Sober College

By The Fix staff 10/26/16

At Sober College, young people learn life skills and can take accredited college courses while going through treatment for addiction.

Location : Woodland Hills, CA
Phone : 888-350-6809
Price : $15,000 - $25,000 per month; most PPO Insurance Accepted
Overall :
Accommodations :
Treatment :
Food :
Insurance : Yes
Detox : Yes

Located in Woodland Hills, Sober College offers one of the most unique approaches to addiction treatment you'll find. It is just what you think it is from hearing its name. The meaning is two-fold: It is intended to teach sober life skills to those of college age, but also provides actual college classes and the opportunity to either start an education for those who never attended college, or to continue with your education while working on addiction issues. Sober college believes that you don't have to put your life or your education and growth on hold while you are in treatment.

Through a unique partnership with Woodbury University, Sober College offers young people, ages 18 through 26, the opportunity to take college courses while in treatment, earning up to an entire semester's worth of credit. Woodbury, a private and fully accredited university in Burbank, California, will also guarantee acceptance to the school if a Sober College student maintains at least a 3.3 grade point average throughout his or her courses. The classes offered are Public Speaking, Sociology, Health and Wellness, Creative Writing and Psychology. Not a bad deal if someone is looking to get their life together and progress academically as well. But, if a client feels college isn't in their future, sober college has launched an occupational program that teaches clients how to find and keep a job.

As mentioned, the clientele is limited to those 18-26. Sober College offers detox, residential treatment, intensive outpatient and sober living. Clients start with the residential treatment (or detox if needed) and progress through the other stages, changing living environments as well. Dual diagnosis treatment is also available. Residents are separated by gender.

The foundation of the program at Sober College is based on what they call the five CORE competencies: Life Skills, Emotional Growth, Productivity, Fitness and Sobriety. Guidance in these competencies is woven throughout the various treatment and therapeutic groups and provides clients with skills and experiences which will help them both in recovery and regular life after treatment. 

The length of stay is usually about six to nine months. Inpatient (residential) treatment is around 90 days and then clients can move into sober living apartments for IOP or regular sober living arrangements. When asked about why they went to Sober College for treatment, responses varied. One alumnus told us, "I didn't want to put my academic life on hold, and Sober College was able to accommodate my need for help as well as my desire to finish college." Another said, "My parents found Sober College and really liked the fact that I could take college classes while going through treatment. I spent 13 months in total at Sober College."

When asked what factors were instrumental in choosing a rehab, the top factor given was treatment quality, followed closely by location (Sober college is located in an upscale portion of the West San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles), and amenities and recreational opportunities. Sober College has plenty of both.

The clientele here may not be as diverse as at other rehabs, perhaps because it is designed for young people of typical college age. For some that may not be appealing, but for others, it might be an advantage: "Sober College was amazing because it was all young adults. That was one of the first things that I looked for in a treatment center. I wanted to learn how to have fun in sobriety. There were young men and women between the ages of 17 and 26 [the age is now restricted to 18-26]....I realized that everything I went through there...was a growing experience. The experience you have there is what you make of it.”

As far as the nuts and bolts of the living experience, let's start with the food. Sober College residents prepare their own meals. At first, they are mentored by staff while they learn how to prepare food for themselves. After learning this skill, the residents cook dinners for the entire house. Most former clients had high praise for the food, the way it is prepared, and the way meals are handled in general. "The food is what you make of it. We would go grocery shopping once a week and get food. It was a great experience because you learn how to be healthy and make good, healthy choices," a recent grad said. "The food situation at Sober College is where it's at," said another. "It's great because you are in control of the menu, and can shop for the ingredients and the staff help you learn how to cook anything from lobster and steak to chicken parmesan." Despite rave reviews of almost everything, an occasional “least favorite” meal might squeak through such as "the Hamburger Helper pasta that one of the residents made one time.” Coffee is available.

At Sober College, the housing, like the treatment, is separated by gender. The houses are spacious, well-kept and offer amenities such as wifi, flatscreen TVs, perhaps a pool table or ping pong table, or swimming pools. After completing residential treatment, clients move into the sober living apartments which are also very comfortable and which offer many options for recreation and relaxation. The accommodations received high ratings from many of our respondents.

In addition to onsite activities, Sober College residents also go on many fun excursions: "The activities and amenities were amazing at Sober College. We had access to the gym, fitness classes, yoga, pool, and equestrian therapy. We also went go kart racing, went to Knott's Berry Farm, went skydiving, saw a ton of movies, went surfing, and went snowboarding. We did a ton of group-building activities. I look back at my time at Sober College and remember it as one of the best years of my life," said a former resident.

Compared to some rehabs, Sober College is pretty liberal with the availability of technology. One former client described it like this: "You could use the TV and internet regularly. Initially you could not use the phone very often, but after about a month you could use the phone regularly."

Daily life can be fairly structured and busy, and there are roommates and chores. So, if you want to just be left alone, this may not be the place for you. However, there are benefits to this kind of situation. "The daily life was pretty regimented while in the initial 3 month stay at the house," reported an alumnus. "The apartment program and sober living gave us more opportunities to craft our own schedules. I had roommates pretty much the entire time I was at Sober College. They became my closest friends. We had chores to do every day that would rotate every week. We also deep cleaned the whole house/apartment on Sundays." When asked about the daily schedule another gave this overview: "Wake up, eat breakfast, do morning chores. Make my bed, shower, to the learning center and do about three hours of school and/or a combination of groups/counseling/therapy, depending on which day. Go back to the house for lunch, then go to the gym. After the gym, go back to the house, shower, have some down time and then dinner and go to an NA/AA meeting at night. After the meeting we would have some down time and then do chores and go to sleep." So, they keep you busy.

Treatment at Sober College received high ratings and most seemed to really feel it was effective. The alcohol and drug treatment is 12-step based, but it is supplemented with various other group and individual therapies. "The program was 12-step based, but the most memorable parts of treatment were the group sessions," a former client said. "It was primarily 12-step, but we were allowed to find our own sponsor and do everything at our own pace," said another. However, some saw it differently: "It was primarily 12-step based, as we were required to go to daily meetings and get a sponsor and start working the steps. However, AA/NA is not for me and I feel like we were frowned upon if we didn't fully commit to the program....Even today I have been clean and sober since the day I left Sober College and I don't attend any meetings," said yet another. Religion is not a part of the program, but individual faiths are accommodated. "I'm Jewish and they arranged for me to go to temple on Rosh Ha Shana and Yom Kippur," a happy alumnus said.

There are no medical doctors on staff full time at Sober College, but an MD does come in at least once per week, and a psychiatrist is available as well. The medical treatment was rated favorably by former residents we surveyed. "The doctors were onsite weekly and were very helpful and understanding of my addiction and treatment needed for my addiction. Any type of doctors that were not onsite and I needed, Sober College set me up with an appointment and transported me and made sure all my medical needs were met and taken care of in a timely manner.”

Sober College can show some impressive results. One alumnus told us, "I have gotten my life together since I left Sober College. I graduated from Woodbury University with Sober College's help and now I have a job that I love. I have been able to steer clear of any addiction issues since I left treatment. My life is amazing today."

And this, from another alum, "I believe Sober College does everything it can to give people another shot. I'm glad it was a strict and structured environment to help me change, but I'm incredibly glad that I was able to have freedom in recovery and it wasn't a complete lockdown. This would absolutely be my first recommendation to any young person who is desperately trying to get sober but doesn't know how to."

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