When it comes to celebrity clientele, Promises Malibu is so celebrity-studded that even Dr. Drew would find himself a bit star-struck. Wayward stars like Charlie Sheen, Britney Spears, Ben Affleck, Diana Ross, and Robert Downey Jr. have all gone through treament here, giving the place the veneer of the most magnificent train wreck VH1 could ever imagine. Yet not every resident has a Hollywood pedigree. Promises patients include CEO’s, successful entrepreneurs, entertainment lawyers, and overly pampered adult children whose parents don’t know what else to do with them. They're all attracted by the rehab's well-established reputation for luxury. But that doesn’t mean Promises isn’t serious about recovery; the facility actually established the “Malibu Model,” a treatment model that’s since been adopted by a host of rehabs across the country.
Posh accommodations are a fundamental part of the “Malibu Model,” which strives to make clients feel as comfortable as possible. And they usually succeed. “Pulling up to this luxe Mediterranean-style mansion atop a canyon, I thought, ‘Not a bad place to spend the next month,’” sighs one alum. A private chef prepares an impeccable breakfast spread, with fruit, oatmeal, yogurt, cereal, and eggs-to-order, while dinner usually consists of healthy California fare like grilled fish or meat and fresh veggies. Though meals are served family-style, the facility will happily cater to its clients' special dietary demands. (A recent vegan grad raves aboout the chef's terrific tofu.) But fine cuisine isn't the only resort-like amenity at Promises; clients sleep underneath luxurious 400-thread count sheets, and have the choice of swimming in one of two perfectly heated pools, or playing on immaculately maintained basketball and tennis courts. Others seek inner peace in the facility’s gilded meditation garden, with its spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and Santa Monica Mountains.
Instead of being crammed into a single estate, residents are spread throughout six houses on the lush grounds, with no more than six residents per home. For $55,000 a month you can score a standard room that houses two people, but those willing to shell out a few more dollars can land a single with a shared bathroom for $75,000. A decorated private suite is also available for an eye-popping $90,000—roughly three times more than you’d pay for a full month at the Ritz in Paris. While many may scoff at these price tags, Promises still finds plenty of plutocrats willing to lay down some extra cash for an extra-pampered experience. “They let me bring my maltipoo,” enthuses a former patient. “I had to book a single room, but it was totally worth it.” Scoffers should note, however, that all that luxury isn't a sign of unseriousness. “I think Promises takes a bad rap for all its fancy pampering,” notes a veteran of several rehabs. “But their philosophy is that treatment doesn’t have to be a punishment. People want addicts to atone for their sins but that’s not always the best way to get better.”
A typical day here begins with a 7:00 am wake-up call, followed by a quiet 20-minute meditation. After that, residents have a choice between acupuncture or a trip to the neighborhood gym. While everyone is expected to comply with the rules, the staff doesn’t exactly rule with an iron hand. “The West LA Promises is much stricter,” says a veteran of both programs. “The Malibu counselors are very kind and gentle: they encourage rather than enforce so that you learn to show up for yourself.” Treatment begins with process groups in the morning and moves on to 12-step education and individual therapy in the afternoon—with yoga, tai chi, EMDR, equine therapy, and meditation interspersed throughout. Every day, clients either attend outside AA meetings or shop at the beloved Cross Creek Shopping Center. “Getting out helped me not feel so stir crazy,” admits an alum who graduated from rehab with a closetful of new designer duds.
The Malibu Model embraces the concept that the underlying issues afflicting patients aren’t uniform and a generic model of treatment won’t suffice for everyone. Upon arrival, patients are each provided with their own treatment team, including a primary therapist, a family therapist, a medical doctor, a psychiatrist and (for an extra charge) a masseuse. While everyone is lavished with constant attention—no chores at this place!—some complain that the facility's bold-faced clients receive more attention. "Let's just say that you get a lot more latitude if you're Lindsay Lohan," says on alum. Others are slightly uncomfortable with the country club feel. As one recent resident says, “It’s a good program and the counselors are extremely well-trained, but sometimes it felt less like a rehab and more like a month-long stay at Canyon Ranch.” Which still sounds pretty good to us.