SUMMARY: In this edition of “It’s Just Coffee”, hosts Phillip Crum and Kathleen Mills talk with Robert Shryoc about the drug and alcohol rehabilitation program at Stonegate Center in Parker County, Texas.
Episode #14 | Kathleen Mills Talks With Robert Shryoc, StoneGate Center
Kathleen Mills-Proprietor, Counselor at Life Tree Counseling
Phillip Crum-The Content Marketing Coach
Robert Shryoc-Proprietor, StoneGate Center
PHILLIP CRUM: You are the host of this show, Kathleen Mills from Lifetree Counseling. Tell me what Lifetree Counseling does?
KATHLEEN MILLS: Lifetime Counseling Center is a group practice. It’s a counseling center. We’re open Monday through Saturday. We see children, adolescents, adults, depression, anxiety, family, marital, pre-marital. We’ve got a great group of providers and we take employee assistance programs, see insurance clients and self-pay.
PC: And I’m still PC, content marketing coach. I help people build their online properties, develop a content marketing strategy, implement it, produce the content, measure it, rinse and repeat. So, who do we have today?
KM: We have Robert from Stonegate Center. Hi, Robert.
ROBERT SHRYOC: Hi, Kathleen.
KM: Do you want to try your last name?
PC: No. He’s going to explain it. It’s Shryoc, it’s spelled differently, and there’s a story to go with it, too.
RS: I’m not telling my last name story. I’m not going to talk about my last name when I could be talking about the treatment center.
KM: I want to hear all about your treatment center because it’s a pretty awesome place. And you’re new on the treatment center, are you not?
RS: We’ve been open since 2010, so we’re coming up on four years.
KM: That’s considered new.
RS: That is pretty new, and we’re excited about the presence that we’ve gained in the market, but our biggest challenge is just getting the word out about who we are and what we do.
KM: How did you go from where you were to opening up a new treatment center? Can you walk me through that?
RS: There’s a short version of the story. There’s a guy in Houston that has a 90-days men’s only program and he was playing golf with a friend of mine. He said, “I’m getting more and more calls from the Dallas-Fort Worth area. I don’t think anybody’s doing this up there.” And this guy called me, and we were off to the races. We did some market research and found there was a niche in the Dallas-Fort Worth for a 90-day men’s-only program and we got it up and running.
KM: So this was decided on the golf course.
RS: You could almost say that.
KM: What were you doing before?
RS: I have a background in business development, marketing and some sales background. I absolutely believe this is what I was put on this earth to do.
KM: And you love it.
RS: I love it.
KM: Tell me more about your 90-day treatment. It’s IOP?
RS: It’s primary residential, post-detox, and we just believe that real change happens in the context of real relationships. At 30 days is long enough to physically feel better and modify behavior, but it’s not long enough to address those deeper issues of the heart in the context of relationships.
KM: You deal with the heart.
RS: That’s what we’re doing. We want to address those deeper issues that are driving the behaviors. Instead of just modifying the behavior, we want to address those deeper issues. That’s what we believe most patterns of addiction are symptoms of deeper issues.
KM: You and I have talked many times. Walk me through how your clients get to you. How do people get to your center? Can you tell people where you are in the Dallas area?
RS: We’re just 35 miles due west of the DFW airport.
KM: Which is a little bit further than where we are right now. So it’s in the country?
RS: It is. We’re on eight acres in Parker County.
KM: Can you describe it?
RS: I like to describe it as a pastoral campus that has a way of untying knots. There’s something about our setting that represents warmth, and it’s just a great place to go to address life’s curveballs.
PC: I picture rolling hills, red barns, red buildings.
RS: A creek.
PC: We’ve got a creek. There’s a bridge over the creek. What you just pictured is exactly what it looks like.
RS: With a ton of big trees.
KM: There’s a picture on your website.
RS: A couple of them.
KM: Tell me your website so people can go to it right now while we’re talking.
KM: That’s easy enough.
PC: How many people can you hold in this facility?
RS: We’re a men’s-only program. We really don’t believe that men and women necessarily belong together in a recovery environment. We think it can create, to put it mildly, drama and distraction, and if you’d like to, you can insert rehab romance joke here.
PC: We’re trying to untie knots, not create new one.
RS: That’s why we’re a men’s-only program. It’s 32 beds. We typically have between 12 and 20 guys in the program. I just had last week a young man, 22 years old, been to the program for three weeks, sit on my office and say, “Thank you so much for not having women here.” He said it’s just so great that I don’t have to get up and worry how I look, worry how I’m impressing who. He said, I’m really able to deal with my true issues.
KM: Just reinforces what you said earlier. It’s 90 days, specific men’s recovery, very focused. You have 90 days.
RS: That continuum of care looks like the first 30 days is all about community connections, building relationships and establishing trust. The second 30 days, we’re going to drive them deeper into the curriculum. We want them to own it and understand it because the last 30 days, we want them to teach it. We don’t want them to leave without the opportunity to work with new guys coming in, to lead and to serve the community that they’re working with. It’s that 12th Step in action, getting these guys all the way outside of themselves.
We also have this Christian approach to who God is, and I wanted to throw that in there. There are three things that separate Stonegate from a lot of the treatment centers that are out there, and that is the fact that it is 90 days; the fact that it is men’s only; and the third component is this Christian approach to who God is. At the same time, our message to every guy that walks in the door is, “We’re not here to fix you, we’re here to love you. God’s not our concern right now, you are. We’ll get to Him. He’s not going anywhere, but right now, we just want to know who you are and where you are in life.”
KM: How do they usually take that approach?
RS: They’re very relieved. I love to tell guys, “Our program is as real and as raw as it gets. We’re not church camp, we’re not boot camp. In fact, if you’re offended by foul language, don’t come to Stonegate for treatment, because that’s not our deal. We’re not worried about your behavior, we are much more interested in addressing the heart.”
PC: At the same time, on the two occasions I was there, I didn’t hear a blue word the entire time.
RS: The second time, there were no clients present. That might have had something to do with it. Life is real and raw and guys are expressing frustration and humor.
PC: And there’s no women there, so they don’t have to put on their good face.
KM: I think that’s awesome, actually. I really do.
RS: It’s refreshing, it really is.
PC: It’s like one big, giant man cave.
RS: A little bit.
PC: But it’s painted red, and there’s hills and trees.
RS: The food is hot and brown and there’s plenty of it.
KM: So a typical day.
RS: Structured days, we wake up early, we do breakfast at seven, we do a morning devotion at 8:00, kind of to focus our days. We go on to life skills which is an educational group. Each educational group is followed by a process group, a small group led by a therapist behind a closed door. We do a couple of groups in the morning, a couple of groups in the afternoon.
We’re off from 11 to 12:30 for lunch. Our clients are actively involved in our kitchen. We have two licensed food-handlers on our staff that oversee the kitchen, that plan the meals, that buy the food, but the clients get to do the cooking.
KM: That’s awesome.
RS: And they love it. We’ve had three clients in the four years we’ve been open who have finished their 90 days and gone to culinary school because they fell in love with cooking while at Stonegate.
PC: A bunch of untrained guys in the kitchen, which explains why all the food is brown.
RS: No, we’re training. We’ll have guys who are like “I don’t know how to cut an onion.” And we’ll train them, show them.
KM: There’s that community spirit. They’re willing to do something which is part of their recovery, is going the box, outside the comfort zone, and learning together, team oriented, and they’re learning a lot about themselves in the process.
RS: And there’s something about a kitchen that is just disarming. When we have people over, everybody wants to hang out in the kitchen. We have this huge kitchen; in fact, I love to bring to my computer up and just sit in the corner and act like I’m working just so I can listen to these guys interact and tell stories laugh and cut up.
KM: Isn’t that part of the functional family, we all gravitate to the kitchen? We have people over, and we just have a really good fellowship?
RS: I know.
KM: And that’s probably where the recovery is going on, in that, too.
RS: That’s right. I like to call our kitchen the most therapeutic non-therapeutic component of what we do.
KM: That’s awesome.
RS: Back to the daily schedule. Then we have a step study followed by a process group. Then from three to five is free time, which is still somewhat structured.
KM: How does that work? They decide what they want to do on the campus?
RS: What we discourage is guys going and getting a book and laying in bed and reading. They can read, but we’d like for it to not be in privacy. There’s such a fine line between isolation and privacy that we don’t want to flirt with isolation, so we’re keeping guys connected. We have this huge fitness room, 40 by 40 feet of workout, aerobics, it’s just a great.
PC: That’s some serious equipment here.
RS: We’re on eight acres. We’ve got a dog, Rocco. We got a new dog.
PC: That was my last question here, was what happened to Boomer? I know Boomer’s gone, but what’s the plan?
RS: We found a new rescue dog, Rocco, and he is just instantly connected with our community of guys. Free time, it’s their time, but there is still even a component of structure to the free time.
KM: You’re forcing the issue of communication, fellowship, being with people, being comfortable.
RS: That’s right.
KM: Living together.
RS: And even on weekends, we do visitation each weekend, but our weekends are less structured than our week days, and for the first week or two sometimes, the weekends might feel boring, so what I call unstructured, a new client might say, “This is just boring. What’s up with this?” Well, we have found that boredom represents one of the primary triggers for drug addicts. We want the guys in our program to learn how to manage their down time, learn how to manage their boredom, and so that’s so the weekends bring that unstructured opportunity.
KM: How do people know about you? Where do you get your referrals from?
PC: Not only that, but how do they find you, why do they find you?
RS: A lot of folks find us because they’re looking for a 90-day program. They’ve tried two or three 30-day programs that have been unsuccessful. They are not comfortable with the language that says God is just whatever higher power they want. The structured approach that we have to God is more the Christian approach.
Again, I’m always super-careful. In fact, when people say, “Are you guys a faith-based program?” I say, “No, we’re recovery-based, but we do have this Christian approach to who God is.” They’re looking for a more Christ-centered rehab; they’re looking for a 90-day option. We had a guy who came to us from Florida one time because he had to come that far from Florida to find something that was truly gender-specific.
KM: So this is not their first rodeo.
RS: Most of our guys have been through another treatment experience. Maybe it was outpatient – and we do still get probably 30 percent of our guys, this is their first rodeo. But a lot of guys are coming to us because they know they need more than 30 days, they know they can’t have women around, or that Christian component.
PC: Why would someone have to come from Florida to find a 90-day, no-women program?
RS: There are not many of them. There just aren’t.
KM: That’s surprising to me.
RS: There’s, again, there are a handful, but to have that strong clinical component – again, we have an amazing team of licensed counselors, we have a doctor who comes out a day a week to manage medication and address some of the, I guess more mood disorders that some of our clients are dealing with – but there just aren’t many options that bring everything that we’ve brought together. We’re very upfront. We’re not trying to be all things to all people. We’re serving almost a niche part of our behavior health market, but there aren’t many options for families looking for what we offer.
PC: What if I’m not a Christian?
RS: Bring it. My faves. I’m telling you, this is not an evangelical platform for us. We’re not in this to save souls. We’re really in this to save lives, so that – your belief system, my belief system, that’s not what this is about. This really is about living life on life’s terms, not the self-centered, self-focused terms of a drug addict or an alcoholic.
PC: It’s a really neat place.
RS: You were also asking how people find us. That’s the why people find us, the three things that we serve. We rely heavily on referrals. We rely heavily on our presence online, and then we rely heavily on the stories that are shared from our former clients.
KM: We talked a couple weeks ago when Phillip had his open house, and I know there’s something coming down the pike for you, but you were talking about some of the guys you help acquire employment or, and also the new residential or something?
RS: We absolutely believe that, for most of our clients, there needs to be a transition. Some type of sober living, transitional living, so we are in the early stages of creating a transitional home on our eight acres that we have out in Parker County.
KM: That’s exciting.
RS: Just to offer a broader continuum of care, because our program is by no means the most expensive program out there, but it’s not cheap, and you’re asking families to invest several dollars in the recovery process. They want to know, “What’s the plan after? If we’re going to invest this money in the here and now for 90 days, we want to make sure that our investment is protected when he leaves Stonegate. So we’ve got great relationships.
There are great options all over Dallas and Fort Worth for sober living and aftercare. We’re wanting to give those guys that don’t have a plan B when they leave Stonegate. We will always be advocating for programs – sober living programs around Dallas and Fort Worth. But for those guys that are just worn out, they’ve been through three or four or five programs, they don’t want to go back into another recovery environment, build relationships, build accountability and transparency. They’re just worn out.
KM: So are you saying that some of the men don’t want to go back to their homes? They like the life in where your setting is, and they just want to stay? They’re feeling compelled to stay in that.
RS: They fall in love.
KM: Does that make sense?
RS: It absolutely does. Most guys come into treatment with a very misunderstood definition of freedom. They believe freedom is defined by me getting to do what I want to do when I want to do it, and we don’t believe that’s freedom at all. We believe that true freedom is found in relationships that are rooted in transparency and accountability. And guys fall in love with that. They fall in love with this notion of being fully known and fully loved. That’s a very foreign concept because the lie we all believe, if anyone ever truly, fully knows me, there’s no way they’re going to be able to fully love me. And we’re introducing our guys to that concept in treatment. It’s attractive. They fall in love with it. It’s more attractive than the drugs, or the alcohol, or the pain pill, or the needle, or whatever.
PC: That’s what they were using to fill the hole in the first place.
RS: That’s it.
KM: There’s a lot of clarity and peace that is gained in 90 days with these guys. That’s amazing.
RS: We believe that’s the case, yes.
KM: You’re very successful in your early…
PC: So you have your men’s facility now, and you just mentioned the transition home.
KM: Transitional sober living.
PC: Guys like you. You’re like one of those double A personality types. You don’t sit still. There’s always something cooking. What is there that you’re dreaming up that you can talk about?
RS: We absolutely do, the day we opened our men’s program felt like our vision wouldn’t be carried out until it had a women’s program to complement it. There are even as few men’s alternatives there are for what we do in the 90-day men’s program, there’s even less women’s options. And we get a lot of calls for folks seeking help for gals, a version of something similar to what we do for men. So that’s absolutely a front-burner concern of ours, as well.
We feel very clearly pointed in a certain direction. We feel like we know who we are and, more importantly, we feel like we know who we aren’t. We do want to open a women’s program, but we also want to be fiscally responsible as we pursue that. It costs a lot of money to open a treatment center. It just does. We don’t want to overextend ourselves to the detriment of what we’re doing in the lives of men and their families.
PC: Do you know where this facility is going to be?
RS: We, again, hopefully, we’ve designated a place out close to where we are.
KM: But far enough away.
RS: Absolutely. We would never even do it next door. The dollars that would have to be invested in moats and razor wire and piranha. I like to tell people that pink and blue only make purple and we don’t need any more purple in the recovery industry.
PC: I like that.
KM: I do, too. Robert, this is awesome. Will you come back?
RS: Anytime. I’m telling you, it’s a hop, skip, and jump to get over here.
PC: We are out of time. So Robert is going to tell us where we can find him again.
RS: My personal cell is on every page of our website. I answer it 24 hours a day. The website is stonegatecenter.com. The phone number is on there, it’s 817-401-2362, and again, just go to the website. It’s all over. 817-401-2362, stonegatecenter.com.
KM: Ask for Robert.
RS: Ask for me. Last thing is when I do get a call, it’s not about funneling everybody into Stonegate. I want that person at the end of that call to feel understood and cared for. I appreciate you guys.
PC: You betcha. Kathleen, one more time, where can we find you?
KM: Lifetreecounseling.com, 972-234-6634, my extension is 104.
PC: I am still PC, the content marketing coach, and I can be found at contentmarketingcoach.us or 214-264-6297, and that’s all there is for this week. Robert, we appreciate you coming by.
RS: It is a joy.
PC: Thanks everybody for listening and on we go.