Talbott Recovery Campus

By The Fix staff 03/24/11

After decades of treating dipsomaniac doctors, the staff at this Atlanta rehab is pretty sharp—and you no longer have to be an MD to get into "The Dome."

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Talbott Recovery Campus. Photo via
Location : Atlanta
Phone : (800) 861-4290
Price : $18,000
Overall :
Accommodations :
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Insurance : Yes
Detox : Yes

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“Physician, heal thyself” was the mantra of Atlanta’s Talbott Recovery Campus when it was founded by a recovering physician named G. Douglas Talbott in 1975 as a rehab for the medical community—a notoriously difficult population to treat. “The shame and blame doctors and other professionals experience goes well beyond the experience of other alcoholics,” Dr Talbott opined after the opening of his rehab. “To recover, we need to be in the presence of other professionals."

Today the facility remains true to its founding mission. These days, about half the facility’s 100-plus residents are medical professionals, but you don’t have to be an addled anesthesiologist to apply.

Increasingly, Talbot’s medical clients have been joined by insurance agents, airline pilots and well-heeled housewives, not to mention odd wildcards like “a very famous British professional wrestler.” While most patients hail from the South, others jet in from all across the US, as well as from Canada and South America. But medical professionals are still a focus of the facility.  “When I realized I had a problem I asked my friend—who was Chief of Staff at a major hospital—for advice on where to go,” says one ex-client. “He told me Talbott was the best choice. It’s the only place that hospital sends its addicted staff.”

Residents are placed in “domes,” which may sound like intergalactic life-support pods, but turn out to be prosaic residential buildings. Each dome contains four comfortably furnished apartments housing four addicts apiece, featuring plush living room areas with wide screen TVs (but no DVD players) and one payphone per unit, which are overseen by a “senior addict.” Everyone is expected to pitch in with chores, shopping and cooking. “Many of us had never heated up a can of Campbell’s,” admits one alumnus. Dome groups are segregated based on sex, and to some extent, by age and occupation. The facility reserves one special pod for clients between the ages of 18 and 25.

Since clients are expected to cook their own food, the culinary experience at Talbott depends entirely on the skills of fellow pod-members. One veteran fondly remembers the “tremendous and awesome results” of his and his buddies’ efforts. “We had a blast! Everyone cooked their favorite meal. I whipped up a mean chili.”

Despite the strictness of a dress code that mandates knee-length shorts, Talbott’s residents are granted a great deal of freedom: they’re allowed to go off-site to pick up groceries at the local Publix and catch movies, though they’re required to travel in groups of three to ensure accountability.

Talbott’s specially tailored treatment program is run by experienced doctors, many of whom are affiliated with nearby Anchor Hospital. Physical health is emphasized, and clients undergo frequent medical check-ups. Psychotherapy is available and addict-to-addict support is encouraged. The “Mirror Image” program kicks in after six weeks and requires Talbott’s denizens to venture to rehabs in downtown Atlanta where they counsel less fortunate fellow addicts—an experience many find gratifying. “Most of the people I saw didn’t stay sober, but seeing them sure helped me stay sober myself,” says one alum.

Family participation is a keystone of Talbott’s recovery program. Every third week is designated Family Week, a time when spouses, partners and parents are invited to attend educational classes, group therapy, marriage guidance or an intensive four-day family workshop: “You name it,” says one resident. “They tailor it to what you need.”

Of course, not everybody is enamored with the intensity of life in a dome and some clients chafe at spending their waking hours with a flock of messed-up docs. But most alumni believe Talbott’s price tag is justified by the clinical rigor of its procedures (including an initial 96-hour multi-disciplinary assessment) and the “world-class staff" the center attracts. “I couldn’t praise them highly enough,” enthuses one typical alumnus. “Many of the counselors have been down in the trenches themselves and I didn't walk away with a bad taste from one of 'em."

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