Cirque Lodge

Cirque Lodge

By The Fix staff 03/25/11

Cirque Lodge offers clients long nature hikes, mountain-top helicopter rides, free hairdos and fine cuisine on a breathtaking compound. While some alums found this Utah drug rehab a bit conservative, others ranked it among the country's top treatment centers.

A bird's-eye view of this luxurious Utah rehab. Photo via
Location : Sundance, Utah
Phone : (877) 997-3422
Price : $30,000
Overall :
Accommodations :
Treatment :
Food :
Insurance : Yes
Detox : Yes

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Like Promises in LA, Utah's Cirque Lodge rehab center encompasses two separate facilities located miles away from each other. Your bank account determines where you end up. A 30-day stint at Cirque's 13-acre “Studio" —which used to house the Donny and Marie Show—will cost you $30,000. Clients who stay at the tonier Lodge nine miles away generally pony up $45,000 a month. While the 44-bed Studio, which resides at the base of Provo canyon,  boasts its own charms, most of Cirque’s high-end clientele opt for the more intimate Lodge, which boasts a spacious sauna, and in-room jacuzzi, and smells of fresh pine. Thanks to its relatively remote location,  the rehab also offers more privacy for A-list clients (reportedly Melanie Griffith, Lindsay Lohan, Kirsten Dunst, and Mary-Kate Olsen). Clients typically start their days by performing chores—sweeping up public areas, emptying cigarette cans and the like. A hearty breakfast is followed by a group lecture where men and women are allowed to freely mingle.   Unlike many rehabs that insist on a Hasidic-like separation of sexes, Cirque Lodge is much more liberal on the issue, although clients report that sharp-eyed staffers are always on the look-out to keep things from getting out of hand. 

In the morning, group therapy alternates between intimate sharing sessions and long outdoor hikes. Indeed, the stunning natural beauty of the surroundings is is one of Cirque’s biggest selling points. "They market the hell out of the hiking boots and that helicopter," notes a former resident. Upon arrival, everyone is presented with a pair of top-notch hiking boots. One of the program's high points is a helicopter ride that deposits clients on solitary mountain tops to help them "rise above the troubles of the world." Some cynical urbanites balk at all the outdoorsiness: “Who says that hiking is the road to remission?” laments a city-dwelling alum. “They’re convinced that nature equals recovery. For me it equaled sore feet.” But most patients at Cirque Lodge regard their daily exposure to nature as an essential aspect of their recovery. "Waking up and looking at the stunning scenery was a really spiritual thing to me," one patient says.

After the first part of their day is over, clients have free time to stroll around, gossip or pump iron at the facility's on-site gym, which is overseen by an experienced personal trainer. Following dinner, they can either attend outside AA meetings or in-house 12-Step meetings. Volleyball or basketball games are a popular evening pastime. After 8 pm, clients are allowed to watch an hour of TV or spend 20 minutes on the phone. Lights are shut off at 11 pm.

In keeping with Cirque’s outdoorsy motif, the facility's buffet-style meals are heavy on fresh vegetables, low on carbs and filled with complex proteins; sweets are generally hard to come by. Coffee is available to clients until noon, but kept out of sight afterwards. As a special indulgence, residents are allowed a weekly trip to the local mall where they can stock up on necessities, from bathing suits to chewing gum.

Founded by a wealthy Mormon family who suffered the travails of dealing with a drug-addicted son, the Cirque Lodge rehab center is both conservative and incredibly luxurious. Meals are prepared by a team of first-rate chefs, many of them plucked from renowned cooking schools like the Culinary Institute of America and the Cordon Bleu. A spa housed at the lodge's sister facility provides clients with free hair cuts, facials, manicures and pedicures. While the program is avowedly strictly non-denominational, some complain that the facility exudes an unmistakable Mormon vibe. Director Gary Fisher, who came on-board shortly after the rehab was founded in 1999, insists that he imposes a strict non-discrimination policy, but several of the facility's gay and lesbian clients report that they feel “judged” by the staff.

Therapists at Cirque Lodge range from young social workers who are themselves in recovery to a crop of seasoned old-timers. In addition to daily process groups, Cirque offers a hodgepodge of other services, including outdoor therapy, group therapy, once-a-week equine sessions, thrice-weekly yoga classes and two private therapy meetings a week. Every three weeks, the facility hosts a week dedicated to family therapy, which many patients regard as the most frightening part of their stay.

Cirque is not your run-of-the mill rehab. It's a quirky and beautiful place, widely acknowledged as one of the nation's top recovery facilities. It's a place where boozy socialites can get their hair blown out by experienced hairstylists while recovering meth fiends fly overhead in a helicopter above the nearby Robert Redford ranch. Addicts seeking a natural idyll and a break from urban life will find Cirque Lodge a perfect match. But more liberal types (particularly gays and lesbians) might be more comfortable elsewhere.

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