Caron Pennsylvania 3 stars
Caron's hilltop HQ treats teens and adults in a New England boarding school atmosphere—discipline included. But if evangelical rallying cries and impromptu stage shows prove too much, a free cocktail is just a stroll away.
Caron Treatment Center Pennsylvania
For those wanting a traditional 12-step approach to recovery in a strictly controlled environment, Caron Pennsylvania, a venerable 110-acre institution that’s been around for over 60 years, provides a firm but caring framework for recovery. The stately old Keystone State campus—where the ambiance is decidedly “New England boarding school”—occupies an historic resort in the rolling hills of rural Wernersville, and the architecture is symbolic of the center’s time-tested approach to recovery. (Caron’s young adult program serves 18-to-25-year-olds who, says one grad, “in spite of their trust funds, all seem to want to be rappers.”)
The Caron rehab facility enforces a rigid separation of genders, and insists on a no-nonsense treatment regimen. Caffeine and non-recovery related books are banned as well, and smokers can puff only at designated times. Caron’s time-tested treatment plan generally eschews trendy fads like yoga, art, and equine therapy that pervade more recent rehabs. Clients cough up cell phones and MP3 players immediately upon check-in, and use of the landline requires a “phone pass” reluctantly doled out by a counselor.
Life at Caron starts early and is highly structured—clients are up by 6am and engaged in treatment programs until 10pm—and there’s little autonomy (everyone must traverse the campus in groups of threes). The stiff institutional atmosphere makes the Caron rehab facility feel “like a cross between a dormitory and a hospital,” says one grad. “They want you to feel like you're in treatment—not at a luxury resort.” While some alumni rave about the staff, others complain. “It doesn’t seem like they get rock star techs and doctors,” notes one grad. “It’s a lot of church lady women that have been there for 30 years.”
The Caron treatment center facility is clean and attractive, but not overly grand. Residents are required to do their own laundry and make their beds every morning, which might not exactly come as second nature to the majority of the clientele—largely white, upper-middle and upper class patients that include hedge-funders, politicians, and occasional celebs (Liza Minnelli and Steven Tyler among them).
Adults dig into a buffet offering standard fare—meat and potatoes, a vegetable, and a salad bar. The on-site adolescent unit—catering to youngsters aged 13–19, complete with its own grownup-free group meetings —serves clients in a separate dining facility with a more restricted (i.e., sugar-free) menu.
During their limited free time, clients have the option to pump iron at the gym, shoot hoops, or run on the treadmill. Less athletic sorts can stroll around the scenic campus or make jewelry. Those in the adolescent unit take retreats off campus, go camping, and watch a steady stream of PG movies.
A mandatory campus ritual is the Sunday morning “chapel” meeting led by a quirky Catholic priest and former army chaplain named Father Bill Hultberg, who serves as Caron's in-house "spiritual advisor." “Father Bill does this same schpiel week after week,” says one alum. “It’s kind of like an evangelical rally—he preaches passionately about God and recovery. Then he plays rap music and Britney Spears.” At the conclusion of every performance, Father Bill invites select clients to join him on stage before the 400-person campus and perform a song, play the guitar or express their gratitude to the Caron staff. Most are happy to indulge him—including Tyler and Minnelli, who reportedly entertained their peers with a few tunes.
But Caron offers far more than just music and the facility’s rigid structure often serves as an effective antidote to the freewheeling lifestyle many of its clients indulge in until they arrive. “They really helped me pull myself together," says one enthusiastic alum. "I needed the discipline and their firm hand. I would definitely go back if I relapsed.” The Caron rehab center actually boasts a specialized relapse program where people that have already endured the initial 28-day program—and memorized all the talking points on addiction and recovery—can pick up where they left off; an in-depth exploration of the mechanisms of relapse is an integral (read: mandatory) aspect of the relapse program.
And the special few who can't make it through the program receive a kind of booby prize upon their departure: a bar at the base of the mountain-top drug rehab facility in Pennsylvania offers relapsing clients a free cocktail in exchange for their Caron sobriety chip.
Have you been to rehab? The Fix wants to know how it went. Click here to complete a Rehab Review survey for the treatment center you attended.