I just spent some time reading Google reviews for the Coleman Institute. Many patients reference their recent experiences, while other narratives go back years.

For myself, I’ll never forget my first inkling of what it meant to be a patient here.

In 2007 I was interviewing for a Family Nurse Practitioner position in the Richmond, Virginia area. I’d been working for five years, and my current employer was planning to retire. I answered an ad in the newspaper and met with Dr. Coleman soon after. It seemed like a good fit: he was a genuinely nice, laid-back Kiwi (he is from New Zealand), the office was within biking distance, the staff very pleasant, and the family practice patients were diverse. As our conversation was coming to a close, Dr. Coleman informed me that he also practiced Addiction Medicine.

Although I didn’t really know what that entailed, it wasn’t the kind of statement that made me want to sign an employment contract. I politely thanked him and told him I was going to continue with some other interviews but agreed to return and shadow him for a couple of hours to learn about this part of his practice. I think I’d already made up my mind that this wasn’t the gig I was looking for. A few days later, I returned to follow Dr. Coleman around as he introduced me to ‘Addiction Medicine’.

Gaining Perspective to Addiction Medicine

There is a Rule of 3’s for writers; you build up the drama a bit by talking about the first thing, then the second thing, and the 3rd thing is supposed to be the crescendo. I could embellish this story by making up two unmemorable patients we saw first, but the truth is, the very first exam room we entered delivered a pinnacle moment.

A mother and father were in the room with their twenty-something son. Before Dr. Coleman could introduce me, the mother ran over to him, embraced him, and cried, “We have our son back! Thank you… thank you,” with tears streaming down her face.

Since becoming a patient of the Coleman Institute, their son had been off opioids for 6 months, utilizing long-acting Naltrexone—a non-addictive opioid blocker—to help him in his journey. He had been prescribed pain medication for two years after a surgery, became physically dependent, and then turned to heroin when the medication was discontinued—an oft-told story in our country. I didn’t need to see more. I signed on.

Lives Reclaimed with the Coleman Method

As I read through the Google reviews and watched the patient testimonial videos this morning, I couldn’t help but think how gratifying it has been to have joined this treatment program more than fifteen years ago and been allowed to be a part of helping people reclaim their lives from the destructive power of addictive substances. I believe that—beyond stellar medical service—what we have always offered (and continue to offer), is a vehicle for hope.

I’m uncertain precisely how many patients have been able to stay sober over the long-term; I know some have returned to us over the years after relapsing. Many more have sent friends and family members. Occasionally we will hear from a grateful patient who was treated over 25 years ago when Dr. Coleman was pioneering his treatment for people with Substance Use Disorder as one of the first practitioners utilizing long-acting Naltrexone.

In Maya Angelou’s words: “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” This is why I think people write the kind of reviews we (mostly) have on Google and other platforms. This is why they return after relapse. This is why they send their family members and friends. This is why they send cards and emails and update us on their progress.

A True Understanding of Addiction Gives Hope

From the very beginning, Dr. Coleman understood the disease of addiction. He himself has been in recovery for almost forty years. His belief that each and every patient we serve can also experience recovery has provided hope for thousands of people.

He remains passionate not only that our team deliver the highest standards of patient care, and that treatment is based on current research in the growing field of addiction medicine, but also he has laid the foundation for a setting where a person with Substance Use Disorder feels welcomed and not judged. Our patients are our VIPs; they are treated with compassion, respect, and warmth.

Over the years he has taught staff and patients formally and informally, bringing employees to recovery meetings and recovery residences to deepen our knowledge on the disease of addiction. He hosts meetings with others in similar fields in the local community so our office can smoothly make referrals as appropriate, and he is part of a group of ‘like-minded doctors’ from around the world who discuss the nuances of substance use disorders and confer with colleagues.


A Team of Experts Caring with Kindness

Recently, the Coleman Institute has been fortunate to bring on Dr. Craig Swainey as a Medical Director on the team with extensive experience treating people with Substance Use Disorders; he is also a person in long-term recovery.

When I or one of my colleagues are screening patients who are so nervous to sign on for an opioid, fentanyl, or alcohol detox (taking this important step for the first—or maybe forty-first—time), it is so gratifying to be able to answer questions and address their specific concerns. We are happy to share as much as potential patients request in order to convey a realistic idea of what they and their support person should expect.

I have to mention the first round of people who are at the call center and interact with our patients. Over and over again I get feedback about their helpfulness in answering questions and providing important information.

Even in the midst of as serious a medical procedure as any alcohol, Fentanyl, or opioid detox, I often hear our front desk team members sharing a laugh with new patients, immediately putting them at ease. Our medical assistants, counselors, and case managers consistently are mentioned in our reviews as kind, caring, compassionate and competent.

Although staffing inevitably changes at any place of business, the consistent threads of kindness, respect, competence, and compassion have persisted, and for most of our patients, continues to provide a truly profound experience on their individual recovery journey.

The Coleman Institute Family is Here for You

Obviously this isn't a blog with a lot of facts or data, but it is a heartfelt tribute to my colleagues and the 'DNA' of the Coleman Institute. There are really not many places in this country that provide an outpatient opioid or alcohol detox, coupled with long-acting naltrexone on the final day. Perhaps even fewer that share the camaraderie and dedication you will find here.

We invite you to schedule a callback with us if you have any questions for our team.

Joan Shepherd FNP