Marketplace: Red Willow provides counseling and addiction treatment in Park City
Therapist aims to make a difference
Arch Wright first came to Park City in the late 1970s and early 1980s as a ski racer with a promising career.
It didn’t take long for his dependence on drugs and alcohol to wreck it.
“I had a raging addiction problem,” he said. “It was a big deal for me that that interrupted something that meant so much to me.”
Shortly after leaving Park City, Wright sought treatment and has been sober for more than three decades. Now, he’s back in town to help others overcome their addictions and mental health issues, as well. He is a counselor at the recently opened Park City office of Red Willow Counseling and Recovery, whose addiction treatments are a first in the area, according to Connect Summit County, a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness about mental health issues.
“We have a long-term vision of treatment here,” said Wright, who is also training to become a certified sex addiction therapist.
Wright said he got involved in helping people recover from addiction right after he got sober. But he became a therapist only after a mid-life career change following 22 years in real estate finance, when the market crash in 2008 caused him to reevaluate his life. He decided to merge his professional background with his passion for recovery and began offering financial consulting for people starting residential addiction treatment centers.
At the same time, he went back to school to earn a master’s degree in counseling. Now, he does both, but is primarily focused on seeing patients at Red Willow.
Much of Wright’s work with Red Willow — which was founded by James Ott and also has offices in Salt Lake City — centers on addiction. But it isn’t only for people suffering from dependence on substances like drugs or alcohol. He also treats clients who have what are known as process addictions, which can range from sex to video gaming to work to gambling.
“The estimates are that two out of three adults have some form of behavioral addiction pattern at least developing if not full blown,” he said. “… And a lot of that stuff swirls around money and wealth. So when we take the mental illness and substance abuse and all of those process addictions, we have a community here that probably has a big need in those areas.”
In Park City, Wright said, many families appear perfect on the outside but in reality are dysfunctional and crumbling from within. One of Red Willow’s aims is to encourage families like that to seek help. While they don’t show the same outward signs as someone struggling with substance abuse, people in those situations can be suffering just as much as a drug addict, he said.
“Culturally and societally, they’re actually in a little bit of a bind because people look at them like, ‘What kind of problems could you have?’” he said.
He added that Red Willow hopes to partner with the Summit County Mental Wellness Alliance — an initiative comprising several government and private organizations — to address some of the broad mental health issues Park City is facing.
“We have a vision that’s a little bit bigger than treating one person at a time,” he said. “I think there’s an opportunity to make a much greater impact by looking at education versus simply treatment.”
In Wright, families and individual patients will see a therapist who himself has struggled with many of the same issues they’re grappling with. In addition to his drug and alcohol problems, Wright said he grew up in a dysfunctional family. The effects of his childhood manifested themselves in his first marriage, which was plagued by co-dependence issues and ended after 24 years.
The perspective he gained from going through those struggles — and overcoming them — is the most important attribute he has as a therapist, he said.
“It’s the most useful, effective thing that I bring to the therapy relationship,” he said. “I have nothing more valuable than my own experience. … It helps me build very strong, trusting relationships with clients. I think that’s where my life experience makes that sort of automatic.”
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