Essential Elements of Successful Addiction Treatment: A Presentation By Wasatch Crest’s Clinical Team

By Wasatch Crest’s Executive Director Rich McDonald, CMHC and Clinical Director Jordan Gardner, CSW 

Wasatch Crest’s executive director Rich McDonald, CMHC and clinical director Jordan Gardner, CSW discuss how clinical culture, therapeutic care, and team collaboration contribute to successful addiction treatment. You can watch their presentation and read the transcript below.


Jordan: An overarching clinical culture of dedication, compassion, and positivity helps ensure the overall treatment experience is successful. Supporting the clinicians in whatever ways possible helps energize the team and foster dedication. At Wasatch Crest, we encourage our clinicians to find aspects of care that they’re passionate about and integrate it into treatment in ways that align with clinical programming. We’re always open to new ideas from our clinicians which helps fuel their creativity and sustains their inspiration.

Rich: Compassion, empathy, and kindness underlie all aspects of treatment. With an unconditional positive regard, our clinical team approaches client care, client interaction, and team collaboration. By setting the tone for the entire staff, from the chef to the recovery advocates, the clinical culture infuses all aspects of the treatment experience. Without such a positive atmosphere, it’s difficult to help clients heal. Different clinicians bring various strengths to the table, but ultimately how the treatment team works together and the compassionate approach we take with our clients makes the biggest difference.

Jordan: A person comes to treatment because the way they’ve been living their life just isn’t working and they need help. With that in mind, if clients make mistakes, cross boundaries, or step outside of the guidelines, we simply use the instances as opportunities for learning. We help clients understand that mistakes are normal, but they also have natural consequences. At the same time, we guide them in dealing with those repercussions in healthy and productive ways. By avoiding implementing any punitive aspects, our clinicians can maintain an unconditional positive perspective based in compassion and empathy. The approach seems to benefit clinicians in addition to clients. 

Rich: If clinicians aren’t able to extend a second or even twentieth chance to the clients without judgment, then I don’t know where else they will find it. There’s plenty of judgment that clients may encounter outside of treatment. There are also institutional systems for consequences. As clinicians, it’s not our role to impart judgment or consequences to clients. It’s our job to help them move towards healing, so that when they do face judgment or consequences, they can meet them with resilience and continue creating new lives in recovery.


Jordan: At Wasatch Crest, clients participate in individual, group, and experiential therapy. Clients meet with their therapists twice a week for individual therapy sessions. The twice-weekly individual therapy sessions allow clinicians to spend quality time with clients, create strong connections, and develop trusting relationships. That way, clinicians are more effectively able to understand the client and the root causes of their struggles. 

Jordan: The relationship between the client and therapist is one of the most important factors of therapeutic success. This translates to group and experiential therapy as well. Because our interactions with our clients aren’t limited to individual therapy sessions, we’re able to gain more insight in group and experiential therapy settings. Experiential therapy is especially revealing. When we take clients on an experiential therapy outing, we can interact with them in different contexts and gain more information about them. 

Rich: All of these therapeutic components are equally crucial. Individuals connect and learn in different ways. Some may thrive in group settings, and others may open up more in individual sessions. Time and again, I’ve witnessed how taking clients outside into nature during experiential therapy can encourage their vulnerability. By providing a wide range of therapeutic opportunities for our clients, we’re able to help them navigate the treatment experience and develop the skills they need for early recovery.

Jordan: It’s unbelievable how many times I’ve met with a client in an initial session and maybe there’s a tendency to withhold information. We have a few paths out here around our facility, so I’ll take some clients there to walk. Getting them moving instead of sitting and staring at each other in a therapy office can be beneficial. Because every client is different, we encourage and empower our clinicians to do what’s right for each client, so we can truly meet the client where they are.

Jordan: Clients’ therapeutic journeys don’t end with us. We want them to have good experiences so that they continue their aftercare with another therapist. By instilling trust in the therapeutic process, we try to encourage clients to continue their care on an outpatient level. Additionally, outcomes are typically much better when clients participate in our full continuum of care. After residential treatment, they might step down to our intensive outpatient or partial hospitalization program, and maybe couple it with a transitional living program. It’s difficult to get somebody to commit to the whole process if they don’t have a positive experience in residential treatment. Instead, we hope that they look back on treatment as a helpful growing and learning experience.

Jordan: Twenty years ago the approach to substance abuse disorder treatment was dramatically different. It was very punitive in a lot of cases. It was in the end actually pretty shaming. As the knowledge has evolved and we understand the connection between the therapeutic alliance and the understanding that addiction really is a disease, the treatment experience is meant to be empowering as opposed to shaming and punitive.


Rich: We have a multidisciplinary treatment team of social workers, mental health counselors, substance use disorder counselors, psychiatrists, nurses, and case managers. Sharing our knowledge, listening to any feedback from other staff members, being open to team members’ ideas and perspectives validates and empowers the staff, while keeping the team cohesive.

Jordan: Team collaboration extends beyond our facility as well. It involves working with primary care providers, aftercare resources, and probation officers to ensure the client receives the best care possible.


Located in Utah’s majestic Wasatch Mountain range, our alpine-style campus offers a healing retreat for those struggling with substance abuse. With levels of care that include residential treatment, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, and transitional living programs, we guide clients through their early recovery journeys so they can feel empowered to create new lives in sobriety. Reach out to learn more about our addiction treatment services. 

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