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Morningside Recovery specializes in treating addiction and mental illness using an “open treatment model,” which means their clients are not on lockdown, but rather able to come and go as they please. That way, clients are not recovering in an artificial treatment atmosphere, but instead are experiencing “real life” with the support of a therapeutic environment. Although Morningside started as a treatment center, they are no longer licensed as a rehab facility, but instead specialize in sober living and intensive outpatient treatment.
Clients typically stay for three-and-a-half to four months, though we have heard that some even live here for as long as two years, benefiting from the outpatient level of care. The facility has its own academic institute to help residents obtain their high school diploma or GED or college degree, and can also assist with job training and placement. Residents at Morningside range in age from their late 20s to early 50s, although the spectrum skews toward the wealthier (family money, at least) twentysomething set. Morningside is also gay-friendly, and gay clients compromise “about 15%” of the patients. And you may come across some four-legged companions during your stay: This is one of just a few treatment centers where residents are permitted to bring pets. Another plus is the Newport Beach community itself, which one former patient says has a “plethora of varied support groups, unlike anywhere else I’ve ever seen.”
Having roommates is standard unless you opt to pay extra for a private room, but the luxury accommodations more than make up for it. Several of Morningside's townhouses and apartments (with a max of six people in each of the six houses, and three occupants in each of the six apartments) are within steps of the beach. As in most sober living facilities, daily house chores are required, including the infamous “double scrub” on Sundays. You’re also on your own when it comes to food: Those in the facility are given a weekly $75 gift card to a local supermarket and are responsible for their own house meals. Facility staff take clients shopping and monitor what they buy.
The day begins with mandatory morning meditation, followed by clinical and therapeutic process groups and activities at the main treatment center, where you’ll be from 9am to 4 or 5pm daily, with a break for lunch back at the sober living facility. “The grief and loss groups were really helpful to me,” says one graduate. “I had a sister who passed away a few years back and I really needed to deal with that.” Evidence-based group therapy sessions take place in the afternoons, and attendance is required at your choice of a variety of nightly support-group meetings, including AA, NA, Rational Recovery and SMART Recovery. “It was nice to not have 12-step forced on me,” reports one alumnus. Each client also is assigned a primary therapist—with degrees ranging from LCSW to LMFT—that he or she meets with one-on-one weekly. Says one satisfied customer, “My therapist was amazing and helped me tremendously.”
Former clients unanimously praise the wide range of recreational opportunities. Gym use is required daily during the week, but there are a variety of other wellness opportunities including weekly yoga, t’ai chi and massage. One grad says “amazing” off-site Saturday activities—indoor trampolining, attending L.A. Clippers games, playing paintball and visits to area amusement parks including Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm—“helped us learn how to do things sober.” Morningside also offers optional once-a-month, four-day adventure trips (for an additional fee) to natural wonders such as Big Bear Mountain and the Grand Canyon.
Morningside’s staff are “stern” when it comes to rule-breakers. Violence results in immediate expulsion, while minor issues lead to loss of privileges, such as access to your cell phone. Thankfully, though, “Staff are relatively consistent with rule infractions,” says one alumnus. “If we didn’t do chores there were clear-cut rules of punishment.” Those who relapse are removed from the community and must undergo a three-day detox before being allowed back on site. One former patient who relapsed feels that staff handled the situation fairly and that he “received the treatment I needed in order to correct my behavior and grow from the experience.” On the other hand, one client did not feel that the rules were applied consistently, and complained that there was a high rate of staff turnover and that “no staff members were ever on the same page. New, older clients with more money get treated the best and bent over backwards for. Average clients do not. There is a high turnover rate for therapists and staff members there, because the operation is very corrupt and primarily about money, not about treatment.” Despite some challenges with the city of Newport Beach, Morningside has prevailed and alumni continue to praise their treatment, reporting “I was able to thrive in a community environment and learned to cope with my urges in cravings in the real world,” and “Morningside and AA saved my life.”