Scott Disick’s Rehab Cell Phone Use Raises the Question: Should Cell Phones be Allowed in Early Treatment?

In a recent episode of Kourtney & Khloe Take the Hamptons, Scott Disick — partner to Kourtney Kardashian — turns himself in to rehab after another round of struggling with substance abuse. Later that episode, there’s reference to a letter Disick has written from rehab shortly into his stay, saying that he had just been given back his phone.

The episode raises an important question…when should clients regain cell phone access?

It’s a common policy for treatment centers to ask new clients to turn in their cellphones upon entry. Clients are often resistant to the idea since cell phones are a ‘lifeline’ to everything they’re used to. They don’t want to be isolated from family and friends, who may themselves wish for contact throughout treatment. Rehab is also an opportunity to face personal emotions and responsibilities, which a cell phone allows participants to ‘escape’ from.

The wisdom of withholding phone access for at least the first week of treatment is self-evident for a number of reasons:

  1. When drugs are part of the problem: people entering treatment are best served if they are blocked from contacting people who can provide them with drugs. The initial surrender of asking for help and submitting to treatment is fragile and can be easily disrupted by an obsession to get high again. If access to drugs is just a phone call away, it becomes tempting to tap into that line and walk away from treatment.
  2. Healthy break from reality: What seems like isolation from familiarity is actually a healthy break from a dysfunctional reality. Family, friends, and loved ones may need a break from the turmoil and drama that usually precede treatment, as they are all affected by the addict/alcoholic’s behavior. On the same token, the new patient also needs to be forced into a break from the broken dynamics that he or she has created in all these relationships – at least until some recovery has laid the groundwork for a new approach to interacting with others.
  3. Focusing on the Real Problem: Many people new to recovery cling to the belief that if they can fix their external problems, their internal ones will subside. This idea often leads to a kind of desperate sense of responsibility, but the attempts to manage circumstances usually amount to re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Cellphone access to one’s ‘outside’ life makes for a distraction from the truly important work of recovery.

We hope that Scott finds recovery and is able to stay the course. His willingness to surrender his phone served as a symbolic gesture of cooperation in the process of recovery.

Image Source: Kourtney and Scott (WENN)

About the Reviewer: Chris Barnes

Chris BarnesChristopher Barnes has worked in health care for over thirty years. He is a graduate of Alabama State University where he earned a double Bachelor of Science Degree in Social Work and Psychology in 1982. Christopher Barnes is currently the Director of Clinical services at The Discovery House where he has been employed for the past five years. Because of his extensive experience in health care & substance abuse he has an excellent rapport with constituents, clients, and other professional organizations in the counseling/social service community.

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