Sundance Center

By The Fix staff 04/12/13

If you can tolerate a two-caste system between its houses, this resort-style Arizona desert rehab has tons of amenities, making for a comfortable setting in which to get sober.

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Sundance's executive residence The Retreat. Photo via
Location : Scottsdale, Ariz.
Phone : (866) 677-7213
Price : $20,000 for 28 days (The Retreat is $26,000 for 28 days)
Overall :
Accommodations :
Treatment :
Food :
Insurance : Yes
Detox : No

California Drug Rehab Center Review

The Sundance Center is far from a boot-camp-style rehab. Located in the resort town of Scottsdale, Ariz., this recovery center’s scenic backdrop is matched by its “posh” accommodations. Residents (14 max) occupy luxurious private and semi-private suites at one of two “healing centers”: the four-bed, “executive” Retreat and 10-bed Sundance.

Both skew more towards resort-style rehab, but The Retreat is the more lavish of the two, with streams, ponds and Jacuzzis on the grounds, and elaborate names for rooms like the “Grand Cayman Master Suite” and “Taj Mahal Suite.” Daily household chores are rotated weekly and one alumnus said that “accountability was heavily focused on.”

Those who come to Sundance almost exclusively do so for drug and alcohol problems, with stays of 30–90 days. The ratio of men to women fluctuates—sometimes there will be 80% men, and sometimes 80% women—with residents in their twenties to sixties. The “large range of personalities” even includes patients who are there due to a “nudge from the judge,” aka attending court-mandated treatment in order to avoid prison time.

That said, a past client noted that most of his fellow rehabbers “seemed financially successful or came from above-average means,” with “business owner” a common occupation. One of the former cited “being able to work remotely while I was in treatment” as one main reason why he chose The Retreat, which has a business center.

Residents are kept to a highly structured schedule, with a customized treatment plan that includes individual and group therapy, dual-diagnosis counselors, outside 12-step meetings and journaling time. Weekly equestrian therapy is offered off-site. Treatment is primarily rooted in 12-step philosophies, but residents varied in their opinion on how permissive the facility was to other approaches.

One former resident in for alcohol abuse felt that 12-step “was stressed but not jammed down by my throat,” while another alumni felt that not enough quality time was spent on alternative treatment methods. “They give 90 minutes on Sunday nights to a different treatment option, but that is run by the least qualified staff member,” this person noted.

There are moments of downtime throughout the day that residents can use to enjoy the many on-site amenities, including a gym, pool, hot tub and massage therapists. You can also attend off-site 12-step meetings or take part in recreational activities like shopping and bowling. After an initial three-day period of no phone or TV—Internet is never allowed—Sundance residents can use the pay phone at designated times, until lights-out at 11pm daily.

At The Retreat you can have your mobile phone and laptop with you, but even then you have to check them out to use them. As you might imagine, this division has led to some resentments. "In my opinion, these [Retreat] houseguests should have been isolated from the rest of us," said one Sundance grad. "Their phones would ring, they'd be on a laptop, etc., while we were prohibited from any of these things."

Yet everyone unites around meals. One of Sundance’s high points is its “gourmet” and “healthy” food prepared by a professional chef and certified dietician. Mexican dishes and Sunday brunch were among faves, with one recovering coke addict noting that he “gained 30 pounds before I left.” Snacks, fruit and coffee are available throughout the day. One former patient said she was “almost tempted to start drinking again just so I can go back for the food.”

While residents overwhelmingly praised Corporate Medical Director (and primary caregiver) Dr. Ravi Chandiramani as “an excellent doctor who clearly cared about the residents and their treatment”—and also had positive things to say about the psychiatrists and counselors—other staff at Sundance were not regarded as highly. Many felt the “permissive” approach to treatment led to “inconsistent” rule enforcement. “The staff needed to establish better boundaries and enforce threats,” said one recent patient. Others felt staff were unnecessarily strict at times, with one alumnus learning the hard way that when he was a few minutes late for a meeting, “the door would be closed and you would not be allowed in.”

Despite this, a majority of the residents The Fix interviewed had been able to maintain their sobriety after leaving Sundance, much of which could be attributed to the rehab’s generous post-grad plan. Free aftercare is provided for life, and in-house alumni, CA and AA meetings, as well as family therapy, remain open to any previous residents who wish to attend. “I liked that Sundance focused on spirituality and life change without throwing God down my throat,” said one former resident. “It saved my life.”

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