Able To Change Recovery

By The Fix staff 01/07/15

While their stated primary goal is to help people recover and understand addiction, the experience is intended to be transformative, with counselors providing the tools for change and clients doing the heavy lifting.

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able to change
Location : San Juan Capistrano, CA
Phone : (866) 225-3260
Price : $14,500 2nd 28 days - $5,200, subsequent 28 days - $1,500
Overall :
Accommodations :
Treatment :
Food :
Insurance : Yes
Detox : No

California Drug Rehab Center Review

For those receiving treatment for addiction at Able To Change, a 12-step facility located in San Juan Capistrano, CA, the operative word is “Change.” While their stated primary goal is to help people recover and understand addiction, the experience is intended to be transformative, with counselors providing the tools for change and clients doing the heavy lifting - sometimes literally (they go to the gym every day). As one client puts it: “They didn't do the work for me, rather they helped me find solutions.”

Diversity at Able To Change varies, with the most heavily represented groups being young and Caucasian, but all walks of life are represented: “My fellow residents ranged from alcoholic housewives in their 40's and 50's to streetwise opiate addicts in their 20's.” Regardless of age, race, sexual identity or income, all are welcome.

During the first 28 days of their stay, ATC clients are assigned a counselor who helps tailor a treatment plan to their needs and then meets with them weekly to keep track of their progress. All receive addiction education and are introduced to the 12-step model. Their days are filled with meetings and groups and daily workouts. Phase 2 clients learn how to write a résumé and how to conduct themselves in a job interview and are expected to replace daily groups by either searching for employment, returning to a job or volunteering as they transition back into real life.

Residents live in large, single-family homes in an upscale neighborhood. There are 2-4 to a room, and everyone is expected to pitch in maintaining their rooms as well as common areas. Every house has a house manager who is responsible for its residents. “The house managers did a great job of creating an environment that promoted camaraderie and comfort without compromising recovery and boundaries,” recalls one alum. Everyone prepares their own meals with food they purchase from the grocery store with a weekly meal stipend provided by ATC. One former client expressed a sentiment shared by many: “It taught great life skills such as budgeting money and how to plan for the week... to cook and be self sufficient.” Coffee is available in the morning and afternoon. While clients can choose what foods they purchase, they are encouraged to opt for more nutritious food. A nutritionist comes in once a week to teach them about healthy eating (his smoothies are a big hit).

Able To Change clients are on a tight schedule. Said one, “The schedule was full so there was little room for unstructured brooding" (structured brooding is optional). All rise at 6am and are in their first meeting by 7. Everyone showers (separately), cleans their room, packs a lunch and then it’s off to The Center for a full day of groups which cover a variety of topics dealing with recovery and wellness, drawing on a range of source material. While one client claimed that “The twelve steps were the cornerstone of the program,” another noted that, “The groups also tended to focus on the recent brain science on the subject.”  There is also a weekly family group. For those whose family resides outside the area, counselors facilitate sessions by phone. In the afternoon, everyone goes to the gym before heading back to residences for dinner which is followed by either a house meeting or a trip to an outside 12-step group.

“A strong wellness approach was also incorporated into the system,” an alum tells us. Clients study Yoga and Tai Chi. Artistic expression is also encouraged. Most of these activities are scheduled on Saturday mornings with afternoons and evenings reserved for outings like bowling, movies, trips to the beach or the Aquarium. One client who got his groove back recalls, “I remember an outing to a local amusement park being the first time I'd laughed in years.” On Sunday, everyone pitches in for a deep cleaning of their house (“double-scrub”) followed by free time where clients can watch TV, play games like ping-pong or basketball, do workbook assignments or just hang out.  Sunday is also when family can come visit residents.

Residents at Able To Change are allowed to use their cellphones and laptops (social networking is not allowed) as long as they are not on restriction and it does not interfere with their sobriety. One client shares her experience illustrating how electronics can be both a tool to deal with noncompliance as well as an aid to one’s recovery: “I lost phone privileges...for texting during a group session (oops). Sometimes it was distracting because family could still hit me up and I was in a pretty bad place mental-state wise. But it was tremendously helpful once I got a sponsor and started building my fellowship because I learned how to use a phone list.” Another client remembers, “It helped me focus on...the things I needed to do, instead of being submerged in outside stimuli.”

For medical needs, Able To Change employs a psychiatrist and a physician’s assistant, both of whom meet with clients on-site. All other medical issues were handled off-site. Staff members are understanding and willing to work with clients to make sure that their needs are met. Helping clients find out what underlying issues may be contributing to their struggle with substance abuse is part of the program. One former resident tells us, “[The psychiatrist] helped me understand how my anxiety was fueling my use.”

Staff at Able To Change are described by alumni as being tough but fair when it comes to how infractions are handled. Interactions with staff, in general, are described in the most positive terms. One alum sums it up very eloquently, “[Staff are] incredibly passionate about recovery and...genuinely care about the clients, and it shows in moments like a vulnerable conversation with a client in the evening to a tough-love conversation when discussing a consequence for breaking the rules.” This is not by accident but by design. This tone has been set by Founder and CEO Saralyn Cohen, “It all rolls downhill; Saralyn is insanely compassionate and understanding but will also see right through you when you try to BS her ... this transcends the different levels of staff.” The only complaint was about an occasional lack of consistency in how infractions were treated. Some clients expressed that the punishment for fraternization was immediate dismissal, while others claimed they received a warning or just had a privilege removed.

Alumni seem to have nothing but good things to say about Able To Change: “A great, safe place to begin my recovery,” and “I never felt locked down...[there was] a family atmosphere.” One client sums up his experience this way, “The biggest take away was the empowerment and self-esteem I got from Able To Change.”

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