Mountainside Treatment Center
Mountainside Treatment Center
Mountainside is located at the base of its own private mountain on more than 60 lush acres at the foothills of the Berkshires mountain range in Canaan, CT. The location is beautiful and peaceful, and provides an idyllic setting for the transformative work being done in this treatment center.
What draws people to Mountainside is the wide variety of treatment options available and the fact that treatment plans are tailored to the individual based on what fits best for them. A combination of evidence-based treatments, both therapeutic and holistic, combine to form each resident’s customized treatment plan. For example, traditional recovery fare such as group and individual therapy along with addiction education are offered in one section and options designed to engage mind, body and spirit (MBS) in another - activities such as qigong, yoga, Four Agreements and acupuncture, for example. One of Mountainside’s most innovative treatment modalities is their Adventure Based Counseling (ABC), a collection of challenging, growth-enhancing outdoor activities including hiking, high and low ropes courses, and CIA (change in action) which one alum describes as “ a hiking/camping weekend that allows for more intimate sharing with a small group and lots of reflection time in the beautiful wilderness surrounding Mountainside.”
Mountainside serves all members of the community who have the ability to pay (they also provide assistance for those seeking financing) and while one former resident describes some diversity, “There seemed to be a good range of straight and gay, married and single, high income and scraping by, laborers or salaried. Really good mix overall,” others note that the population was represented most heavily by those who were in their 20’s and from more affluent backgrounds. All clients can expect to have a roommate or two with whom they share a good-sized, clean and comfortable room which they are expected to keep tidy. In addition to maintaining personal space, everyone at Mountainside is assigned a job (which they call a commitment) for the duration of their stay. These simple tasks - washing dishes or wiping down dining room tables - are designed to help connect each resident to the community at large and practice some mindfulness while they are at it. Said one resident, “ It taught me accountability when I had absolutely none in early sobriety.”
Days are busy at Mountainside and in the words of one alum, were “ full of a variety of activities that really helped break up the day and keep things fresh.” In addition to the many treatment options I already mentioned, Mountainside offers a variety of other activities and amenities. They have a well-equipped gym, cardio classes, a volleyball court and a sweat lodge. If you like to read, you can check out a book from the little library. You can watch television in the evenings although one older resident opined, “TV was a crapshoot, especially with a young population who would commandeer the remote and, well, enough said,” and Saturday night is Movie Night! There is no shortage of stuff to do, but leave your laptop and cellphone at home. Mountainside maintains a “no electronics” policy, although exceptions can be made in special circumstances and at the discretion of one’s clinician. If you want to contact the outside world it will have to be by pay phone during designated times.
Food: One former client expressed the fear that he “would arrive and be fattened up by typical cafeteria slop. Mountainside provided anything but that.” In fact, after some complaints about the cuisine at Mountainside, the powers that be stepped up their culinary game so much that the food received extremely high ratings on our survey. One alum who had been to Mountainside in the past described the menu change as “dramatic.” Another alum said “... I would kill for that quality of food everyday...it just doesn't happen in everyday life.” There are soups and salads and lots of vegetarian options available at every meal and with entrees like Prime Rib, Butternut Squash Ravioli with Pine Nuts or Chicken Saltimbocca, the word “gourmet” gets sprinkled about like fresh grated parmesan. There are plenty of traditional (and delicious) choices. Some client favorites include burgers, pasta, Cuban sandwiches, buffalo wings and a taco bar. If you get hungry throughout the day, you can snack on fruit and PB&J sandwiches and less healthy options offered up by the vending machines. Coffee is served until 9am, then it’s decaf after that. Not everyone is stoked about missing out on their “caffternoon” ritual, but most are okay with it and you can get a cup of the real thing at one of the onsite AA meetings which take place on the weekend.
Mountainside doesn’t have a rep for being overly strict or permissive when it comes to maintaining order. Most clients felt that the application of the rules was even-handed and consistent and describe staff as attentive and professional, fair and firm, with their motivation being the desire to see you succeed. If you screw up, they will issue a verbal warning with a clear explanation. Future infractions will trigger written warnings. Occasionally, clients are placed on a “contract” which can lead to dismissal if broken. They run a pretty tight ship without being unfairly strict. The result is that drama is kept to a minimum and people who are serious about their recovery can do the work they came to do.
There is a new detox facility at Mountainside which is quite comfortable and beautiful with floor to ceiling windows and hardwood floors. It is staffed 24/7 by doctors and they offer a wide variety of detox options for any and all drugs and alcohol. Access to medical treatment at Mountainside’s residences is more limited although there are two full-time psychiatrists on staff who specialize in addiction medicine. Residential clients who are not detox patients are given a physical exam as part of the intake process when they arrive. Other than that, medical issues are treated by on call medical personnel. Opinions were mixed with one client saying the on call doctor was, “...tough to see” and another reporting that “It was hard to get to see a doctor when needed. I was never given the opp to meet with the psychiatrist on staff.” Another former client, however, said that the medical staff was “...very helpful and always available.” Mountainside asserts, “all clients – detox, residential, extended care and outpatient – have full access to our psychiatrists based on their needs and treatment plans.”
Additionally, Mountainside uses an integrative wellness approach with on-staff professionals who provide a range of therapies such as acupuncture, massage therapy, reiki, nutritional counseling, and more.
The vast majority of Mountainside alumni speak of their experience in very positive terms. One former resident describes Mountainside as,“...a magical place that changed my way of thinking.” The impression made by counselors and clinicians are no less profound, leading one alum to exclaim, “I kiss the staff!” But I was really moved by the words of this initially reluctant resident, “All I can say is I was not willing or open during treatment and the staff met me where I was standing.” He went on to credit their perseverance as being, “the only reason my stubborn head got anything out of the program ...Their continuing care team and clinical team was extremely patient with me.”