This article originally appeared on Huffington Post.


The last article I wrote on working with high-wealth individuals drew a lot of attention. A few individuals wrote this population was their specialty and some individuals called me to see what I knew. It was as if they believe there is a secret sauce just for high-wealth, high-profile individuals and families. A few even radically suggested this was just theirarea of expertise and to boldly stay away. However, I believe it’s best to have more highly-trained individuals working with this population due to the increasing need. Approximately 142 people die every day in the United States as a result of the opioid epidemic. Approximately one in eight people meet the criteria for a substance use disorder and 48% of the United States young adult and adult population reports they smoke marijuana. I’ve learned this is an important demographic to study and care for throughout my work with high-wealth families and executive teams.

I consulted with my good friend and colleague, Dr. James Flowers, CEO of Driftwood Recovery. Together, we have 45+ years of experience working with high-wealth clients, their families, their estate attorneys or consigliere, business managers and executive protection teams.

Here are 12 salient points we believe to be evidenced-based and that make good sense when working with high-net worth individuals and their entourages and/or families:

  1. CEOs like to talk to CEOs – Make sure you include your CEO in the admissions process from the beginning. CEOs, high-profile government officials and celebrities are accustomed to only talking with C-suite executives, who must be hand-on in this process.
  2. CEOS like to delegate – Often times, with high-wealth families there is an estate attorney, wealth manager, business manager, personal assistant or consigliere. Make sure they have a nondisclosure agreement and have permission to talk with you and are bound by their own confidentiality agreement.
  3. There are at least two families in a high-wealth person’s life – One biological, the other is a business family. Both must be included in interventions and in treatment, although not necessarily at the same time. Intensives are often a good way to structure treatment.
  4. Individualized, Customized Treatment – High-wealth individuals are accustomed to getting their own way to have things done for them now. They may be concerned about the room, view, location, thread count, size, access to phone and internet and whether there is a room in which their personal assistant might be. Most of all, they want to know treatment is individualized and customized. Do not over-promise and under-deliver. Remember, you need to be available for inquiring minds full of questions and fears.
  5. Setting Boundaries – Spouses and children of high-net-worth individuals may have been overindulged and have multiple issues such as failure to launch, shopping, gambling, spending and other financial issues. When developing boundaries with high-net-worth individuals, consider ways that will encourage entitled individuals to launch. This can mean cutting off funds by working with estate attorneys and wealth mangers to do so, as long as there is a structure in place for this to occur.
  6. Executive Protection is Part of the Team – Often, celebrities and high-net-worth individuals travel with protection especially when they are on tour or traveling to other parts of the country. Incorporating executive protection into the treatment team is a reliable strategy if you are considering inviting the client to change through an intervention. This method is reliable because they already have a relationship with the potential client and can be used to gain entry or as safe-passage escorts. Other times, the celebrity or high-net-worth individual may be removed from the spotlight during this time. This can make it difficult to get in touch with them, but the executive protection team can serve as a connection point to the individual. This team may also be called on to help protect the client’s underage children.
  7. Secrets Dominate – Discretion is key with high-profile, high-wealth clients. It is natural and commonplace for staff to get excited if a celebrity or their family member is a client. There must be stringent rules on confidentiality in place for everyone present. You must ensure no photos are taken and there is no discussion of clients in treatment. Also, high-wealth individuals may not want their financial advisors, insurance carriers, or constituents to know they went to treatment, unless they choose to publicly share about it. There can be fear of stigma or a permanent record.
  8. Creative Intervention Location – Interventions are often done in boardrooms, airplanes, homes, guest houses, at concerts or on movie sets. The planning and execution of a creative use of whereabouts to hold an intervention must done with discretion. There is no need for Daily Mail, National Enquirer, Washington Post or TMZ to exploit a family when it is most vulnerable.
  9. Education is Required – All involved need to learn about substance abuse, mental health, chronic pain and trauma. Think of short, concise ways to teach on these subjects. The family member may be a world-renowned expert in their field and no nothing of ours. Look to have resources that are meaningful to them as a business leader or as a high-profile celebrity. Again, focus on customized curriculum.
  10. Trauma is Commonplace – As we know, trauma and addiction often walk down the aisle together and addiction often covers up trauma. While high-wealth persons can buy a lot, they cannot cover up the emotional and physical abuse of what they did, witnessed, or the incidents in which they were involved. Family mapping is an excellent way to learn about their families and begin to see how trauma has affected the entire system.
  11. Complete Physicals – A high-wealth client and their families are accustomed to having executive physicals and may even have their own concierge team of doctors. This team will need to be consulted and incorporated into the treatment plan. Often, sports stars or celebrities with chronic pain have their own team and it is ideal to collaborate with this team throughout treatment.
  12. Customized Aftercare – Lastly, customized aftercare is a must. That may mean a morning, daily check-in with the person in recovery or three-day intensives with a team of individuals designed for this kind of support. This team should be able to travel to support both in and outside of the boardroom, the athletic field or stage so the high-profile client can live life worth living.