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Confessions of a Malibu Treatment Center Provider

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MalibuHello. My name is Scott and I am a recovering Malibu treatment center provider.

I worked in a luxury Malibu treatment center for several years while obtaining my doctoral degree. What I witnessed at that Malibu treatment center at that time is still impacting me today. After reading An Intervention for Malibu in the New York Times on the problems with Malibu treatment centers, a lot of the old memories came rushing to the surface.

As a doctor we take an oath. An oath to be professional, to work within the scope of our knowledge, and to provide the best treatment we can. You would think that this is an industry standard but in the upscale world of residential treatment it couldn’t be further from the truth.

Keeping the Customer Happy at a Malibu Treatment Center

At the Malibu treatment center where I worked, the focus was on caring for the client’s creature comforts instead of healing their core issues that contributed to their substance abuse, alcohol abuse, or other addictive behavior. How could we? We didn’t have a program at all! Yes, we had group therapy – when the clients were there. Yes, there were individual sessions - when you can track a client down. But treatment wasn’t the main focus – keeping the customer happy was.

If you wanted medication, you got it. If that didn’t work, you were given more. Alcohol was easily obtained at the local liquor store because participants weren’t monitored.

Alcohol and medication were easily obtained because participants weren’t monitored. It wasn’t out of the ordinary for a participant to be caught “under the influence” or making a scene in the neighborhood, followed by the police visiting the premises. I was relatively new in the residential treatment industry and knew right off the bat that this wasn’t right. But I had a job as a therapist - I got to work with celebrities in residential rehab, and I knew once I got the opportunity to use the skills I learned through my studies of Spiritual Psychology, I could facilitate these people in healing their core issues.

All About Them at a Malibu Treatment Center

“If I got the opportunity” became a theme. My counseling sessions kept getting interrupted with participants being allowed to choose to go to outside meetings, the beach, outings to the mall, and trips to the gym. As a result, I became pretty good at doing therapy behind the wheel of my car while driving clients to their distraction of choice.

For the celebrities, it was all about them. Inpatient treatment for the rest of the participants came to a sudden stop. Confidentiality was thrown out the window. When something was shared in a group, it would inevitably wind up in a magazine soon after. So the celebrities stopped talking and started acting out. They left the Malibu treatment center whenever they wanted, had sex with whomever they wanted, and never suffered any consequences. They had it made!

In Malibu, the Friday night 12 Step AA meeting was so packed with stars it rivaled a Lakers game.

Outside meetings were events. In Malibu, the Friday night 12 Step AA meeting was so packed with stars it rivaled a Lakers game. It was a who’s who, what they were wearing, and glory stories of how many times they were found drunk in some field. What began as a neighborhood church meeting was quickly moved to an elementary school auditorium to accommodate the masses flocking to gawk at their celebrity heroes. All the while, behind the scenes, the rich and famous were trying to have one night stands with the women from our Malibu treatment center.

Malibu Treatment Center Model and Consequences

I worked with some wonderful people. Our staff was educated, caring, and under the right circumstances, did great work. But we were handcuffed. The participants were given full reign. If they broke the rules (which were never really delineated), there weren’t any consequences. The policy at this Malibu treatment center was to tell them not to do that any more, try to turn it into a counseling session, which we did so often it became comical.

There were no consequences because each client represented tens of thousands of dollars a month! It was not about healing somebody, but keeping them there in residential treatment. We became a luxurious residential treatment warehouse, where most of the residents stayed upwards of three months. When a client tried to discharge the owner would try to convince them to stay.

Yes, I was working at a Malibu treatment center with high profile people, but I yearned to provide these people with the help they desperately needed. To do so, I needed the support of ethical management. But as the years marched on, I knew this wasn’t going to happen. I eventually left that Malibu treatment center after having great success with a client which required me to go against management’s policy. I discharged her and they discharged me.

From Malibu Treatment Center to Residential Rehab on San Juan Island

This was twelve years ago and it feels like yesterday. Two years ago, I received a phone call from that successful client, Betsy Koelzer, and we laughed about our experiences there. She was reconnecting with me to get my advice on a residential treatment center that would be able to help a friend of hers. It was at this time I realized, in spite of my years of direct experience in residential treatment and substance abuse, I couldn’t in good conscience make a recommendation.

As a direct result of this conversation, I have co-founded with Betsy and her husband, Joe Koelzer, a new type of residential treatment center on beautiful San Juan Island, in Washington State. It is as far away from the Malibu scene as one can get. We have put together a comprehensive day-to-day program, providing serious residential treatment for motivated people. Celebrity or not, the underlying issues that cause substance abuse and mood disorders are worked on, there are consequences for inappropriate behaviors, and clients stay a maximum of 28 days because that’s all they need. When people are taught the proper tools, as in the case of Betsy, miracles take place.

About The Clearing

The Clearing is a residential treatment center located on beautiful San Juan Island, Washington. We created The Clearing in response to the pervasiveness of treatment centers that focus more on luxury than modern, evidence-based therapy.

Our approach is based on healing the underlying core issues that cause addiction. If you'd like to learn more, contact us, or download our free eBook:

Download eBook:

Healing Underlying Core Issues

  Download eBook:  Healing Underlying Core Issues

Photo courtesy Burrkc

Clearing Staff

This post was written by Clearing Staff

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