An Interview with Peter Loeb

Interviewee: Peter K. Loeb, Jr. – Co-Founder, President/CEO of Lionrock Recovery

What drew you to the field of online addiction treatment? Why?

Interview Peter Loeb photo

The spectre of addiction has been with me since childhood. My sister’s mental illness, and the early years of what would become her lifelong struggle with drugs and alcohol, was a constant source of discord in our house. She was a year younger than I, and we were very close.

Through the years though, the choices she made took her farther and farther away from me and the rest of our family. Forty years ago, when this was all happening, addiction was even less understood by the mainstream, and its stigma was even more punishing than it is now.

The experts my parents consulted told them that it was their own fault – bad parenting. Of course, addiction is “a family disease”, involving and affecting everyone in the house, and perhaps none of us were completely blameless.

Whatever the case, the stress of this struggle contributed to the break-up of my parents’ marriage only a few years later. And eventually, addiction took my dear sister, in 2010 at age 49.

I’ve come to understand that “family disease” can also refer to the genetic predisposition to addiction that research data has demonstrated. About half of all people who struggle with addiction see addiction elsewhere in their family.

My Oldest Daughter

When my oldest daughter, now nine years clean and sober, started to show the signs I’d seen a generation earlier in my sister, my wife and I rallied all of the resources we could. We fought a decade-long battle to help her see a path forward, a battle which included many of every parent’s greatest fears. I’m very grateful that she’s built a robust life in recovery.

The years spent supporting my family members’ struggles, provided me a deep education in the nature of addiction, and its treatment. All the while, in my professional life, I’m a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, developing and marketing consumer technology products and services.

Creating Lionrock Recovery

After my sister died, I decided to join the fight against addiction. Together with fellow entrepreneur Iain Crabb, and Ashley Loeb, my daughter in recovery, we created Lionrock Recovery.

Lionrock is a Joint Commission-accredited, online addiction treatment center. We provide treatment by secure, high definition video conference and mobile Internet application, offering several levels of outpatient care. We work with most private health insurers. We treat clients worldwide who seek treatment from the privacy of home.

What keeps you in this work, day after day?

My personal mission is to fight addiction. I’m angry that addiction has done so much damage to my family, and so many others. Through Lionrock, I channel this emotion into something positive and productive.

Offering care online allows us to reach people who otherwise wouldn’t seek help for their problems with drugs and alcohol. Many of our clients tell us that getting help online is the only way they are willing to do it. They fear the stigma of addiction more than addiction itself.

Over the last 20 years, I’ve worked to develop Internet services that improve people’s lives. In the past, that meant making it easier to send large files or find entertainment. But at Lionrock, I get to help people at a much deeper level.

What is your philosophy on addiction treatment?

First of all, I’m not a clinician. That said, as both a family member and a founder at Lionrock, I’ve seen a lot happen. A few things stick out. The first is that, while people struggling with addiction share many “symptoms”, there is no one right way to find recovery.

Individualized treatment is absolutely key. Every treatment center says that they provide individualized treatment, but it’s not so easily done. It’s easy to get stuck on “this is how we do it” or “it worked for me, so it will work for you.” At Lionrock, we all understand we must push back against this kind of status quo thinking.

Next, it’s critical that we treat addiction as a chronic illness, even though we often start treating clients in an acute phase. Recovery from addiction is a long-term effort, despite what we all might wish. For people whose experience with addiction is limited, it’s easy to assume that a month or two in “rehab” is a cure, but it’s really just a strong start.

Addiction treatment jumpstarts the recovery process with education, relapse prevention and other skills building, but a resilient life in recovery must include – for most people – some combination of long term support, strong basic life habits like nutrition and fitness, finding fellowship and learning to have fun in recovery.

So much of addiction treatment is helping clients re-build the basic components of their lives into substitutes for the drugs and alcohol which they previously used as a coping tool for life’s stresses. It’s not enough to get sober. Sobriety is the prerequisite for recovery.

What tools would you like your participants to gain while working with you?

We help our clients gain perspective on what addiction is, and how they can fight it. We help our clients understand the biological, psychological, and social components of addiction and recovery, and the spiritual when that’s appropriate.

In each of these categories, we help clients deepen their self-awareness and understanding of who they are, and how their own actions, and those of people around them, have contributed to the situation in which they find themselves. These elements provide the perspective that clients will need to evaluate situations they encounter in their recovery.

Building the Tools to Prevent Relapse

We help clients build the tools they need to prevent relapse. We believe that relapse is a process, not an event, and that the signs of relapse are detectable long before a person in recovery actually uses drugs or alcohol again.

We help clients identify the situations and people that propel their addictions. We help them build systems they can use to avoid these triggers when possible, or blunt their effects when avoiding them is impractical.

Planning a Life in Recovery

We help clients plan a life in recovery, and achieve their goals in building it. Going back to the biological, psychological, social, and spiritual components of life, we work with clients to identify what a life in recovery looks like, and where to find the pieces of the puzzle that together will provide a robust recovery and a happy life.

Some aspects of this are as simple as learning how to cook healthy meals and eating on a regular schedule. Others might involve issues so serious that a client considers making major changes in his or her life.

But most are less dramatic, and involve identifying and building habits that support the life a client wants: supportive friends, a good career, a happy family life, and positive ways to have fun.

What do you envision the future of addiction treatment to be like?

Well, let’s start with the kind of online care that Lionrock provides as being the immediate “future”. We provide group and individual therapy sessions by secure, high definition, video conference over the Internet.

It’s safe and easy to use. We also use a mobile application that builds structure and accountability by creating a daily schedule of therapeutic exercises – really just new habits to keep – and clients use their phones to check-in with a photo and a journal entry, and their location.

This way, clients use the app to create a record of their successes and progress in treatment, and it lets counselors stay in touch with clients when they’re not in counseling sessions. This isn’t exactly “the future”, because we’re doing it now, but many people tell me it sure feels like the future.

The Role of Online Care

I don’t think that online care will replace residential care for people who need it, and can afford the time away and money involved. But for the millions of people who struggle with addiction who don’t have access to care, or who are too scared to ask for help, getting help online may be the best way to go.

We often hear from both clients and counselors that they prefer treatment online to in-person because clients feel safe at home. They’re often willing to go deeper into issues because they’re more relaxed. Online treatment also can be a valuable tool when returning home from residential treatment, as a step-down to outpatient care.

In the future of online care, instead of sitting in front of a screen looking at pictures on a screen, we’ll sit at a table and place a little box in the middle that creates life-size holograms of the other people in group and your therapist. It will be much more like sitting in a circle. The technology already exists, but it’s still too expensive for consumer use.

Medically-Assisted Treatment

Another promising area in the future of addiction treatment is medically-assisted treatment. While the drug therapies available now can be helpful when used carefully, they are imperfect at best. At some point in the future, whether by electromagnetism, pharmaceutical, or some other means, we will learn how to “reset” the brain to eliminate the cravings of addiction.

We’ll still need counseling to complement this biological treatment with needed psychological, social, and spiritual progress, but when we can easily make the brain “forget” its addictions, we’ll be light years ahead of today.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addiction. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 1st, 2015
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About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.