Though only a medium-sized town, Eden Prairie has a big-idea institution on Martin Drive.
Founded in 1986, Pride Institute, 14400 Martin Drive, specializes in treatment of addiction in LGBTQ+ patients.
Terri Hayden, who has a master’s degree in psychology and many years in treating addiction, is the chief executive officer of Pride Institute.
Hayden answered questions about her facility, its programs, and its patients.
On why treatment is restricted to gay addicts, Hayden said that gives patients a chance to focus on themselves and feel safe. The patients do not have to explain themselves to non-gay patients.
She said that addiction is not a special problem of gay people but instead affects all people.
Since the Pride Institute does not keep data on the parents of addicts, Hayden cannot say whether gay addicts come from addicted parents. Typically, she said, those treated at the Pride Institute have multiple addictions rather than a single one.
Pride Institute is a good fit
Hayden said the Pride Institute uses a variety of treatment programs—including 12-step, dharma, and “smart” programs.
She noted that telehealth (Zoom and/or phone sessions) works well in Pride Institute’s outpatient treatment, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Telehealth makes clinician accessibility easier and also helps contact a patient’s physician and—where applicable—a patient’s parole officer.
The Pride Institute can treat addiction and sexual health issues simultaneously and deal with mental and physical health.
Clients are comfortable with being gay, and Pride Institute celebrates being gay and being yourself, she said.
After treatment, a patient can receive support from Pride Institute’s alumni association as well as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and other support groups. People in recovery use the term “sober” interchangeably to describe recovery from alcoholism or drug addiction.
Mechanics of treatment
Hayden said the Pride Institute uses both individual treatment and group therapy treatment.
It has 42 beds for residential treatment and also a sizeable outpatient treatment program. With COVID-19 and everyone’s current busyness, about half of Pride Institute’s patients avail themselves of its outpatient treatment, which allows them to go to their jobs.
Pride Institute has a formal outpatient center in south Minneapolis. Some patients move from the residential program to the outpatient center, while a substantial number of patients just sign on directly to the outpatient center.
Licensed drug and alcohol counselors are always difficult positions to fill. At Pride Institute these counselors are combined with nurse practitioners, nurses, and contracted psychiatrists.
Hayden indicated that Pride Institute is in-network with almost every health insurance company and in contact with Minnesota Medicaid.
Partial hospitalization lodging is available and is located away from the institute’s residential center. It is supervised living like what used to be called a halfway house.
Jon H. is gay and a recovering addict who, several years ago, was treated at Pride Institute. He now works as a drug and alcohol clinician at a major addiction treatment center.
Pride Institute was Jon’s seventh treatment for addiction. He had lived on the East Coast and sought Pride’s program in Minnesota, deciding he would be more comfortable in a setting with gay patients.
He said he experienced a certain amount of trauma in coming out as gay. He does think that addiction is more likely for gay people. That’s because so much of gay life centers around gay bars—potentially leading to a higher rate of addiction in the gay community.
According to Jon, his gay life and addiction were shaped by his early life experiences.
Jon is now “15 years clean and sober.”
He is emphatically not “cured” but rather has a continual recovery program he follows. Giving a favorable nod to the intense work at Pride Institute, he believes that the average doctor has probably only about seven hours of education on the treatment of addiction.
Jon said that multiple addictions would be typical for many gay addicts.
He mainly went through a 12-step program of treatment. However, he said that 12-step emphasis on spirituality is difficult for many gay people to accept, given the stigmatizing of homosexuality by many traditional religions.
There seems to be little difference in result between remote and in-person addiction treatments, he added.
Jon thinks that addiction and sexual health can be treated together. He said a facility can treat both mental health and physical health (and their considerable overlap). Still, he conceded that few places have such capabilities.
While gay people do, at one point or another, struggle with their identity, Jon said they have usually accepted their gayness by the time they seek addiction treatment.
He thinks suicide is more common in the gay community than in the general community. There is patient support after treatment.
Besides the Pride Institute, there is a “robust, vibrant” Twin Cities recovery community including Out & Sober Minnesota and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation outpatient programs. There is also a wealth of support literature.
Most treatment centers use group therapy, Jon said. His own treatment was residential with a little outpatient work.
As a clinician, he said it is hard to keep up with the demand for licensed drug and alcohol counselors, even though only 9 to 13 percent of addicts seek professional help.
To him, total abstinence from addictive substances may not always be as important as improved quality of life.
Treatment for addiction did enhance his life as a gay man.
“I was able to find my way,” he said.
The longer a person is associated with a treatment experience, the better the outcome.
He acknowledged that his family paid for his treatment and he had no difficulty getting access to trained, licensed staff at Pride Institute.
“I would not be alive if I had not gotten sober,” he said.
Jon then went to graduate school and “became the cliché”: the recovering addict who becomes the clinician. He says that Pride Institute is a pioneer in the field.
Old school and yet advanced
One other recovering addict who is gay rounds out the story.
Searching for a way to maintain his anonymity, he laughingly suggested he be referred to as “Joe Blow (not his real name).”
Forty years ago, Joe had not entirely come out as gay.
He was part of a newspaper community, where alcohol was the staff of life.
Even though it was 1978, Joe’s employer was so advanced as to have a chemical dependency counselor on staff.
To treat his addiction, Joe was whisked off to Meadowbrook Hospital, which found an outpatient program for him. He participated in the program five nights a week for a month.
Coming from pragmatic Norwegian stock, Joe said he had a program that was old school: Don’t drink, and go to AA meetings.
During treatment, he learned a useful lesson.
“Addiction is not the problem,” he said. “It’s the solution to a bigger problem.”
He does concede that the rate of long-term success for treatment is perhaps 10 percent.
As he finished formal treatment, Joe was encouraged to attend “aftercare” meetings and find a sponsor (a recovering addict who would act as a mentor). Joe said meetings in recovery “are the foundation of recovery.” Today people can find not only recovery literature but recovery apps.
Joe’s treatment consisted of a combination of individual and group therapies. He was also given therapeutic assignments.
Treatment did enhance his life as a gay man. He said his counselors told him, “Coming out will be a big part of your recovery.”
Joe noted a challenge. In-patient treatment costs something like $30,000, but insurance does foot much of the bill.
In passing, he said Pride Institute has become a for-profit institution. He did not say that in itself was a strike against them.
Joe said he subscribes to the old recovery idea: an addict has to change his playground, playmates, and playthings.
Treatment taught him to pay attention to what is going on in his life. He also learned to associate with sober people.
“You don’t do it by yourself, and you don’t have to,” he said.
Had he not had treatment and worked hard on recovery, Joe is certain of his fate.
“I would probably be dead or—worse yet—an old, washed-up alcoholic,” he said.