Castle Craig

By The Fix staff 09/11/15

Scotland's Castle Craig promotes abstinence as “essential for long-lasting recovery” and combines medical treatment, 12-step programs, and additional therapies including CBT, EMDR, and group, family, and mindfulness therapy.

Castle Craig
Location : Peeblesshire, Scotland, UK
Phone : freephone (UK only): 0800 0322 880; international: +44 1721 788 006
Price : $17,300 USD per month (shared room); $23,000 (private room). Extended Care Unit: (Day 42 to 90+) $8300 USD per month
Overall :
Accommodations :
Treatment :
Food :
Insurance : Yes
Detox : Yes

Surrounded by 50 acres of lush, private woodland in the Scottish countryside, Castle Craig Hospital offers a range of specialized groups and therapies, access to 12-step programs, many amenities and activities, and the privacy and tranquility of private grounds.

Established in 1988, Castle Craig is Scotland’s oldest and one of Europe’s leading inpatient addiction clinics. Treatment is based on the 12-step program; patients are introduced to the 12 steps early in treatment and attend AA and NA meetings in Edinburgh. The team of internationally recognized addiction experts includes full time doctors and nurses on call around the clock to meet the needs of patients. Castle Craig promotes abstinence as “essential for long-lasting recovery” and combines medical treatment, the 12-step program, and additional therapies including cognitive behavioral therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EDMR), group therapy, family therapy, and mindfulness therapy. Castle Craig seeks to address the root of one’s addiction, which may include mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, or post traumatic stress disorder. Additional therapies offered to patients include drumming therapy, equine-assisted therapy, art group, and hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

A typical day at the residential rehab clinic involves two group therapy sessions, two daily lectures, individual therapy, therapeutic assignments from a therapist, recovery meetings, exercise, and personal free time. Castle Craig alumni reported in a survey that the days were “very structured;” some patients reported that this improved discipline and time management, and helped “training for being more active and responsible in life” and to “get a healthy day ritual going.” Chores, which one patient described as therapeutic, were a part of daily life. Most alumni reported Castle Craig provided a “tough love” approach but added that it did not feel forced, achieving a “good balance between tough love and gentleness.” Their approach was “firm but friendly.” Another alumnus commented that days are "very structured, lectures, meditation, prayers, readings, housekeeping, group meetings, private conversations, stepwork, exercise...I worked in the kitchen in 2013 and fed the pigs in 2007. No phone allowed, attending AA, NA and CA meetings, movies in the weekends, table tennis, chess, other games, no music, restricted internet, not walking about by self."

Doctors at Castle Craig are described as "kind" and "well-educated" and "always there to help you or listen to you." The nursing staff also received high praise: "The nurses were always stand[ing] by, day and night, for everything, toothache, sleeplessness, depression, and they did everything they could, but within boundaries." Therapists and groups were also highly rated, with one client reporting "I have learned more about others and myself in these 24 weeks, than in the 30 years I had lived so far." Another resident felt that "the program was 12 step based with a substantial amount of cognitive and behavioural therapy as well. I found the assertiveness training extremely helpful and still use it to this day."

Rule infractions are handled professionally and fairly with contracts and consequences. One former client recalls: "great staff. Rules are lived by and infractions are met with appropriate measures, also bearing in mind that we are sick people getting better." Another resident agreed: "Very professional. Some people had forbidden items in their room such as food, and there were room inspections carried out: a lot of people got contracts and people were discharged whenever ANY violation surpassed."

Because of the clinic’s unique, sizable, and isolated location, patients can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities including hiking, fishing, canoeing, swimming, running, going to the beach, and horticultural therapy. Patients can also partake in shopping trips, live music, movies, yoga, acupuncture, and meditation. Accommodations at Castle Craig consist of private and shared rooms. One former client appreciated having roommates: "in the castle you have roommates. It makes you resocialize and talk to each other a lot." Others were not thrilled with shared rooms: "It sometimes felt like a pressure cooker, where we had to mix with each other all day, although we all had quite some character defects that became very obvious when we quit drinking and/or using." In general, however, people appreciated the company and some credit their stays at Castle Craig with creating lifelong friendships. The average length of stay was a little over 18 weeks among those surveyed.

The one grievance that a few former clients had to report was about the food. Though many reported enjoying the “gourmet style” meals, some said there were not many healthy choices, the food was too greasy or overcooked, and too many sweets were allowed. Examples of meals include chili with rice, beef stew, fish and chips (a favorite among patients), chicken lasagna, and shepherd’s pie. Nearly half of those surveyed said the food was excellent, but a few clients mentioned that Sunday meals were their least favorite.

Castle Craig reportedly does a good job of providing peer support, as well as taking in a diverse patient base. “All kinds of people are staying in Castle Craig no matter what social environment they came from,” one former client said. “Everybody is treated the same which feels good.” Another client observed that Castle Craig patients are “from as young as 17 to 75-years-old, gay, lesbian, straight, completely broke to extremely rich and with a great variety of occupations and educational backgrounds.” Another client remarked on the range of nationalities: "Probably half the patients were from the UK, and half from other countries."

The combination of 12-step, specialized therapies, a wide range of amenities, excellent medical treatment, and a beautiful campus is the reason why more than half of alumni reported their stay was excellent. “A more than decent, professional, adequate, highly efficient, yet also a warmhearted, welcomed and respectful approach. Without the high expertise, quick response and full support of Castle Craig I surely would not have survived,” said a former client. “I have never felt so safe, encouraged, and inspired as I have been whilst staying at Castle Craig Hospital for 24 months. It has changed my life tremendously…in ways not describable in verbs.”

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