Spencer Recovery Center

By The Fix staff 12/07/12

Compassionate staff, fun activities and a solid aftercare program make this beachy California facility the “total package.” Just don’t stuff yourself with Top Ramen.

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Spencer Recovery Center. Photo via
Location : Laguna Beach, Calif.
Phone : (877) 821-0741
Price : $20,000/mo.
Overall :
Accommodations :
Treatment :
Food :
Insurance : Yes
Detox : Yes

California Drug Rehab Center Review

People of all ages (18–80) and backgrounds are welcome at Spencer Recovery Center in beautiful Laguna Beach, California—which, despite its sterling reputation, is actually one of the more affordable SoCal rehabs. Some participants became so close with their peers that they keep in contact with them well after the program is over. “It was really nice as opposed to that ‘jailhouse’ scene found in so many treatment centers,” says one alumnus.

Past residents praise the staff for being “fair,” “consistent” and “professional.” One former client noted that “rule infractions were dealt with maturely and quickly and also with understanding.” Anyone caught breaking a rule may be assigned an additional chore, have their Internet time reduced or be given a writing assignment on a sobriety-related topic. Residents also are allowed to walk out of treatment at any time. “Spencer obviously doesn’t encourage that behavior, but they didn’t chase the two clients that went AWOL while I was there down the street,” said one alum.

Residents get one-on-one sessions with a primary counselor, group meetings both at the facility and off-site, trips to the store and free time to relax. “Daily life at Spencer Recovery was proactive,” said one past resident. There also are daily beach trips, which often involve meditation or special workout classes. If you’re looking to get in shape, there are plenty of other offerings including a private gym, yoga classes, t’ai chi, a swimming pool, and sports like basketball and football. “I was more spoiled there than I am today on my own,” one grad declared.

As for the sleeping arrangements, there are often two or three occupants per room, but partial walls between the queen-size beds make each into a sort of “cubby room,” as more than one past resident described them. Naturally, if you’re willing to shell out a little extra cash, you can get your own room with a waterfront view.

Everyone is expected to chip in with basic daily chores, such as taking out the trash or helping clean up the kitchen, although the facility employs a cleaning service to knock out any heavy lifting. Past residents praised the bedrooms as “cozy,” “modern” and “very clean.” “It’s really a beautiful place to go to,” said one. “I miss my room now that I’m not there, actually.”

Food here is highly regarded as well. The “well-balanced” meals cooked by a private chef always include veggie options, while somewhat less healthy snacks (Top Ramen, Easy Mac, popcorn) are available 24/7. Favorite meals and dishes include “steak night,” with baked potatoes and corn; the occasional honey-baked ham; “burger or hot dog night ... with individual chip bags"; and the daily fresh salad and fruit bars.

TV is allowed during free time, but must be switched off by 11pm. Sometimes on Sunday afternoons, residents get together to watch a movie. Every client must give up his or her phone for the first two weeks of the program, but it is returned on the 15th day—assuming good behavior, of course. Calls are always allowed on the pay phone outside, and Wi-Fi is available for everyone.

For anyone wary of the 12 Steps, the staff at Spencer are willing to customize treatment. “This was like ‘recovery college,’ with plenty of scientific information that was not dumbed down in any way,” explained one graduate. “The program was very individualized. I was hesitant to have anything to do with the 12 Steps so my counselor and I worked on Rational Recovery.” Similarly, clients choose whether or not they want to focus on religion. “[Staff members] were very open to any idea of a Higher Power and never pushed religion on anybody,” another alum explained. “Spirituality was emphasized but religion was left up to each individual.”

On the medical side of things, Spencer has an on-site medical director and a nurse—although properly managing medications during detox left some clients feeling, well, mismanaged. “The physician was thorough with getting my health background,” said one patient, “but the process of tapering me off Suboxone and Ativan was too quick, in my opinion. I had several bad anxiety attacks for a week, and she didn’t prescribe anything to help me during that rough week.” Others, though, reported having the exact opposite experience. One woman was afraid of letting go of her opiate medications, and so the doctor allowed her to extend her detox for “a few extra days.”

Once you get through detox and primary treatment, and it comes time to leave, Spencer will set you up with good aftercare, which is “crucial to somebody new in recovery,” noted one former resident. Between the counseling sessions, extracurricular activities, helpful staff and frequent aftercare, “it’s a great overall package.”

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