Mountainside Treatment Center 3 stars
Mountainside's setting lives up to its name. And the usually youthful clients find that a sense of community and some enlightened counselors can compensate for food that's bad enough to write home about.
Location: Caanan, Conn.
Phone: (800) 762-5433
Price: $14,980 for 28 days
Overall: 3 stars
Accommodations: 2 stars
Treatment: 3 stars
Food: 1 stars
Located at the base of a private mountain in Caanan, Conn., Mountainside rests on 60 idyllic acres that include hiking trails, waterfalls, flower gardens, and a meditative labyrinth. But don’t be fooled by the breathtaking setting: though accommodations are clean and functional, the facility is decidedly on the rustic side, the food is universally considered “awful,” and graduates say the overall vibe is reminiscent of “an early 90s ski lodge” (which is fitting, since the main building is called “The Lodge”). Still, Mountainside also boasts a gym, non-denominational chapel, and yoga studio that offers daily classes as well as meditation and Qi Chong.
Residents begin each day around 7am with breakfast a rotating selection of fresh eggs, pancakes and French toast that, according to at least one previous resident, is “unquestionably the best meal of the day.” A “miniscule” selection of fruit and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are available throughout the day for snacking; lunch and dinner include a vegetarian option and access to the “measly” salad bar, which, residents say, is usually more appealing than the mystery meat in the shepherd’s pie.
A 30-minute meditation follows breakfast and official treatment kicks off at 9:30 with an intimate hour-and-45 minute group where “everyone gets called out on their bullshit,” which is followed by a community meeting where both staff and clients can vent grievances, express concerns for other members or ask for help.
During their first week of treatment, residents are in "Phase I" and must attend afternoon orientation and 12-step education groups. Perfect attendance at these groups allows them to move onto Phase II, where they get to choose their afternoon activities: yoga, hiking, art therapy, anger management or writing workshops. Regardless of their phase, everyone is assigned a specific chore (ranging from setting up the dining hall to vacuuming the floors to scrubbing pots and pans after meals), although a cleaning service comes through daily for more punishing tasks.
Mountainside’s most compelling attribute is its counselors, whom most alumni say are dedicated and empathetic, meeting individually with clients once or twice a week. And despite the rehab's "no-disclosure" policy, former alumni report that a majority of Mountainside's master's-level clinicians are in recovery themselves. Meanwhile, several evenings a week, a van shuttles select residents to off-site AA meetings and, on Friday nights, about 150 alumni, townies and residents from neighboring sober-living homes convene at Mountainside for a weekly in-house meeting.
The MBS (mind, body, spirit) program is a major emphasis here; according to one resident, this is all about “strengthening the mind through education, the body through outdoor adventure programs like ropes courses, and the spirit through a variety of spiritual workshops and retreats—as well as more quirky rituals like sweat lodges and drumming.” Mountainsiders also go on two-day camping trips in groups of 12—reactions to which vary widely: one alum reports, “It really helped connect me to my higher power and nature, and solidified my desire to change my life,” while another, an avowed non-shopper, declares, “I wish I hadn’t had to do it—I’d honestly rather shop than camp.”
Despite Mountainside’s relatively economical price, the clientele here is largely comprised of middle to upper-middle class WASPs from the Northeast, commonly outfitted in Patagonia. With an average age of about 26, many are still being supported by Mom and Dad while “trying to figure themselves out.” Though it might sound like a stylized summer camp for addicted young adults, most grads insist that Mountainside fosters a true sense of community and spirituality. “When I got there, 28 days seemed like an eternity,” says one alum. “But the month really flew by. My counselor was amazing, the whole staff was wonderful. At the end, the only part I was happy to leave was the food.”