Presenter: Neal Howard
Guest: Richard Taite
Richard Taite is the CEO and founder of Cliffside Malibu Treatment Center, a first-class addiction treatment center in a private setting with multiple treatment options focusing on whole health.
Richard Taite discusses his addiction and recovery. Also discussed are his book “Ending Addiction for Good” and his inspiration for writing it.
Health Professional Radio
Neal Howard: Hello. You’re listening to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host, Neal Howard. Our guest today is Richard Taite. Richard Taite is the CEO and founder of Cliffside Malibu treatment centre, a first-class addiction treatment centre focusing on whole health. How are you doing today, Richard?
Richard Taite: I’m doing great, Neal. Thanks for having me.
Neal: Great, great. Now, your area of expertise is in, of course, addiction recovery. You’ve co-authored the book Ending Addiction for Good that focuses on whole health addiction recovery. At the Cliffside Malibu centre, you have a number of different techniques that you say are unique to Cliffside, and a far cry from the traditional recovery, 12-step-based programs. Could you speak a little bit to that?
Richard: Yeah. Well, like anything else in our society, things evolve. So 15 years ago, nobody had flat-screens on their wall that they could watch TV with. And now, they first came out, they were very cost-prohibitive, and now you can get one for a song, that takes up your whole, entire wall. Same thing is true in the addiction space. But what you have to realise is the science is always about 15 to 20 years ahead of the practice. The reason is because people are lazy. They basically do what they know.
Neal: Uh-huh. Familiarity?
Richard: Absolutely. That’s a huge part of it. But what really works is something called the Stages of Change model. A guy by the name of Dr. James Prochaska went ahead and figured out how human beings actually change their behaviours. And if drug addiction and alcoholism is a behavioural disorder, why not go to the guy who figured out how human beings change their behaviours? It just doesn’t make any sense to start to have a foundation in any other way.
So, for example, there are a lot of world-renowned, top-notch centres that don’t even know what that is and don’t give any individual, one-on-one therapy at all. But yet, because like in any industry, the first guy in usually gets the big name…
Neal: Yeah, absolutely.
Richard: So that’s what we hang our hat on. He’s the fifth most referenced psychologist in human history. And you’ve heard of the others, like Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung and Erikson and those guys.
Neal: He’s the fifth most referenced in history? The fifth most?
Richard: The fifth most referenced psychologist, yeah! You can’t even become a psychologist in the United States without reading one of two textbooks, and one of them is his. So this is a world-renowned psychological mind who has really benefited society in huge ways. He endorsed Ending Addiction For Good on the cover, no less. So it’s something that we’re very proud of.
Neal: Absolutely. Coming from him, that must be phenomenal, almost a dream come true for someone in your field.
Richard: Listen, that’s how I got sober. That’s how everybody at my centre gets sober. If I would have known, truthfully, who he was exactly, I would have been way too intimidated to call him. But I called him when I finished writing the book… because I tried writing it for about two and a half years before Dr. Scharff, my co-author, came on. I threw away the first two versions of it, and then I gave it to Connie, and I said, “Here’s the outline. Here’s what I’ve done before. Here’s 60 hours of audiotape. Let’s see if you can make something out of this.”
She put something together, and we went through five or six drafts of it, and I go, “Yes, yes, no, yes, yes, no,” and we’d elaborate on things. Finally, it came out where it… obviously it wasn’t the perfect book. You’re never going to have a perfect book. But it was an excellent book.
Neal: An excellent book.
Richard: And so we gave it to him. I called him, and I just got emotional. I said, “Look, I just want you to know that this is how I got sober, off your work, and a therapist, a loving therapist took me through the stages of change. I was the worst drug addict you’ve ever seen. Since then, I’ve went ahead and opened up, arguably, the finest treatment facility in the world, and our success rate is second to none. And it’s because of you.” I got emotional, and he was very taken aback by it.
He said, “Send me the book. I want to read it.” We wanted to put it out right away, but we waited 30 days or 40 days until he got back to us, and he was so impressed with it, and he said, “Do you mind if I endorse it?” I never asked him. So I was just blown away. I said, “Absolutely. Thank you so much.” I had to get off the phone with him, and I just started crying for about 15 minutes because I just couldn’t believe that somebody like this would endorse our work.
Neal: With this type of endorsement, you know at that point that it’s going to help countless people recover from addiction, especially with someone like his endorsement.
Richard: That’s exactly what he said. That’s an excellent point. Because he wrote a book—and I would recommend it to anybody—called Changing for Good. That’s why I called it Ending Addiction for Good, as kind of an homage to his work. But Changing for Good is, even though it’s one of his less intellectual books, very challenging to read. It only speaks to a very small population of people, whereas our conversational style is accessible to a great many more people. That’s why he endorsed it, because what he said was, “This will reach people I never had a chance to reach.”
Neal: If I’m hearing you correctly, his style of writing is more technical, geared to professionals who are trying to treat recovery, as opposed to people who are seeking recovery? Is that correct, or is that an error?
Richard: But it’s even more so than that, really. It’s more academic. It’s more the mental masturbation, really. [laughs] It’s where these academics all get together and literally pontificate, and they can sit there and have a real, highly educated, sophisticated conversation. But it never even reaches down to the actual therapist doing the work on the ground. So it’s more of an academic piece, as I read it. Look, it was very hard for me to read. Literally, it was like an Ambien. I’d read two pages, and it would knock me right out.
Neal: [laughs] And then be [indecipherable 07:38].
Richard: Yeah. And I’m not the smartest guy in the room, but this is my field, and I do know quite a bit about it, both from personal experience and from day-to-day operation.
Neal: Now, with this endorsement and with him being the fifth most quoted psychologist in the world, why is it that other treatment centres have not adopted the Stages of Change model? Or have they adopted it, but you’ve maybe perfected it? Are you the only ones?
Richard: No. Let me tell you why. Because a lot of the treatment centres in my industry, most of them are non-profits. So they work on a shoestring budget, very, very…
Richard: Their hands are tied financially, okay? So they don’t have access to top-notch clinical care. That’s number one. Then you have the treatment centres that are involved in government assistance. I don’t know if you know anything about what’s going on now in the news here in the United States… and specifically I think it’s in California. I’m not certain, but there was a big thing on CNN, where billions of dollars… or I think it was hundreds of millions of dollars were being defrauded from taxpayers by these low-end centres that are basically taking money in a fraudulent way from the system.
Neal: Now, are we talking about some of the treatment centres in larger cities that double as homeless shelters and things of that nature? Were they the ones involved?
Richard: There was a mix of that, but it wasn’t entirely that. Right now what I want to talk about is the different subsets or the subsections of treatment centres. So you have those two, then you have the ones that are run by private equity. So they buy up these big-name treatment centres, and then they do what private equity does, which is they take the beauty out of that treatment centre, the love out of the treatment centre, and they squeeze every nickel out of it, because that’s what private equity does. Then you have the ones that are run by addiction specialists.
So when these people leave, they’re on Suboxone forever, and they come back to the doctor at $500 a month, and they’re on Suboxone. That’s a math issue, because if you have a thousand people that leave, and they’re coming back to you every month for $500, now you’re talking about real money. So there’s just not a lot of centres that are run like a love call. Okay? And I was homeless, and these are my people. I was the worst drug addict I’d ever met. So what I did was I figured out what worked for me, and then I just role modelled it.
Another piece of it, and probably the most important piece, is that I never had a treatment experience. So I didn’t know you could have a schedule run by RAs or techs, or like that at $12 an hour. They come in and they talk to you in a group and give you the content needed or the education needed as part of the schedule. That’s not something I would ever even consider. If you’re not a top-notch therapist, clinical psychologist, MST, LCSW [sp], or some type of high licensure with a gift to bring to my milieu, you don’t get to meet with my milieu. So that costs a lot of money.
Neal: How long do you consider yourself to have been an addict, or a practising addict?
Richard: From the time I was 12 until the time I was 32, I never drew a sober breath. Not once.
Neal: Now, you say you had not had a treatment experience. So before discovering what worked for you, you had not tried anything else, ever?
Richard: No, that’s not true. I was in AA. I think that gave me a tremendous foundation. It’s a support group, and I met a lot of friends, friends that I still have to this day, who I love very dearly. I learned how to suit up and show up for life and what a commitment meant. But that’s not treatment. That’s a support group. So that worked for me. Didn’t work successfully for me, but it certainly was not a waste of time. It played a part in my foundation.
Neal: Okay. It gave you a good foundation to build what you’ve built thus far.
Richard: And I’ve been to numerous Sober Livings. When I started going into Sober Livings – which is a safe place to lay your head at night, and people are sober there – I started doing therapy once a week, and I did it for years. I was just lucky enough… and I never missed a session, not one, in years. What happened was I was lucky enough to have a therapist who was so diligent in the Stages of Change that, over time, it changed my life. But it took a long time because, again, it was once a week, not all day every day, in a safe, supportive, empathetic, loving environment.
So basically, what Cliffside is is it takes its… because we’re known as “the preeminent therapy rehab in the country”. What Cliffside does is it saves you two years of your life, really, because…
Neal: Two years?
Richard: Yeah, I think so. Because if you were going to just go to Sober Living and commit to therapy once a week, I think after two years with a top-notch therapist schooled in the Stages of Change model, I think you can get sober. Which is what I recommend to people all day long that call me and don’t have the money for treatment. Okay? And I put them on the road to success. But the mind is not like a light switch. You just don’t turn it on and turn it off. That’s not how decisions are made. It’s more like a gradual dial. So it took what it took for me – it took two years.
Neal: And it takes what it takes for each individual on an individual basis.
Richard: And it depends on where they’re at. So if they came to you in complete denial, then it’s going to take a lot longer than a guy who comes to you and says, “Okay, drugs and alcohol are my problem. I’ve got to do whatever it takes to get off these things and move forward with my life.” That’s the thing.
Neal: Some great information on recovery at Cliffside Malibu recovery centre. You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host, Neal Howard. Our guest today has been Richard Taite. Richard Taite is the CEO and founder of Cliffside Malibu treatment centre, which is a first-class addiction treatment centre focusing on whole health. Setting them apart is the treatment philosophy known as Stages of Change.
He’s also co-authored the book Ending Addiction for Good – talking a little about your experience with addiction and recovery, and also the inspiration for your book. It’s been great having you here with us today, and I look forward to more conversations with you in the future.
Richard: Thanks, Neal. I appreciate being here.
Neal: Transcripts of this program are available at healthprofessionalradio.com.au.