Casa Palmera 3 stars
Casa Palmera offers sun-drenched luxury a stone's throw from the sea (and a few stars). But the one-size-fits-all AA approach doesn't always go down as well as the homemade peanut butter.
Location: Del Mar, Calif.
Phone: (866) 768-6719
Price: $30,000 (double room) or $39,000 (single)
Overall: 3 stars
Accommodations: 4 stars
Treatment: 2 stars
Food: 4 stars
California Drug Rehab Review
Fending off a diverse range of ailments, from chronic pain to anorexia to—of course—addiction, the Casa Palmera rehab center puts a contemporary spin on the typical 12-step recovery center, blending in trendy techniques like yoga, guided meditation, and art therapy to supplement the familiar AA routine. Happily, all this treatment takes place a stone's throw from the beach in Del Mar: the sun-drenched, surfer-suffused seaside resort dotted with palm trees, posh country clubs, million-dollar McMansions and the famous Del Mar racetrack, a playground for Hollywood stars like Kevin Costner and Jessica Simpson.
Fittingly, Casa Palmera doesn’t eschew the luxurious vibes of its surroundings. The California drug rehab facility, complete with a backyard rock-climbing wall, is “pretty over-the-the top,” says a former client. “The place makes you feel like you’re at home.” That is, of course, if your home is a million-dollar manse complete with a full-service housekeeping staff and in-house dietitian who coordinates nutritious “Mediterranean-style” meals (read: low sugar and lots of olive oil) that include a lot of chicken, fish, and veggies, prepared from scratch (even, notes a recent grad, the peanut butter is concocted in-house).
A patient’s day is busy, beginning at 7 a.m. with 15 minutes of pre-breakfast announcements, and then consumed by a tightly-packed regimen of meals, exercise, twice-daily individual therapy sessions, meetings (where topics range from group therapy, to co-dependency, nutrition, and medication-management), spiritual training lectures, and, three days a week, a field trip to the beach. In the late afternoon, they can indulge in yoga, grief counseling or the ropes course.
Although they’re unable to indulge in all the pleasures of the beachside resort vacation of their dreams—candy and coffee are considered contraband—Casa Palmera clients can connect online at the in-house computer lab (though Facebook is completely banned), make phone calls on the center’s landline, and even enjoy unrestricted cell phone use after the first two weeks. They’re also allowed to light up during regular smoking breaks, though smokers are required to attend smoking cessation classes and regularly offered nicotine replacements.
Casa Palmera promotes the building and maintenance of social ties. Loved ones are welcome to drop in during family week and, as long as they’re not caught taking it anywhere near a private room, male and female patients are free to get acquainted. (Considering the tightly-packed daily schedule and the fact that a handful of clients are chronic pain patients in their 40s, 50s and 60s, they don’t usually find the opportunity—or the motive—to do the dirty.)
Befitting the laid-back vibe of a Californian endless summer, clients and staff alike frequently turn the center’s lounge into a jam sesh of keyboards, acoustic guitars, and African djembe drums—a hippie/surfer drum circle devoid of the mind-altering substances that would be prerequisite in any other setting. And when Kumbaya (inevitably) becomes irritating, they can kill their free time doing arts and crafts or watching movies in the TV-equipped lounge.
Despite the menu of holistic options, the Casa Palmera rehab center is nevertheless beholden to the old-school treatment philosophy of A.A., even for the non-addicts who are there for chronic pain. “We find that A.A. can be useful, even for those without behavioral issues or chemical dependency,” explains a Casa Palmera staff member. But not all appreciate such a broad handed application of the A.A. ethos. “People were pretty unenthusiastic about the A.A. stuff getting beaten into them if they weren’t in there for alcoholism,” an alum admits. Still, for those addicts looking for luxury at a—relative—bargain, this casa may be their casa.