Situated in California’s booming Coachella Valley, with great views of the two-mile-high Mt. San Jacinto, the resort town of Palm Springs has been known since the 1930s for desert luxury, silver-screen legends and spa pampering. But it’s also been home, for nearly a quarter-century, to the drug and alcohol treatment facility Michael’s House, which was acquired in 2007 by rehab titan Foundations Recovery Network (FRN).
FRN’s calling card, now in place at Michael’s House, is its “Integrated Treatment Model,” which is designed to simultaneously address both halves of dual-diagnosis clients’ chemical-dependency and mental-health issues, leading to higher success rates.
The campus, which looks much like a tranquil desert hotel retreat, is separated into three parts: the Stabilization Center, where daily treatment activities and detox take place; the new Men’s Center, opened earlier this year on the site of the former Tiki Resort, dating from 1952; and the Women’s Center.
One former resident of the men’s house (50 people max) said that he was in treatment with other males in their early 20s through 60s. “Gay and straight, all walks of life,” he added. On the other side of the gender divide, one woman said her house was mainly “upper-middle/upper-class” women (40 max). There’s also a “Young Adult Men’s Program,” featuring Outward Bound–style “experiential adventure therapy,” as well as an LGBT recovery track.
What brings these disparate groups to treatment at Michael’s House, for (typically) 30 days to five weeks at a time? Everything from alcoholism and a DUI to a bad blend of opiate addiction, depression and ADD.
Depending on occupancy at the rehab, you’ll be sharing a room (or not) with one or two other clients. There are required daily chores, “but very easy ones,” noted an alumni. Daily life consists of “plenty of groups and private sessions and writing and reading—but not so much that it felt overwhelming,” said one man.
Wake-up time is at 6am, followed by an hour at the gym or in meditation at 7am. After breakfast, mornings are spent in a variety of group sessions, on everything from relapse prevention to anger management. Post-lunch, residents have dialectical behavorial therapy (DBT) and special classes on topics including “mindful living” and “fun in recovery.” One former resident noted that, “DBT was the group that changed my life.” Otherwise, the program is grounded in basic, non-religious 12-step principles, with nightly NA and AA meetings, including “Big Book” studies.
If anyone gets out of line, the rehab handles issues on a “case by case [basis], leaning towards strictness,” commented one resident. “Some people got written up, [and] a few had to leave,” noted another. That said, the place isn’t “super strict.” Said one woman, “The rules were very understandable and I found them easily followed.”
Outside of scheduled activities and group sessions, there is plenty to keep clients occupied in the rehab’s picturesque desert setting, including a swimming pool and Jacuzzi, hiking in the nearby San Jacinto mountain range, volleyball, yoga, movies, outside AA meetings—and even the occasional spa trip. (This is Palm Springs, after all.)
What fuels all this activity? “Good food for a rehab,” said one picky eater, who noted that the onsite chef was “very open to requests.” Another woman described meals as “very healthy, California–Mexican cuisine.” Favorite dishes include the occasional lobster and steak (obviously), while the breakfast was cited as being somewhat disappointing.
TV is allowed at night and on the weekends, but personal cell phones and surfing the web are right out. Residents can in touch keep in touch with friends and family on the house phone, “depending on what level you were,” according to one resident. Clients are divided into three levels, with increasing privileges granted to each.