Two ubiquitous features of the Florida landscape are golf and addiction recovery. Could it be that this pairing has coexisted but not realized its potential in tandem?
A management company that facilitates treatment by bringing together a team of providers for concierge programs will seek to merge the two pursuits in Palm Beach County. Addiction Reach is launching a short-term intensive treatment program, designed mainly for out-of-staters, that will combine diverse modalities of therapy with lessons in golf from a mental perspective.
Program leaders believe that both enjoyable golf and sustainable recovery share common psychological components, including the abilities to demonstrate emotional mastery and to be present in the moment.
Addiction Reach CEO Sue Merklin says the idea arose when other patients she has helped—mainly successful men from the Baby Boomer generation—inquired about maintaining a connection to golf while in their treatment and recovery program. She emphasizes that in this new initiative, golf will be seen not as an ancillary activity but as a component of a wide-ranging clinical program. She has partnered in the effort with Tim Kremer, a Florida-based peak performance coach who has worked with numerous touring professionals.
“I coach the mind game,” says Kremer, whose business goes by the name Spirit of Golf. “What I work with is athletes' emotional management skills.” He says he sees the themes of golf and recovery as creating “a perfect blending.”
The amount of time that patients will spend on a golf course during the self-pay program will derive from a mutual decision between the clinical team and the individual, based on his/her treatment needs and areas of interest (Merklin says she has used other activities such as yoga in a similar fashion as part of concierge treatment).
Kremer will work with patients on an individual basis, on the aspects of golf that aren't about the physical swing. “The main emphasis is to stabilize one's emotions in spite of performance,” he says, much in the same way that individuals in recovery seek to cope with relationship challenges or other stressors that might trigger a relapse.
He says he will bring in other instructors to help patients hone the technical aspects of their game. The Abacoa golf club in Jupiter will serve as the primary site for the golf component. Participants will not have to be proficient golfers.
“This will be fun, too,” Kremer says. “This is not a golf boot camp.”
Kremer says that while he has never been asked to address substance use-related issues in his coaching of touring professionals, he believes substance use problems are relatively common in the professional ranks. He adds that the stressors of the golf course can help bring on or exacerbate such problems for golfers in general.
Merklin says patients in the program will receive more hours of clinical care than what many luxury rehabs offer. Some will have to receive detox services in the area first (she works with Jupiter Medical Center in Palm Beach County to furnish detox care), while others may travel to this program to receive more of an aftercare element. “Our patients are generally functional,” she says.
Amid the clinical services, “The golf would almost be the gift” to patients, Merklin says, acknowledging that for some it could serve as the boost to convince them to pursue or stay in treatment.