Visions Adolescent Treatment

By The Fix staff 08/11/14

Visions offers top-of-the-line treatment for 13 to 18 year old addicts, with alumni that includes Elizabeth Brockovich—daughter of Erin Brockovich—who found treatment in Vision's outpatient, day school, sober living and their Launch program.

Art therapy at Visions. Photo via
Location : Malibu and Los Angeles
Phone : 866-889-3665
Price : $40,000/30 days (45 day minimum)
Overall :
Accommodations :
Treatment :
Food :
Insurance : No
Detox : Yes

Families struggling with the heartbreak of teenage addiction need look no further than Visions, which offers top-of-the-line inpatient and outpatient treatment for 13 to 18-year-olds. Famous alumni include Elizabeth Brockovich, daughter of Erin Brockovich (the real-life inspiration for Julia Roberts’ Oscar-winning turn).
But you don’t have to be a celebrity to get the full benefit. In addition to residential treatment, Visions also offers outpatient, day school, sober living and a life skills-teaching program called Launch.

Founded in 2002 by industry expert Chris Shumow, Visions can help with more than just addiction; their team is equipped to treat a variety of mental health issues, including bipolar, eating disorders, self harm, OCD and PTSD. When it comes to treating adolescents, Shumow seems to understand what few others do—namely, that emotional growth, psychological health and family relationships are all crucial. It thus makes sense that Visions requires a family member or legal guardian to be involved in each teen’s treatment process (and not to just be footing the bill). 

The facilities, which are gated to discourage runaways, consist of two buildings on 25 acres of land in the Malibu hills. Ten teens at a time stay at either Mulholland, the original residential house, or the more recently built Mediterranean style Latigo. Teens will feel welcomed by the decidedly homey vibe in both buildings, which have sloping wood ceilings, art on the walls, tile and wood floors and swimming pools. All the bedrooms are shared, but they’re sizable, and roommates are often shuffled “to prevent anyone from getting too comfortable.” Boys and girls are in separate sleeping quarters. There’s plenty of outdoor space—which includes picnic tables and a gazebo—and coyotes can occasionally be spotted roaming the grounds. For indoor fun, ping-pong and pool tables are available. Extras include equine therapy, art therapy and a physical conditioning program. Nutritional counseling is emphasized as well. From macaroni and cheese to grilled veggies, the healthy gourmet food gets high marks from alums, and snacks are available throughout the day though coffee and sweets are earned privileges. Most clients stay between 45 and 90 days.

Visions boasts a truly top notch treatment team. Along with a staff of well-qualified therapists and psychiatrists, there’s an eating disorder and body image specialist, a grief and trauma specialist and a resident dietician. Most alumni have found the on-staff doctors to be quite helpful. They also have several mentors on staff, some of whom have been through the program themselves. All residents are paired with a psychiatrist, a licensed mental health primary therapist and a counselor. In addition to plenty of DBT-based counseling, participation in 12-step programs is strongly encouraged, and alumni report going to outside meetings six days a week. Spirituality rather than religion is emphasized.

The family component of treatment is the core of the Visions experience, with a minimum of five weekly hours of family-focused therapy. Every Saturday, the family therapist runs a multi-family group on issues like boundaries and communication. For more private issues, families meet individually with therapists. On top of this, family education groups provide more information on how addiction and mental disorders can affect family dynamics. Visions also allows residents opportunities to earn “Family Passes,” which permit them to join their folks on Sunday and Monday on trips to the movies, museums, mini golf, go-carting, rock climbing, beaches, community service or a ropes course.

The atmosphere blends tough love with compassion. “The staff was very strict but also cared about the residents,” one alum reports. “I was never alone and they had excellent boundaries.” Another attests they administered discipline “in a loving way” and “explained why certain rules were in place.” Rule breakers may drop a privilege level or get one or more 5 minute cleaning sessions tacked onto their chores. Supervised internet use is allowed for school only and residents may call their families and sponsors each day for five minutes. 

For outpatients, Visions has two different options: the eight-week-long First Step program and the yearlong IOP (which, by definition, is more intensive). Outpatients have the same access to the top-rate staff and counseling services as inpatients, though one alum reported it didn’t quite live up to the inpatient experience.

Aftercare (which requires a 90-day commitment) takes place at their Extended Care facility in Santa Monica, which, like its Malibu counterpart, strikes a balance between luxurious and homey. Once again, teens are separated by gender, with a staff member on duty 24 hours a day. Alumni are encouraged to attend aftercare groups and annual alumni events, which include snowboarding and trips to Six Flags.

In addition to their flagship teen programs, Visions also has Launch, an outpatient life skills program for young adults. Located in Brentwood Village, Launch works in conjunction with sober living homes and helps men and women between the ages of 18 and 24 create healthy relationships, set goals for higher education and develop an array of life skills—everything from résumé building and interview preparation to grocery shopping and cooking lessons. Each client is assigned an individual counselor, and tutoring and exam preparation are also provided to launch clients on the path to higher learning. As with Visions’ teen programs, family involvement is required.

As if all these services were not enough, Visions also has a day school to ensure that getting clean doesn’t mean getting behind. The school places great emphasis on helping teens develop academic confidence, with a three-to-one student-to-staff ratio and options for one-on-one instruction. The program teachers—who all have counseling degrees—coordinate with the teens’ schools to make sure the curriculum offered is in line with what they would be learning in class. If necessary, remedial and honors-level instruction is available, as well as personalized educational planning. All curriculum is transferable, and students can even get help polishing their college applications or prepping for the SAT.

In short, Visions offers teens a variety of avenues into recovery and improved family life. Parents who have sent their sons and daughters there report that it treats the parents as well as the kids. One alum gushed that “Visions is like a family—the healthiest family you could imagine.” For the teen that may struggle either to recover or to acclimate back into family life afterwards, Visions is the place to be.

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