Bain Capital’s grip on addiction–The profit behind 12-step treatment

Bain Capital’s grip on addiction–The profit behind 12-step treatment


I just came across this article and agree with a lot that is being said. People often spend a lot of money going to 12 step rehabs expecting real treatment for their problems with addiction, and simply get an introduction to AA or another 12 step group by a poorly qualified member of staff. They would have been better off spending their money going to a real psychiatrist if they are serious about giving up and trying to do something about the issues that drive them to addiction.

The article talks about the relative salaries of treatment center staff and so it is no wonder that centers that are run for profit take this approach, often staffed by evangelical members of the 12 step world, with little experience of any other types of therapy that are probably more effective. It mentions the fact that 12 step methods do not have a great success rate but are still used the most, and that 36% of people going to AA are court ordered which keeps the numbers attending up.

Here is the full story


I like this part which illustrates the problem and shows how people are being ripped off:

According to, the median salary of a counselor with an associate’s degree is $34,340, compared with $96,500 for a Ph.D.-level practitioner. A psychiatrist would cost right around $200,000.

But, the reality is, you don’t need a PhD or a psychiatrist in order to “take a fearless and thorough moral inventory of yourself,” as almost all treatment-center curricula consists mainly of learning to regularly attend AA meetings and completing the first four steps before graduating the 28-day treatment program.

“Ninety meetings in ninety days,” is the catch-phrase most oft recited in rehab.

“What we have in this country is a washing-machine model of addiction treatment,” A. Thomas McClellan, chief executive of the nonprofit Treatment Research Institute, based in Philadelphia, told The New York Times. “You go to Shady Acres for 30 days or to some clinic for 60 visits or 60 doses, whatever it is. And then you’re discharged and everyone’s crying and hugging and feeling proud — and you’re supposed to be cured.”

It’s pretty clear then why opportunistic corporations and shrewd investors are preying upon an ignorant public, medical community, and criminal-justice system. Treatment facilities are unregulated, expensive snake-oil salesmen pitching a self-help ‘cure’ for a medical condition.”


Here is a section about court ordered attendance:

“The government’s own Alcohol and Drug Services Studies (ADSS) revealed that 86% of substance-abuse facilities receive public funding, with a median of 62% regularly receiving public funding.

Corporate money grabbers are eager to jump on the addiction-treatment bandwagon because few question the methods, and programs are cheap to operate and very profitable. Simply have patients repeat, “I am powerless over alcohol and my life has become unmanageable” enough times, then hand them a meeting list and they’re cure

That is until the court-to-treatment pipeline sends them through again and with county funding.

Well-intentioned judges don’t really understand addiction or its effective treatment so they continue to order defendants to what they’re vaguely familiar with–Alcoholics Anonymous and 12-step-based treatment.

Due in large part to increased court-ordered treatment; CRC alone boasts an annual growth of 2-2% with patient revenue of $452.3 million, with 20.9% it government funded.

Even if the patient doesn’t qualify for public funding, there really isn’t a problem. 12-step treatment centers are slick operators who know just which philanthropic agencies and good-hearted churches to turn to, and keep a list of contacts.

Unlike medical facilities, treatment centers demand payment up front, so they’re a no-lose investment for vultures like Bain. They’ve already got the cash even if a patient drops out of the program. Overflowing with a steady stream of state- and privately funded clients, the opportunities for profit just keep growing.

The courts are more than happy to accommodate this.”


It is obvious to me that many are not suited to the 12 step way of life and many are now writing about this. here is a review of the Lance Dodes book “The Sober Truth” which talks a lot about how the 12 step world, influenced the American rehab industry.

Here is a post about the new book Quicksand which talks about the problems people can face after joining the 12 step world when it was not a suitable solution for them

On the links page there are solutions that are not 12 step based and people who have written books which focus on non 12 step recovery

If you are looking for a rehab it is a good idea to look at what you are paying for otherwise you can end up with a few AA meetings and some table tennis for your life savings!

Here is a new link about rehab




Commenting area

  1. I always like to personally respond to a couple of readers who shared my work, so thank you, Michael. I enjoyed your thoughtful analysis and I think it’s evident by the piece that this is also a subject that I’m personally familiar with. We definitely need reform and modernization of this industry. Thank you again and keep up your own good work on spreading a recovery message- Jamie

  2. Thanks so much for dropping by. I thought your piece was really good and will help people who are looking for a suitable treatment solution. So many people do not do well with the 12 step method and really need an alternative. It is a shame that so many people do not find out about alternatives until after their treatment.
    AA and 12 step certainly has the most groups and is the most accessible solution for many, but that does not make it the most effective or only solution to be considered. I think the whole concept that only an alcoholic can really help another alcoholic is complete rubbish. I had much more sucess in dealing with my problems when I had help from a professional who was not an alcoholic and could help me take a step back from everything. I look foward to reading more from you in the future, please let me know about any simialr pieces.

  3. Lost Angel July 11, 2014 at 10:03 am · · Reply

    My husband recently enrolled in such a rehab, I foolishly found it for him and thinking because it cost a small fortune must be the best of the best, now I find myself very regretful in our choice. He did chose to begin rehab himself which I am thrilled as no one can make this choice for you, although it couldn’t have come at a worse time. He is unemployed dur to addiction and although we have his meager unemployment check and are now on food stamps due to him losing an 85,000 a year job, I am the type of woman who loves him and is there for good and bad times. So we borrowed the small fortune to get him in “one of the best”…it also includes 12 steps as part of the program, which I initially had no issues with, we were both very stressed at first to learn he was allowed no contact withme or our 3 children the first week, he was extremely stressed knowing our amazing bond and connection would not be allowed, during a time when we needed each other the most! So a week came and past and I was allowed to visit, having to not only continue my college education, raise our 3 kids, youngest being 2, I picked up a part time job to ease his mind, and began the daunting task of packing, repairs, to current place, and found a new place all before our first visit, I wanted to provide him the reassurance that I would be ok and everything would be fine so he could focus. Those 7 days were the toughest of our entire relationship, we were not the type of couple who were ever apart, we are best friends and eachother’s support when times are tough, I cried myself to sleep every night and most of the day during this time, sold belongings to save for a new place which had to happen within 3 weeks, found my job, continued school, all while I worried about how he was doing…so our first few phone calls went well we even visited the idea of having another baby after he completed rehab and life settled, the loneliness and stress eased some, by our first visit I was exhausted mentally and physically, but I found a job and got us a new place, keys in hand all in that week to comfort him. By our first visit I was beginning to wear down and looked forward to seeing him and giving him the emotional support he needed and in return I needed…it was a heart breaking disaster all within in first 30 minutes he told me if I wasn’t going to support him and be cheerful I could just leave, he was completely agreeable to our week with no contact by this point and despite the emotional bond we have always shared, I was informed he was taught this was his time and he was to be selfish and only think of himself at this time, not our incredible bond and the uplifting love we shared or anything I may be dealing with, it was not his problem and he was to only think of himself during his time at rehab! I have never known this man to have ever been cold like this, I have never felt so completely detached from him and am honestly heart sick atm. I cheered up some during visit so he would not make me leave and tried my best to hide all the pain in my heart..during his years of use and these trying times all that kept me going has been our connection our bond and knowing I was working so hard to give him a gift of ease knowing I got this, only to have it solidified in his head he was to only think of himself right now. I do not mind the hardships, I am a strong woman, but currently have never felt so alone and broken…the very place in supported helping him, is not teaching him to grow self esteem or emotional maturity, they are teaching him to destroy the one fiber that has kept us both strong and in live all these years and instead of sticking by our connection that brings us comfort he has instead bought it hook line and sinker and has become emotionally distant, leaving me heart broken and feeling like sitting down on the ground and giving up..I do not understand how a man who is so warm and caring that I have shared a bond with for all these years, who has put me through hell and back can so easily buy into this cruel and unnecessary brain washing and have the nerve to call me the famous word enabler when I show how deeply hurt I am if not destroyed by this IMPORTANT step in the or process..I had hopes of them helping him learn to love himself and new coping skills..instead they have severed a bond that is so crucial to us both with one easy snap of their fingers and because he is naive and vulnerable, he is now all about himself and the outside world has no meaning until he is deemed recovering. ..I have felt betrayed and hurt many times during his addiction, but never once have I felt our bond severed and so broken and defeated… where are the support groups for other spouses like us, non 12 step related, that support a healthy bond when it is needed the most????

    • Hi Angel I’m very sorry to hear what’s going on in your life and what’s happening with your husband. I highly recommend that you go on and find the websites for Smart recovery and look at craft it’s for the family and friends is helped me and my family a great deal I have a website called leaving AA and I have a radio show called safe recovery may enjoy Michael is a very great website here and I know that you will find safe bloggers here to converse with just keep doing what you’re doing on the different blogs and reach out to people and follow your own instincts

    • Lost angel would you be willing to share the name and the city and state with this rehab is in a private email to me?
      Is he getting any of the real treatment besides 12-step nonsense? I am making a documentary exposing Alcoholics Anonymous and it’s 1930s antiquated 12 steps I would really listen to your gut with this one husband is getting very brainwashed quickly

  4. I am really sorry to read about your problems. It does not look like the advice your husband is getting is good and sadly this is often the case with certain 12 step rehabs, that are staffed by evangelical 12 step members with no real qualifications. I don’t know of any exact support groups for what you are looking for, but perhaps try a counselling service that is non 12 step for yourself in your area and see if they can help.
    People can go really strange in early recovery and can take on some unhelpful ideas as they are confused. I really hope that your husband sees what is really going on and that you can put things right. Recovery is tough for both partners and support is important.
    You may find dome of the books that I mention in the book section helpful. “The sober truth”by Lance Dodes is very critical of the 12 step rehab world which may give you an insight to the 12 step world and why people get so affected by it. He has written some other great books about addiction and has his own blog and you could contact him there. Stanton Peele is very critical of the 12 step world and also has a big online presence. You can find their sites on my links page there are also other sites listed such and practical recovery or Steven Slate who may be able to help.
    Sadly, there are often problems with relationships in recovery, and people do change quite dramatically during the process. This can really be tough on a supportive partner. I really do wish you the best of luck.

  5. Lost Angel, I am touched that my article has inspired you to reach out to this wonderful community and as the others here, I will do my best to offer guidance. My own story is one of the revolving door of 12-step treatment and just about anything else one could imagine. Years ago, prompted by my ex-wife, a local preacher even conducted an exorcism to remove these “demons!” Although, the only demon I really had was addiction, he and his followers claimed to have removed eight little evil fellows from me, but I was still a drunk. I also became somewhat of a celebrity, however, in this rural, religious hillbilly community, for such a profound number of demons-a local record, I will add… “Jails institutions and death” they say, well, I’ve done two and death doesn’t do early release—However, that all changed when I was fortunate enough to cross a progressive doctor and sound, medical treatment. He introduced me to the monthly shot of Vivitrol along with a mood stabilizer, (the psych med was because, as he says; “Alcoholics are intrinsically assholes!”) He also prescribed counseling, which I discontinued, as in my case, following the first shot, I have never had any desire nor inclination to use again. While intellectually I know I drank and did similar stupid things your husband and everybody else does when they’re drinking, today, it all seems academic or abstract- like I never really did it or that it was someone else. It’s a very difficult feeling to describe. Although, not everyone experiences the more or less cure I have with Vivitrol, every bit of research I examined has demonstrated it as highly, highly effective. Sadly, few medical professionals have any experience or knowledge of evidence based treatment, so I strongly recommend researching regional medical care for a progressive doctor who does,. Now, in my case, I drove an hour and a half for it, which may seem a distance, but if I needed a drink bad enough I’d go anywhere, After all, I’m the guy who once walked three miles in a snowstorm to a rural bowling alley, just for a 30 pack, because a caring town cop took my keys and cut me off at every store in the village. Well, that’s my two cents worth of experience and I’ll certainly be here for support, as well.

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