SCHC is one of the only major addiction treatment centres in North America allowing clients to keep their smartphones and other electronic devices while in treatment.
But it wasn’t always this way. Before we became an evidence-based, non-12 step model in 2008, we restricted clients in the same way other drug rehab and alcohol treatment centres still do – no phones, no laptops, limited payphone access.
Taking Phones Away Conflicts with Research Evidence
When we changed our program, we looked for research that supported this type of restriction and cut people off from contacting their wives, children, and colleagues. We found nothing. Turns out, treatment centres were taking phones from clients upon admission because they believed it helped them settle into the program. They also believed it prevented drug-seeking behaviour. To this day, there is still no research that says this specific approach in addiction treatment is helpful in any way.
In fact, there is a lot of research suggesting that treating adults like children is a very ineffective way to help treat their addiction. Many studies also show that addiction is made worse by isolation and a sense of disconnectedness.
Access to Technology Actually Helps Clients
So with this evidence, we changed our policy and prepared for what others warned us would be anarchy. The opposite happened. When our clients were able to check in with their wives and children and contact employees or co-workers when something came up, they settled faster. The number of clients leaving early dropped dramatically. Clients told us they felt better respected and understood. We know from the research that these are critical features of successful counseling relationships and treatment.
Our Rules are Common Courtesy
We do have a few rules around electronics of course. We request that clients do not bring their phones to group therapy or 1-on-1 appointments. We also ask for ringtones to be off. Silent or vibrate only. We also limit phone use to certain areas. For example, we ask clients to not answer calls or talk on the phone in common areas like the dining room or TV lounge. Calls can take place outside, behind the residences, or in a client’s bedroom. These simple rules, which are more like common courtesy, have worked very well for more than 3000 adult men for over a decade.