"A Completely Different Approach to Therapy Took Me From Being the Director of a Community College Treatment Program to Being Hailed a National Hero by Nancy Reagan and Counseling the CEOs of Michigan’s Top Companies… And I’m Convinced Anyone Can Benefit From my Methods"
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is James Evans. Chances are you haven’t heard of me before. But when you finish reading this letter you will be glad you finally have.
What I have to offer you is a completely revolutionary approach to addiction treatment, marriage counseling, family therapy or any type of counseling for that matter. That to be perfectly honest with you… I came across almost by accident. Well, to be even more honest with you, it came about by what was almost a kidnapping.
Then you are probably right.
Before you are willing to listen to how my approach will not only save you or your loved ones life— your marriage or your relationship with your family. If you want to be healthier and stronger then you have been in years. Not have your problems keeping you up at night. And know that your emotional health is safe. You need to listen to what I have to say.
But you have to trust that I am the real deal first.
That is why this would be a good time for me to tell you my story so that I can prove without a shadow of a doubt that the letter in your hand is the answer to what you already know – If you don’t get help your problems will only get worse
Here is how it happened: I’m going to take you back to 1972 when I was hired at Oakland Community College or O.C.C as we called it.
The Auburn Hills Michigan campus at O.C.C. was developing a Center for Drug Studies in response to veterans coming home from Vietnam. It was the first of its kind in the nation and I was in charge of running it.
We didn’t know a lot about drug abuse back then and we had to develop the treatment models on our own. Very soon I was impressed by how people where able to quickly change their behavior if they were in the right environment.
As it turns out I was not the only one impressed with the work we were doing.
Bill Millikan, the governor of Michigan at the time, was so impressed that he appointed me to a state committee to help establish laws on how the state should handle drug abuse and everything that comes with it. It was called the Office of Drug Abuse and Alcoholism. We met at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing where we drafted the Michigan Comprehensive Substance Abuse Plan (1972-1973).
At the time we were finishing up the state model I now had two clinics on the Auburn Hills campus; one for adults and one for adolescents.
Also around this time President Nixon had a program called the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. This name didn’t last long— by the time I got to Washington it had become the DEA.
Here’s how all that came about. Nixon had appointed the Governor of Pennsylvania, Raymond P. Shaffer, to head a committee called the Shaffer Commission. Bill Millikan told Nixon I was a guy that needed to be on that committee.
So, a couple of DC guys came to take a look at the clinics and before I knew it I was on a plane to Washington DC.
The Shaffer Commission looked at one problem: Marijuana.
My job during this period was to go around and give lectures for the DEA.
It was on as sunny Tuesday in 1975, I was getting ready to go on vacation in Key Largo Florida to go scuba diving. I got a call from Dr. Joe Hill – the president of O.C.C. He wanted to know what I was doing that day.
He told me I had to stop by a bank in Detroit because there was a big problem involving drug abuse and he told them I could solve it. Being an untenured professor I was certainly going to pay attention to the president’s call.
So I show up at this bank dressed in flip flops, shorts and a gaudy Hawaiian Shirt like I was ready to start my vacation and headed up to the penthouse floor. I walk into a huge board room with 20 people sitting around a gigantic table.
All of them were wearing a black suit and a white shirt— and none of them looked happy.
Hi, I’m Jim Evans what can I do for you?”
As it turns out there was an accident involving a husband and wife. They had been killed. The heir to the board position was now held by a 19 year old student who was hooked on heroin.
This posed a big problem for the bank. Nobody in their right mind will keep their money in a bank ran by a 19 year old heroin addict who inherited his father’s position on the board.
What can you do about it Jim?”
I told them they could put him in a residential treatment program and I didn’t know what else to do. One of the men wanted to know how effective residential treatment programs were. As I was telling him how they are not that effective another man spoke up.
Well he’s a famous name and it will hurt stock price that’s not acceptable Jim.”
I told them if it where up to me I would take him out on a boat in the middle of the ocean for a couple weeks where he didn’t know where he was until he got better. You have to isolate him.
Little did I know this was about to become a reality.
To them this was the perfect solution. All they wanted was for him to get well enough to come back and go through the legal process to get the corporation out of his family name.
I was given a Cadillac (on loan) and a couple thousand dollars and was off to get the kid. I drove to Ann Arbor and found the hotel he was staying at. Once I got to his room the door was open and he was passed out lying on the bed. I looked around the room and there were bottles of booze and needles everywhere. A pile of cocaine the size of a small football was next to the bed. I did the only thing I could think to do.
He turned and looked at me and asked “who are you?”
I’ll never forget what I said next because of the way it just came to me at the last second.
I’m Jim… from the party last night. I’ve got the tickets. Are you ready to go? I’ve got a car waiting outside. Let’s go!”
He walks down to the street with me gets into the back of the Cadillac— rolls over and goes right back to sleep.
This is starting to look like your typical kidnapping— except that he put himself in the car.
Now… I’ve got the kid in the car, on my way to Florida, and I call my buddy Freddie from the university. I have him arrange an 82 foot Hatteras with a crew of 3; a captain, dive instructor, and Freddie’s wife the cook (and man was she a good cook).
We get the client on the boat pull out of Key Largo and head south of Cuba.
It was sometime during the next day he woke up and man was he mad! Fortunately for me he was only 5’7” and 115 lbs. There was no violent resistance.
As far as I know nothing like this had ever been tried before. This was nothing like any of the models we had developed at my clinics or the 50 minute hour that exists today.
I didn’t fully realize what I was observing at the time. But I knew enough that it was going to be a powerful new approach to therapy.
What I observed with the kid was when you have a highly motivated group of people around you, that are there to serve your needs and not draw on your resources, you will have not just an intellectual and emotional, but also a physical experience that will add value and meaning to your life.
I had control of the environment 24 hours a day. I put the kid in an advantageous position to succeed and he did.
What I would later know is I had just solved one of the biggest problems of residential treatment and group therapy— that is unsolvable in that environment. And it is…
You, as I’m sure, have heard this statement before. The phrase as we use it today means that one person doing wrong will affect the whole group.
And this is true!
If you have 20 people on the ward… how many do you really think want to be there?
That’s right, all it takes is one person with a bad attitude and it spreads faster than the flu in a dormitory. Believe me when I tell you that addicts are vulnerable to bad influence. It was a constant struggle in my clinics to weed out the bad apples.
When I was in total control of the environment it was a different story all together. Needless to say after 3 weeks the kid was healthy, happy and curious about the world. Like a 19 year old boy should be.
So, I get him back to Miami he flies back to Detroit and the President of the college loves me.
That was the first time that I implemented an adventure based counseling model in an overwhelming response to do something different.
After my first time out (which was nearly a kidnapping) it just seemed too good to be true. It was just too simple. This can’t be real. Had I really cured heroin addiction in just 21 days? I didn’t believe it either but it was not something I was going to give up on. I had to try this new approach to addiction treatment again.
As luck would have it I didn’t have to wait long – word traveled fast – and before I knew it I was on a plane to the Caribbean with another client.
That’s when I knew I was really on to something.
This was truly a revolutionary approach that I needed to explore more. Things, however, where changing back at my clinics and my attention was needed there.
O.C.C. did not want the clinics to become nationally accredited. I did. You can’t present the clinic as a credible alternative to other clinics if you aren’t accredited.
So in 1975 I broke away from the college and incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit. I also got a new board of directors for my clinics. Now, some very high powered business men signed up to be on my board. I didn’t know it at the time but they were not interested at all in my clinics but wanted to have access to me for their personal use.
It was during this phase in my career that I learned that presidents, vice presidents and high up management of major corporations don’t use insurance when they have problems. They don’t want the human resource department to know that they are in counseling with their wife. Hippa?
Believe me it wasn’t long until I was flying to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina with the president of a major corporation (I cannot reveal who it was) to meet with his estranged wife.
I now found myself in my first weekend encounter that felt startlingly similar to my first experience on the boat. Once again I was in complete control of the environment and was able to expand upon what I had learned before.
Once I was in with the auto community my clinics really began to take off. Eventually I was running four clinics but because of the board, their friends and family— I wasn’t running much of the program. I’m off traveling the world helping top executives and their families with their problems.
They always asked the same question.
What would you do different than what he is experiencing right now?”
I had been successful with my adventure based model multiple times in the past so kept at it. And I kept getting better and better results. It got to the point that everybody was talking about it. It was different, discrete (which was important in this circle) and effective.
I kept at this until 1990. This is when Blue Cross Blue Shield changed how much they would pay for therapy. I already knew the 50 minute hour was not that great a model. But now insurance would only pay for 50 minutes a month. I could not be the type of therapist that I wanted to be under this model so I shut my clinics down and focused solely on the adventure based model and private sessions.
It was during this time that I received one of the biggest accolades I had ever received. And I will also fulfill the promise I made in the headline of this letter. I bet your wondering when Nancy Reagan comes into the story. Well, this is it. The work I was doing had such a profound impact on peoples lives’, that word of it made it all the way to the White House.
I received the following letter from Nancy Reagan.
Now, you know that when it comes to drug and alcohol addiction I know what I am talking about. You don’t get a letter from the First Lady of the United States calling your work a heroic effort because you have only helped a few people. I have been at the forefront of substance abuse treatment for more than 35 years. I helped develop many of the models that are still in use today and have the opportunity to explore different approaches to the traditional methods. I have treated families, veterans with PTSD and helped save countless marriages and know that I can do the same for you.