I’m Marvin.
Holly Han: And I’m Holly.
Marvin Kimble: And this is the Balboa Horizons podcast. Today I’m here with Holly Han, she’s the Clinical Director for Balboa Horizons. Holly, you’ve been doing this for over 20 years. What keeps you going?
Holly Han: Oh, gosh, so many things, Marvin. You hear this a lot from therapists and I know it can be overdone in a way, but I think that we get the profound privilege as therapists of working with people who are struggling with addiction, trying to break those chains and get a true sense of inner freedom and to be a part of that process, I just couldn’t ask for anything better. You may have sometimes a very minimal part in that process with somebody, or you may be a very key component of that but I’ve often equated it to almost seeing a flower bloom and just being kind of on the sidelines watching them. Again, it’s a place of profound privilege.
Marvin Kimble: So you do it for the feeling.
Holly Han: Yeah, in many respects.
Marvin Kimble: In alcoholics and addicts, they do it for the feelings that they get or push down.
Holly Han: Right. I think that those are the rewards that you don’t count on when you do this work. It’s those rewards … I mean, there are very difficult days as you know, working in this profession and with this clientele. But I also think that the rewards are in proportion to those difficult days. To see people have realizations or change lifelong behaviors, I don’t care if it’s just for a day, to see that kind of dawn break, if you will, through the clouds, is just amazing. It continues to amaze me 20 years later.
Marvin Kimble: And so you’ve worked in the court systems as well?
Holly Han: I have. I worked for about 13 years in a program called Drug Court.
Marvin Kimble: So you’ve seen a lot of things.
Holly Han: Yeah. Got all kinds of stories to tell.
Marvin Kimble: Who’s your most ideal client to work with?
Holly Han: I don’t know-
Marvin Kimble: Do you have an ideal client?
Holly Han: I don’t. There are certain clients that are easier for me, certain clients that are more difficult. But there is no real ideal client. I wish that I could say that there was. A long time ago, one of the things that I was taught in Drug Court, as a younger therapist I thought I could go in and I would have this … Based on research and clinical data and just my own experience, I was going to put together some sort of formula to really find what that ideal client is. Who is that client that I can look at and plug into this formula, who’s going to come out at the end of it, they’re going to be spit out shiny and new.
Marvin Kimble: A cookie cutter approach.
Holly Han: Cookie cutter. And then also, I was also more trying to formulate who was going to fail. I will tell you one client in particular absolutely changed my mind about that, that we ultimately … There is no formula. Because there is never a formula, as good as research gets, that will boil down human will that way. So this particular client absolutely changed my mind about who’s going to be successful and who’s going to be a failure. I just don’t know. Yeah, it was a very profound experience.
Marvin Kimble: Well and you were fairly, I guess, fairly new?
Holly Han: I was probably maybe four or five years-
Marvin Kimble: So some experience under you?
Holly Han: Yeah.
Marvin Kimble: But still trying to find that magic bullet-
Holly Han: Oh yeah. Absolutely.
Marvin Kimble: … that everyone looks for.
Holly Han: Yeah, this is going to be it.
Marvin Kimble: Totally elusive.
Holly Han: Yeah, and again it was that idea of I’m going to be able to particularly predict, especially in the court system when we’re taking people out of custody. Who are we going to … Who’s going to make the best use of our resources?
Marvin Kimble: Yeah.
Holly Han: And I had clients who looked great on paper, who ultimately didn’t complete the program and clients who looked dismal on paper who completely changed their lives and ten, fifteen years later, they’re still sober. And just vital parts of whatever community they call their own. Profoundly moving to me.
Marvin Kimble: So as a Clinical Director, you get to see a lot of things. People come in here broken, afraid, confused, a lot of trauma in their past. What do you do with them to be able to build them up and to get that reward that you were talking about earlier?
Holly Han: What do I specifically do as a Clinical Director?
Marvin Kimble: Absolutely, yeah.
Holly Han: So I think that Balboa does a lot of things very well but part of the reason that I took this job was because the community here at Balboa, the community that is comprised of our clinical staff, our clerical staff, admissions, our support staff, our alumni; that is the strength to me of Balboa Horizons.
Holly Han: I think that the reason I say that in terms of what do I do with somebody, I think our primary focus is to obviously ascertain what has brought that particular individual to this place in their lives. All addicts have things in common but we also need to speak to each person’s unique identity, trauma, whatever that is. I think that what we do well is to speak to those both communal and individual needs to design a treatment plan that is appropriate to that person. Then in the meantime, getting them into our Balboa community and a larger community.
Marvin Kimble: So it’s individualized, case by case kind of basis.
Holly Han: It really is. I wish, again, that desire for a cookie cutter like this is what we do. And certainly, I could take you through the steps of what we do, but I think on a more esoteric level, that’s what we’re trying to accomplish.
Marvin Kimble: Okay. It’s remarkable seeing some of the clients that come in from day one, kicking, screaming, and fighting it the whole way and then on day ninety, they’re a different person.
Holly Han: Oh yeah, and they’ve started to make preparations. They’ve started to repair relationships with family. They see themselves in a different light. How many times have we seen, we were just talking about that, a treatment team; a guy who didn’t really even want to go to detox. He thought oh, he’s being kind of pushed into it by his family and at the end of his stay, and this is only a four-five day stay, maybe I should consider residential.
Holly Han: Then it’s okay, maybe I’ll stay a week longer and that transformation begins. Well, it begins the day that they say okay, let me go into detox, even if they’re just whacked out of their minds.
Marvin Kimble: How do you know when you got them?
Holly Han: I think that what you start to see is a greater capacity for reflection. I would say that that is what changes over time. There’s a lot of things. I mean, people might pay more attention to their hygiene. They might be less irritable. They might be more helpful. They might call their child that they haven’t called in months.
Holly Han: So we see those behavioral things but psychologically, emotionally, I would say that that is the biggest change that you start to see more. You know, where they might have an argument with a resident and be able to reflect on hmm, what did I contribute to this?
Marvin Kimble: So they started looking at their own self instead of typical addict, alcoholic behavior-
Holly Han: Which is externalized behavior. We’re wanting to shift the focus from the external to the internal. We will always be affected by external events. Nobody’s immune to that. But when we can truly look at ourselves, take responsibility for what is ours, we get to take responsibility for both the bad and the good then. Because if we can’t take responsibility for the bad things that we’ve done, we don’t get to take credit for the good things that we’ve done and life is just not lived very well that way.
Marvin Kimble: So speaking of course, and you mentioned that earlier, just, I think it was yesterday, the Orange County Attorney arrested, I want to say ten individuals for body brokering, Naltrexone implants and surgeries and insurance fraud. One of the guys looking at 43 years. How do you think that’s contributed to our industry overall and as well as like the client census that you see going into treatment and people leaving treatment. Do you think it’s correlated in any way.
Holly Han: Sure, I think that the industry, in general, has a black eye and the public at large cannot … How are they supposed to vet any particular rehab? All rehabs are saying we’re the one; we’re good. I think that … I’m glad that we are starting to prosecute people because you are taking advantage of one of the most vulnerable populations out there. I think it is deplorable.
Marvin Kimble: I’m in agreement with you. It’s sickening. I’ve heard stories of body brokers actually paying clients money to go into a treatment center and pay everyone that’s in that center to get up and leave, go get high and then go to another treatment center. They can’t see it, I-
Holly Han: Yeah, and I … Well, the client certainly can’t see it because they’re looking at the immediate reward, which is often monetary but the people who are doing it, obviously, I think they definitely see their behavior and quite frankly, don’t care. I think, you talk about kind of the ultimate definition of selfishness, it’s really harming others for one’s own gain. Call that lots of things.
Holly Han: But I do think that the industry … There’s been insurance fraud for a number of years and I think part of what we see as a backlash and I understand that insurance companies need to crack down on that behavior, however, unfortunately, the good guys get caught in that sweep. So it is harder to get insurance companies to pay for treatment, even if you are an ethical organization like we are.
Holly Han: So I think we have to struggle more and we have to work harder to get people to access benefits for the duration of time that is necessary for them to truly recover.
Marvin Kimble: If you were to say something to a family member. Let’s say they’re looking for treatment for their loved one, their son or daughter, what would say to them to find a good place to go? I know when I was in admissions here, we were instructed to assess the situation. What’s been going on with them, find out if there’s any underlying issues, mental health disorders or anything like that and then make sure that we would be appropriate for them. And then if we weren’t, give them some referrals to reputable places that we’ve already vetted.
Marvin Kimble: Other than that, is there anything else that a parent can do for their son or daughter that may be struggling.
Holly Han: You were and I were talking about this a few weeks ago. I would highly recommend for anybody who is seeking treatment, even if this is multiple treatments. Maybe your son or daughter is on their third or fourth treatment, I would highly recommend to you reading the book, Inside Rehab, which gives you a really good research based approach to how to choose a good rehab.
Holly Han: Some of the things that the author cites are, that I would recommend in general, is that you obviously should look at the record of that treatment facility. Not just on Yelp but do they have any complaints against them. Any good treatment facility should have therapy as just a part of that treatment. There are still a fair amount of residential facilities who do not include therapy, which is a bit surprising to me in this day.
Holly Han: But that should absolutely be part of that program. The program, while it should have some kind of self help component, whether that is 12 steps or smart recovery, rational recovery, that should not be the cornerstone of that treatment center. If it is, I think that underlying mental health problems will go untreated. And if you’re going to treat addiction, you are going to treat trauma.
Holly Han: The percentages of people who are traumatized who turn into addicts is incredibly high. So if you do not have that capability in that center, you should look elsewhere. I always say, when I give referrals for a therapist, we are taught in school, and I think it’s a good practice, give people three referrals. Look at different facilities; talk to different people. Good facilities should offer you a tour. Nothing should be secret.
Holly Han: You should be able to look at those facilities. Obviously, we have to protect client confidentiality and those things, but you should be able to go and look. You should be able to talk to people. You are entrusting them with-
Marvin Kimble: A life.
Holly Han: … the life of your loved one and you deserve to have that degree of professionalism and respect.
Marvin Kimble: Holly, I want to thank you for joining us today. That’s all we have. I’m Marvin.
Holly Han: And I’m Holly.
Marvin Kimble: And that’s the Balboa Horizons podcast.